Celebrating an #Internationalwomen

Beyond the Voyage

Working across digital media, film, animation, sound, performance, sculpture and poetry, this immersive event featuring young British artists exploring stories and experiences of migration, integration and what it means to be a person of dual heritage living in the United Kingdom.

Beyond the Voyage is presented by WOKE,. a project conceived by artist and filmmaker Nacheal Catnott as a platform to promote and support artists of colour. http://@w.o.k.e_uk /info@woke.biz

Secondary Transfer Results Day

Last September when you were being herded around numerous secondary schools trying to obtain as much information about each one, in an attempt to list your preferences, upload any supporting statements and complete that online application in addition to any supplementary forms before the 31st October deadline, March 1st 2019 seemed such a long way away. Well the day has now arrived and you now hold the letter or have been staring at an email naming the secondary school your child has been offered to start in September 2019.

If you have been offered a school of your preference congratulations and good luck for the future. Make sure to accept your space and try to reduce the stress by getting your son or daughters new uniform in good time.

On the other hand if you are one of a growing number of parents who did not get any of your preferences and have been allocated a school that you are not happy with then Empowerment Focused will be able to help.

The first thing they do when dealing with upset, anxious and uncertain parents is to reassure you that this is really not the end! They then move on to explain the system and explore your options.

Remember the school your child is offered today may not be the school they attend in September or the one they complete their education in 5 years from now. Schools change on a daily basis in the same way we do so keep an open mind and think of the possibilities.

As independent advisors with over 20 years experience Empowerment Focusedh pride themselves in dealing with each case in an individual, caring and realistic way.

If you are unsure of what to do next give them a call Now on: 07708318599 – Natasha or 07939 427264 – Beverley

Secondary School Admissions – Share the knowledge!

As the first month of a New Year comes to a close, Christmas is over, winter is well and truly setting in and we just feel to semi hibernate, my mind starts racing about the beginning of a year, my future goals and a wish to ultimately be able to reside in warmer climes – just whilst it’s cold. I also start to think about my hopes and dreams for those around me and what I’d like to see them achieve. I am sure this sentiment is shared by many and that it is at this time of the year we begin to plan for our children’s future too.

Recently, a friend approached me and asked if I’d help her to write a book about how to apply for Grammar schools. Although she had experience of the Bexley grammar school application system – the process for most grammar school applications are fundamentally the same. Given my background and training in the secondary admissions process, we decided this was an ideal partnership.

My research for this book came almost simultaneously with me being approached by a parent to tutor her child for the 11+ examination and this made me stop and think about how much of a big business operation this whole 11+, grammar school malarkey actually is annually. Ultimately, the importance placed on potential grammar school attendance comes down to parents wanting to give their children opportunities and more importantly – increasing their chances of success. The realities of modern life and the odds being stacked against those without access to money makes it paramount that our children are given the opportunity to achieve what those who can afford to, will pay handsomely for.

Yet my baptism into the whole process of 11+ preparation gave me a rude awakening; understanding of the foundations that would need to be set in place for a child to attempt the test, with the best possible chance of success. One major thing that struck me and has stuck with me since is how language and moreover semantics are so crucial in achieving success in these tests. Meaning, on the flipside that if you have not had wide experiences, access to certain topics and discussions and/or you do not read widely, language and your understanding of language can be a major stumbling block in passing the tests. For example, I remember a verbal reasoning question that my pupil was faced with that asked him to spot the odd word out of bridle, saddle, rein and horse. He circled bridle. When I asked him why – he said a bridle was to do with a wedding. He clearly had no idea of the equestrian context of the word and in fact this was one of several words that he did not know the meaning of e.g. Buoy, Epoch and Plateau.

This is a very bright young man, with professional parents and access to much more than many children I work with in the inner city, yet his lack of understanding of these words made me really think about the possibly unconscious bias of these tests. I am going to call it unconscious and unintentional as it would be soul destroying, discriminatory and downright cruel to even begin to think that this was intentionally being done. If there was evidence of intention then surely what this would mean is that the 11+ is being used as a tool to restrict access solely to those who would understand as routine part of course, what such words mean.

After further research, a television documentary on the subject and much debate with my co-author and friends, I realised that as one school’s head teacher put it “grammar schools offer your children the best education available without paying for it”. Therefore if you wish your child to even stand a chance of getting in to grammar school my first piece of advice would be to start preparing them early. Remember these schools are not for everybody and often have high demands, expectations and workloads. So be honest with yourself, you know your child and what they can and cannot cope with. If you know that Grammar School is going to be too demanding for your child and will not meet their holistic needs then don’t do it to them!

If I’m honest, I personally feel that if you have a child that likes to read widely (very important trait), has access to extra-curricular opportunities, is dedicated and academic, then Grammar School can be a great option. However, I would suggest starting to prepare for the entrance examinations and requirements from around the end of year 3. You may say that’s excessive but do your research and you will see that the many facets of the entrance tests require a great deal of preparation and it would be better you started too early than too late.

They say that you cannot coach your child through Non Verbal Reasoning tests and that they test aptitude as opposed to ability. However, I would argue that even if they cannot be coached, they can be prepared to ensure that they are familiar with the layouts, terminology and expectations. Such preparation means that they can enter such tests and be at ease because they know what is required in terms of method, responses and process.

All in all, you are your child’s first teachers and biggest advocates – it is down to you to support them throughout their lives and through crucial stages such as secondary school. You have the benefit of age and hopefully wisdom. I would say use your experiences, networks, knowledge and passion to prepare for whatever establishment your child will enter and remember that secondary school is at least 5 years of your child’s life.  For more information on the 11+ grammar school admissions and general secondary school admissions please purchase our book 11+ Survival and Success – Available on Amazon now! https://amzn.to/2GLuvZk

Remember Knowledge is Power – Share the knowledge!

The Difference Between Being and Becoming

As we start 2019 some of us celebrate our achievements of 2018. Unfortunately, others find ourselves lamenting our perceived shortcomings with bittersweet feelings about the previous year coupled with anxiety about the uncertainty of what’s to come. A reason for beating ourselves up in this way may be due to a lack of self-esteem and having yet to master a positive balance between the rigors of everyday life, mindfulness, self-esteem and rest. Some of us start the month of January with an abundance of energy and determination, ready to “strike while the iron is hot” along with the many cliches that come with new beginnings. On the other hand a fair few of us will adopt a case of the “January blues.”

To avoid that happening this year, I have decided to intensify my journey of self-care. This is now my planned lifelong exploration which I started with some success in 2015 after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at 47, resulting in me having three operations and a course of radiotherapy to treat it .

To be fair I was already a believer in self-care although I didn’t realise it at the time. Back in the day I remember making the decision to give up a nicely paid full time position within local government to raise my own children (I say my own children because my first two children were being looked after by a childminder). I was able to make this decision with ease at the time (despite the fact that financially this would be a struggle) following a statement made to me by my mother who was gravely ill at the time. She said ‘If I had my time over, I would not have worked as much as I did because I never had the time to spend with my children.’ So, as a wife, stay at home mum to three, a full time design student and part time receptionist, I used to squeeze in a aromatherapy massage now and then with a practitioner who rented space at the leisure centre where I worked. I am sure it helped keep me calm and gave me the insight to create a small space at the back of the garden where I was able to listen to audiobooks whilst watching my children play, blocking out any confusion going on at the time but most of all I lost myself in music. As my children got older, unlike many people within our culture I was happy to ‘sit in the chair’ to talk through issues and visit alternative therapists such as Bowen Technique with my kids to help with a range of issues from a bruised coxis to enuresis and even my hayfever.

There are many positive and insightful self-care books and apps to support us through what really needs to be a life journey of self-care. I regularly use the Headspace App in the mornings and during the day when I need to refocus. I also use playlists via Spotify which provide hours of mindful music for any relaxing reason. You see, once you start and truly get into your personal journey of self-care, it will be difficult to not see the value of self-care being the central part of your being.

When looking for books on self-esteem I found that numerous sources offered helpful guidance, which focused on either the “inner” or “outer” part of change. The “inner” books I noticed, centred on a more spiritual understanding with an undercurrent message being about the worth of each human being; with little indication of the outside structures that challenge this worth in order to guarantee their own influence and importance.

The “outer” books expressed particularly to women how to look better, deal with stress better and succeed in our many roles but rarely mentioned that women’s self-esteem might be damaged by the very expectation of fulfilling all those roles. As a woman with dyslexia the good of self-care books are often lost on me because I find myself reading and re-reading the same line/paragraph which then gives me another reason to doubt myself. I have found Audible books and various apps far more useful. We tend to find that a lot of self-help books place an equal amount of weight on the individual, which can leave many questioning the status quo or questioning the ability to change it.

As our lives and circumstances change we need to adjust our own self care. Sources of self-care can present themselves to us in many ways. It has been said many times that we are influenced by the people we meet and the books we read. I have recently listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama and Native by Akala both of which I found tremendously inspiring. Many years ago when I eventually went back to full time work as a School based Community Worker, I was required to attend regular supervision sessions with a practitioner from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). She advised me that it would be irresponsible of me not to take a regular ‘duvet day’, it took a while to sink in but eventually made perfect sense. She has since become a valuable friend and colleague of mine.

What I am trying to say is that self-care has taught me; I am the champion of my thoughts, that my life is in my own hands, that quiet reflection is a powerful thing, not to hide from my neuroses and that nothing is promised.

So enjoy the now because the now is you and you are good enough.