Oh, Just the School Starting Age Issue. . .


Excerpted from the University of Cambridge article “School Starting Age: the Evidence“:

“Earlier this month the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, from the Faculty of Education, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.”

In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously

– David Whitebread

130924-back-to-school “Back to School”. Homepage banner image by Woodley Wonderworks via Flickr Credit: Nick Page from Flickr.

In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four. However, the UK’s Department of Education states clearly that compulsory school age is five.  Children born in the summer…

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Baby, Feel that Rhythm….

During the exhausted, bleary-eyed days of early parenthood, the thought of signing you baby up for a class may be the last thing on your mind.  But did you know that there is one such class that will really help with your baby’s development and language acquisition from the time they are born?  Rhythm Time, a nationwide provider of music classes from birth to five years is one such class.  Dr Julia Casperd who runs classes in Chester, Shrewsbury and The Wirral says, ‘Music stimulates the whole of a baby’s brain and most of their main neural pathways are made before they are eight months old.  Music is really important in this brain development.’

Babies are learning from their environment all the time, even when we don’t realise that they are doing so.  We know that singing to babies from an early age soothes and comforts them but what about about the other benefits that music can offer? Julia says, ‘Music helps with children’s language acquisition, mathematical ability, creativity, confidence and much more.’

So as a parent, we need to understand that an activity such as this, which appears to be passive is having a huge positive effect on babies.  My own experience of Rhythm time has been nothing but positive.  I took both of my younger children along to classes; my youngest from the time she was a tiny tot.  What impressed me greatly apart from the delivery of the classes was the organisation of them.  Teachers follow a ‘syllabus’ and as your child grows they are exposed to increasingly difficult concepts.  From the age of three my daughter recognised various musical symbols and was learning about rhythm and syllables.

Songs are repeated during the term and children begin to get to know them easily.  The accompanying CDs that are given to parents were also firm favourites during the pre-school years that we all enjoyed singing along to.  Songs on the CD tie in with the term’s work, which means that you can continue learning the songs when not in class.  ‘Pop them in the basket’  is a particular favourite of ours as is ‘I wiggle my fingers’.  But perhaps the best part of the class for my daughters was instrument time.  You might think that providing tiny children with cymbals, drums and various beaters would result in an almighty racket, but no, the children, even the youngest in the group,  make a valid effort to keep in time and join in.

Certainly for my daughters, Rhythm Time was one of their highlights of the week.   If you would like to try Rhythm Time, whether your child is a baby or any other age between 0-5, Julia offers a free trial session so that you can see how the classes work and what they can do for you and your child. Please contact her using the details below to book a trial session in your area.

Dr Julia Casperd  07789 867589.

Independent Booksellers Week is Nearly Here.

independent booksellers bookawallyIBSellers


This year’s Independent Booksellers Week (IBW) takes place from 28th June-5th July – a true celebration of independent bookshops nationwide and the important part they play in their communities, plus their excellent personal service and in-depth knowledge on a whole range of genres.   IBW gives parents the perfect chance to help their children discover more about their local bookshop – there are some fantastic offers from publishers exclusively available for IBW in independent bookshops around the UK, as well as a whole range of events for children during the week – check out your local independent bookshop to see what they are planning!


Below are two events taking place at Booka Booskshop in Oswestry.  Please follow the links for more information.

Kipper’s Story Time http://local.mumsnet.com/shropshire/other-local-events/232417-kipper-story-time-at-booka-bookshop

Australian Story Time, http://local.mumsnet.com/shropshire/other-local-events/232420-australian-story-time-at-booka-bookshop


Here are Booka Bookshop’s list of favourite children’s books.  Have you read any of them?  I love the sound of Chicken Clicking, it sounds perfect for my youngest daughter…

PICTURE BOOK – THE ODD ONE OUT, Britta Teckentrup, Big Picture Press, £10.99

This is a modern, unusual and wholly absorbing spot-the-difference book, with classy illustrations, which demands you seek out the hidden surprises lurking in the pictures.  A sophisticated rhyming text provides the clues. This fantastic title is best for parents and children to share and see who can spot the differences first.

AGE 3-5 – HOW TOM BEAT CAPTAIN NAJORK AND HIS HIRED SPORTSMAN, Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake, Walker Books, £12.00

I have been selling books for over 40 years and in that time I have seen many gems fall out of print, so I was delighted to see this book has been re-issued as a hardback.  Our here Tom loves to fool around; much to the consternation of Aunt who sends for Captain Najork to teach him a lesson. Various zany challenges ensue, from which Tom emerges triumphant and decides to change his lifestyle. It is nonsense which makes a lot of sense to fidgety five year olds.

5-8 YEAR OLDS – CHICKEN CLICKING, Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross, Anderson Press., £11.99

The concept of this cautionary tale against allowing very young children access to computers is topical and brilliantly executed.  In simple sentences a new born chick discovers how to operate a computer mouse and initially confines himself to acquiring presents for the farmer and the animals on the farm from Ebay.   She progresses to booking holidays, and finally decides to meet a friend she has met on line……. It does not end well.

8-11 YEAR OLDS – THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE, Elizabeth Goudge, Lion Children’s Books, £10.99

This Modern classic is perfect for children from 9 onwards with an interest in people. Goudge’s characters embody all aspects of human nature and give an insightful look at the impact of human actions on future generations.  This imaginative title offers pure escapism into a beautifully described world.  The current edition has the original illustrations from C. Walter Hodge (1946) and stunning endpapers decorated with plans and maps.

TEEN and YA – NEVERENDING, Martyn Bedford, Walker Books, £7.99

Shiv has reluctantly agreed to become a voluntary inmate of a controversial clinic that forces teenagers to recognize the consequences of their actions and help them to come to terms with the resulting guilt.  Like any enclosed community frictions abound but the plot races along, skilfully unfolding into a dramatic ending.  Martin Bedford’s previous book, Flip was greatly enjoyed and he has pulled off the difficult second novel with great success.


So why not pay a visit to your nearest independent bookseller and have a browse through the shelves?  You never know what you might find.


If you are an independent bookseller in Shropshire and have an event planned please get in contact at shropshire@mumsnetlocal.com to list your event.  Or visit our website local.mumsnet.com/shropshire and list your event in our free listings section.  It only takes a moment.

Exam Angst- A Parent’s Perspective.

Feeling stressed about impending GCSEs ? Sweating over grades and wondering how you will ever calm down? And you’re not even sitting any exams…

Sales of protractors and see-through pencil cases are no doubt on the up, as is my blood pressure, because this year my precious first born is venturing out into the world of public examinations.

We are midway through the exam season and as my teen seemingly takes it all in his stride, I am left floundering and anxious, habitually biting my nails and staring worriedly into the middle distance

A month ago, I vowed not to get caught up in the anxiety and hand-wringing related to revising and exam preparation. Alas, all my promises are broken.

It’s the powerlessness that creates this feeling of panic; it’s so difficult letting your fledgling fly from the nest, free to make mistakes.  Of course, there have been other firsts, from the first tooth to the first shave, but this somehow is the most serious and scary. He’s nearly an adult, but each time I drop him off at school he seems to shrink to the size of a three-year old.

As I drive away, I am compelled to call out to him about reading the paper through first and checking his answers thoroughly. He humours me with a wave of the hand as he disappears from view, free from the shackles of parental angst.

The harsh truth of exams is that every child is truly on their own once they set foot in the exam hall and no amount of input from me will make any difference at all.

The urge to meddle and interfere is strong, but it has to be resisted. It’s a tough realisation to accept but perhaps I should take heed of the few lessons that I have learned recently about exams and teenagers.  How do you fare on the following points?

Mother doesn’t always know best  (10 marks)

How true this is. My son and I rarely fight, but boy have we over the last few weeks. I just can’t stop telling him what to do.  If you have a child who methodically approaches their revision, my advice would be to leave them to it. I have a son like this and yet I have been unable to resist asking leading questions, flicking through his notebooks, or angrily looking at the clock with pursed lips.  What I should have been doing is quietly letting him get on with it and allowing him to do it his way.

Exams are different these days  (5 marks)

Again this is true. Back in 1987 when I sat my O levels, cramming seemed the only way to handle revision. Intense blasts of English followed by glaciation was  the way I tackled the piles of books.  Perhaps I wasn’t methodical enough, (see above), or maybe there was far more subject matter to get through. Whichever is true, my son has had controlled assessments, some coursework and so many practice papers he must be more prepared than I ever was.
Different people revise in different ways  (5 marks)

Back in 1987, my walls weren’t only covered in pictures of Duran Duran, but Post-it notes and pieces of brightly coloured paper. The words of Lady Macbeth leapt out at me as I turned out the bedroom light and spider diagrams were pinned to my headboard.  I worked on the premise that repeatedly seeing something would lodge it in my memory. I have not seen a single Post-it note come over the threshold and spider diagrams seem in short supply, but I’m sure that, holed up in the dining room, my son is getting on with something.
However, don’t be fooled (2 marks)

Just because a child is positioned in the designated revision zone, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually revising. What’s that in their hand? Be it a tablet or phone, they’re probably talking to someone and not actually concentrating, which leads me to my next point.
Shorter bursts of meaningful revision are better than marathons (2 marks)

Quality is better than quantity and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of down time if they tell you they are making progress.


Aside from these  pearls of wisdom, my other newly realised truths are as follows, for (50 marks): Bribes can be useful, especially if a child is struggling with motivation. Don’t nag. It’s totally counterproductive and may make a child stop revising. Also, don’t be surprised if your child refuses your kind offer of testing them.
Try to remain cheerful and optimistic, even if you don’t feel it; a negative attitude can quickly rub off on your busily revising student.
Lastly, make sure that they know that whatever happens – if something goes wrong – there are always ways of resitting and trying again. At this highly pressured time our teens need to know this more than anything else.
However, my favourite method of demystifying exams – and alleviating a bit of the pressure – is confessing that I didn’t get an A grade in a single subject, which always makes my son feel better. Now where’s that lucky gonk I kept for posterity?


This article was first published by The Telegraph, to see the original follow the link below: