East Surrey

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Local drama teacher, Ian Brown, has continued to keep children engaged throughout each lockdown by providing online drama classes. Ian, Principal of Helen O’Grady Drama Academy in Croydon and his team have successfully continued to inspire their students throughout the duration of this pandemic, adapting to online delivery to ensure their students still had access to social interaction, positivity and continuity at a time when we have been limited in the activities we can access.

Ian moved his classes online almost immediately, allowing his students to interact and socialise at a time when families were safe at home and schools closed. This was gratefully received by parents and students alike:

‘The online drama classes with their uplifting activities made a positive change to the daily routine. That has proved to be very important for her mental well-being as well. Helen O’Grady Drama Academy gives the children a positive attitude towards life and its possibilities’

Each week the laughter, enjoyment and element of normality to the weekly schedule allows everyone to keep smiling:

‘I would like to say how much I look forward to our online drama classes each week. Especially during these times of lock down. They have given me a sense of purpose and normality and also something to focus on’

Ian and his team love being able to connect with the students each week, hearing their laughter and enjoyment and seeing their beaming smiles! We might not have been able to gather in venue for a while but we have still offered a weekly dose of imagination, socialisation, interaction and FUN!

With a covid-safe return to the classroom set for April, there is no better time to book a free trial! For more information, click here.

After a challenging year for all, Essendene Lodge Prep School in Caterham returned to school in a double celebratory mood.

The school has been recognised by The Independent School Association for their outstanding international involvement. Essendene Lodge School has enjoyed a partnership with Msalura Primary School in Malawi for a decade.

The many fundraising initiatives by pupils and parents have helped to secure desks, improve toilets, provide a freshwater pump on site, introduce sports such as hockey and tennis and exchange of ideas on teaching and learning.

Whilst Malawi is currently also facing the challenges of the global pandemic the Essendene Community have continued their support by funding secondary girls education and also providing PPE equipment and food supplies to the neediest families.

Mrs Ali, Headteacher at Essendene Lodge School said she was delighted that the school has been recognised by the ISA for their involvement and thanked the pupils, parents and staff for their on-going effort and commitment to solidifying this partnership which undoubtedly has a positive impact on pupils here and in Malawi.













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7 Tips to Instil a Love of Math in Your Child

The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the education of millions of students across the country and progressing in maths has proved to be a particular struggle, according to national and local data.

There are many causes for this decline in mathematics grades, according to Patrick Quinn, a Parenting Expert at Brainly, the world’s largest online learning community used by over 350 million students, parents, and teachers monthly.

Here are seven tips for parents to get their kids excited about math and encourage them to use it on a daily basis:

1 PLAY MATHS GAMES AT HOME: There are many games your child can play that involve maths. Beginning in the early years, students can learn to enjoy maths by playing games such as chess, dominoes, cribbage, checkers, Set, Monopoly, Yahtzee, and backgammon. From there, they can move onto more challenging maths games like Sudoku, which is perfect for middle-schoolers.

2  READ BOOKS THAT INCORPORATE MATHS: More and more schools are starting to integrate diverse subject areas into the curriculum so that students can make clearer connections. But how do you include maths in a history or English class? One way is to read books in which the main characters solve a problem using math or logic. Find examples here.

3 TAKE AN INTEREST IN YOUR KIDS’ MATHS HOMEWORK: Begin each maths homework session by asking your child to explain what they’re supposed to do. By his or her response, you’ll know if they can do the assignment alone or if they need help. If you’re not able to help your child with the maths homework, find an online learning resource that can provide straightforward, step-by-step walkthroughs.

4 FIND OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUR CHILD USE MATHS EVERY DAY: Encourage your child to solve problems involving maths outside of school. When you are shopping, travelling and saving to buy a special toy.

5 BUY A CONVERSION CHART: It’s an easy way to engrain the conversion tables of kilometres to miles, grams to ounces, or litres to gallons. They’re skills that don’t come up often but are extremely handy to know.

6 BE AN EXAMPLE: Many adults say they hated maths in school, according to national polls. If you are one of them, be careful that you don’t communicate that attitude to your child. It can cause maths anxiety, which sadly is contagious.

7 POINT OUT THE MATHS IN EVERYDAY LIFE: From working out how many ounces are in a cup while baking a cake to working out how long it will take to visit a relative, you can show your child that maths is everywhere around them. You can also point out the importance of maths in almost every walk of life. These small acknowledgments can make a difference and even get your child excited about maths!

The current pandemic has brought ‘empathy’ into public discourse more than ever before – Kamala Harris walking on to the winning stage with ‘The people have chosen empathy’ as a  backdrop; and Marcus Rashford showing empathy for hungry children and putting this into action with his food poverty campaign.

So it is timely that not-for-profit organisation EmpathyLab have revealed their 2021 Read For Empathy book collection after an expert judging panel weighed up hundreds of publisher submissions to select 50 of the very best contemporary empathy-boosting books for 4-16 year olds.

The aim is for schools, libraries, families and community groups to use the books to help raise a generation with strong empathy skills.

Read for empathy books for children aged 4-11

Picture books
Hello, Friend! Rebecca Cobb, Macmillan Children’s Books
Umbrella Elena Arevalo Melville, Scallywag Press
The Suitcase Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, Nosy Crow
Tibble and Grandpa Wendy Meddour & Daniel Egnéus, Oxford University Press
Felix After the Rain Dunja Jogan, translator Olivia Hellewell, Tiny Owl
Maia and What Matters Tine Mortier & Kaatje Vermeire, translator David Colmer, Book Island
Clean Up! Nathan Bryon & Dapo Adeola, Puffin
Ride the Wind Nicola Davies & Salvatore Rubbino, Walker Books
Once Upon a Dragon’s Fire Beatrice Blue, Frances Lincoln
The Lost Homework Richard O’Neill & Kirsti Beautyman, Child’s Play
How to Change the World Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Annabel Tempest, Puffin
Rain Before Rainbows Smriti Halls & David Litchfield, Walker Books

Early readers
The Boy in the Jam Jar Joyce Dunbar, illustrator John Shelley, Bloomsbury Education
Too Small Tola Atinuke, illustrator Onyinye Iwu, Walker Books
Five Ways to Make a Friend Gillian Cross, illustrator Sarah Horne, Barrington Stoke

Belonging Street Mandy Coe, Otter-Barry Books
Bright Bursts of Colour Matt Goodfellow, illustrator Aleksei Bitskoff, Bloomsbury Education
Poems Aloud Joseph Coelho & Daniel Gray-Barnett, Wide-Eyed Editions
This Rock, That Rock Dom Conlon & Vivianne Schwarz, Troika Books

Graphic novel
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy Rey Terciero & Bre Indigo, Little Brown

The Space We’re In Katya Balen, illustrator Laura Carlin, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The Time of Green Magic Hilary McKay, Macmillan Children’s Books
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates Jenny Pearson, illustrator Rob Biddulph, Usborne
Talking to the Moon S. E. Durrant, Nosy Crow
A Kind of Spark Elle McNicoll, Knights Of Media
Freedom Catherine Johnson, Scholastic
The Star Outside My Window Onjali Q. Raúf, Orion Children’s Books
The Faraway Truth Janae Marks, Chicken House 
Windrush Child Benjamin Zephaniah, Scholastic
The Taylor Turbochaser David Baddiel, HarperCollins 

Read for empathy books for young people aged 12-16

Tin Boy Steve Cole, illustrator Oriol Vidal, Barrington Stoke
The Last Paper Crane Kerry Drewery, illustrator Natsko Seki, Hot Key Books
Eight Pieces of Silva Patrice Lawrence, Hodder Children’s Books
I Was Born for This Alice Oseman, HarperCollins
The Gone Book Helena Close, Little Island Books
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly Danielle Jawando, Simon & Schuster
On the Come Up Angie Thomas, Walker Books
A House Without Walls Elizabeth Laird, Macmillan Children’s Books
Chinglish Sue Cheung, Andersen Press
Scavengers Darren Simpson, Usborne
Boy, Everywhere A. M. Dassu, Old Barn Books

Graphic novel
When Stars Are Scattered Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed, Faber

Short stories
Look Both Ways Jason Reynolds, Knights Of Media

Clouds Cannot Cover Us Jay Hulme, Troika Books
A Hurricane in my Head Matt Abbott, Bloomsbury Education
The Undefeated Kwame Alexander & Kadir Nelson, Andersen Press
The Missing Michael Rosen, Walker Books

Verse novels
Gloves Off Louisa Reid, Guppy Books
Run, Rebel Manjeet Mann, Penguin Books
Clap When You Land Elizabeth Acevedo, Hot Key Books

This year’s Empathy Day is on 10 June – make sure you put it in the diary! To find out more click here.

Teenagers catch moods and negative moods are more contagious

Mental health and emotional wellbeing among young people could be better understood by findings in a recently-published paper from Oxford and Birmingham Universities, which reveal that teenagers catch moods from friends and bad moods are more contagious than good ones.

The authors Dr Per Block, of Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, and Dr Stephanie Burnett Heyes, of The University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology, hope the ground-breaking study could lead to improved understanding of emotional wellbeing.

Dr Block says, ‘Our study shows conclusively that individuals are affected by how others around them are feeling. Mood is contagious, and though both positive and negative moods are ‘caught’, bad moods are more potent.

We hope it is a step towards understanding why people fall into prolonged low states, the social factors that determine emotional wellbeing in adolescents, and, in the long run, how it may be possible to provide emotional support leading to improved mental health.’

The wide-ranging findings show mood goes both ways. While a teen ‘catches’ a low mood from a friend, the friend feels uplifted in the process. There was no evidence adolescents either avoid or seek contact with peers in a negative or positive frame of mind – suggesting mood does not determine popularity in the short term and socialising with someone in a low mood is a risk most are prepared to take.

The study found teenagers’ moods become more similar to people they spend time with, that a bad mood is more infectious than a good, and these individuals did not select others with whom to socialise simply to match the way they felt themselves.

Two groups of adolescents, 79 in total, aged 15 to 19-years-old participated in the study. Each group was on a short residential classical music performance tour. Each young musician recorded daily moods and social interactions.  The situation allowed the study to overcome the challenges of environment, dispersed social networks and timeframes, which limited previous studies.

Dr Block says, ‘What makes our study special is that, by having people in a group with few external influences, experiencing the same environment and spending their time together, we could see who interacted with whom and how that made others feel.

‘We saw, first, the interaction, and then how mood became more similar. As mood changes frequently and is influenced by various environmental factors that differ between individuals, many studies find collecting comprehensive data difficult. But because our participants were living together, we overcame that challenge too.’

The results were identical from both groups and partly contradict previous understanding. Earlier research suggested good mood is more contagious than bad, and that bad mood is associated with social withdrawal. This study showed no evidence that teens feeling low withdrew.

The research was conducted before social interaction was severely restricted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Burnett Heyes says, ‘This study raises so many outstanding questions, especially in COVID-19 times, such as what do we lose when interaction is not face-to-face, and what is preserved? And finally, if everyone is struggling, is it too emotionally risky to connect with others and potentially ‘catch’ their low mood?’

‘Recently all independent midwives in the UK have lost their insurance, with the basic convoluted reason being ‘birth is risky’. This has taken away many, many women’s choices for birth. ‘Childbirth Choices Matter’ exists to give women and birthing people control of their birthing choices

With lack of commercial market indemnity solutions, 100s of Independent Midwives across the UK cannot work. As a result, this is limiting the birthing choices and birthing rights of women. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been cautious to attend hospitals meaning they are in need of independent midwives. However, due to lack of funding, this is becoming more and more difficult.

Childbirth Choices Matter (CCM) are a collective of women, doulas, NHS midwives and independent midwives (IMs) who have come together to strengthen the rights of women and birthing practitioners to choose the circumstances in which they give birth to their babies, including place of birth and midwifery-led continuity of carer.

Their need to unite and campaign to protect women’s birthing choices, and for midwives to be able to provide maternity care that is personalised and safe, is now a matter of emergency, particularly during the global pandemic for several reasons.

The Government had been notified of the absence of insurance product to cover self-employed midwives and refused the request for assistance, stating that the request was “not good use of public funding”. For the past two years, independent midwives have been using an American insurance provider, but this provider left the UK market. As a result, the UK’s self-employed midwives have not been able to provide labour and birth care to women wishing to use their services since 30 June.

From June 2020, self-employed midwives have seen premiums rise to £7,500 per birth, creating a wealth divide between those who can access their services and those who cannot. Neither women nor midwives want this.

With now a more crucial time than ever for women to have choice over their birthing rights and the NHS already overworked due to the pandemic, CCM are looking to raise money to support more midwives looking to work independently and support more women who need independent midwifery. It’s a win win!

 “We have a vision to create an insurance product and an access fund which will allow women and birthing people to access care from self-employed, professional midwives without being tied to the premiums set by commercial insurance companies. We understand that insurance is absolutely necessary for practising midwives and that the cover should be at a level that represents the claims that could potentially be made. We are therefore raising funds, across many streams of income to support this fully independent insurance product. We need a lot of money to achieve this, and we have a team of fundraisers working tirelessly to make it a reality”

COVID 19 has increased the need for women to seek midwifery care outside of the NHS, and CCM want to ensure this is an option available for the majority of women as it is the right pathway for them to achieve the birth experience they want and have a right to.

CCM are aiming to raise £3M in order to support IMs and get them back into employment and ultimately, giving women full choice in how they give birth and where they give birth.

To find out more and make a donation, click here.

Harlequin Dame swaps panto for present packing, in support of the local community

The Harlequin in Redhill’s resident panto Dame, Simon Bashford, has been spotted at the theatre – but not in his usual outrageous garb, and with fewer antics! He’s been helping local charity Stripey Stork, who are using the Harlequin’s auditorium to run their annual Christmas campaign. Santa Stork supports local families who really need a helping hand at this time of year.

Simon Bashford is a much-loved part of Christmas at the Harlequin, playing the Dame for the past seven years. He said, “We are missing panto dreadfully this year, but it’s heart-warming to be back treading the boards – this time, helping families in need rather than performing. I’ve loved volunteering today and it really brings home how essential the support is that Stripey Stork offers – they will make all the difference to so many families this Christmas.”

Stripey Stork Founder and General Manager Nicola Dawes said, “Every Christmas our Santa Stork campaign ensures thousands of local children receive a new gift. Sadly the pandemic means that the need is greater than ever this year and we’ve already reached a record high number of requests. The Harlequin’s auditorium is the perfect space for allowing our volunteers to work safely. We’re thrilled that Simon could come to lend us a hand and see the sheer scale of the project for himself!”

The Harlequin reopened its cinema and café doors last week, with a fantastic array of festive films on show, and Christmassy treats and events in the café. Find out more here.

The Santa Stork campaign is accepting gift pledges until 18 December. Find out more about the campaign and how to donate here.

Surrey family support charity, Home-Start, to benefit from major Christmas campaign

Waitrose and John Lewis unveiled this year’s Christmas advertising campaign on 13 November, which – inspired by the kindness shown by the British public during the pandemic – encourages viewers to Give A Little Love to others and support leading family support charity Home-Start, and UK’s largest food redistribution charity, FareShare.

Home-Start Surrey is one of over 180 local, independent charities that make up the Home-Start network across the UK.

Since the pandemic started over one third of local Home-Starts – local community networks of trained volunteers and expert support who help families with young children through these challenging times – have seen an increase in demand for its services and FareShare has had to double the amount of food it distributes to meet the rising demand.

Home-Start Surrey have been there for families when they’ve needed support most. As part of a network of 180 Home-Starts across the country Home-Start Surrey have moved essential support services on-line to stay connected with families through their team of volunteers – staying connected with families, providing emotional and practical support, and linking families into other community services such as their local foodbanks. We have seen social distancing and isolation placing enormous strain on families. This support from Waitrose and John Lewis and their customers will allow Home-Start and FareShare to help more families in Surrey.

The pandemic has been toughest on those already struggling, but across the country communities have come together to support those in need. In that spirit of generosity, Home-Start is encouraging people to support Give A Little Love this Christmas by giving their time, money and voice to the campaign.

Waitrose and John Lewis customers will be encouraged toGive A Little Love in five different ways:

  • making a charity donation,
  • buying campaign products with 100% of profit donated to the charities,
  • using their loyalty card to increase the Partnership’s donation,
  • giving a little love to someone they know who needs it, and
  • helping in their local community.

Customer donations up to the value of £2m will be match funded by a donation from the John Lewis Partnership. A further £1m will be donated by the retailers’ shops who are actively partnering with FareShare and Home-Start and a range of local family charities in the communities they serve.

The adverts – which went live on social media channels at 7am on 13th November – were first broadcast on TV on the 14th November during ‘The Voice’ on ITV.

  • Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 November 2020
  • 9am to 5pm on 21st and 9am to 4pm on 22nd
  • South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex

The South of England Agricultural Society is delighted to announce that its ever-popular Winter Fair will return to the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex, on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 November 2020.

The Society and it’s Showground have been deemed ‘Good to Go’ by Visit England and so the weekend event, will run from 9am – 5pm on 21st and 9am – 4pm on 22nd November all within government guidelines to ensure the safety of all visitors. With this in mind, certain elements of the Winter Fair will vary to adhere to Covid-19 safety measures. However, firm favourites remain, and the event will offer the perfect opportunity to get the Christmas preparations sorted whilst enjoying a festive family day out.

Visitors can shop till they drop with a plethora of artisan goodies from local, independent traders. For food and drink lovers, there’s mouth-watering gin liqueurs, homemade jams and chutneys, gourmet pies, cheeses, wines and handmade Christmas puddings and chocolates.
For those looking for unique gifts and stocking fillers there’s everything from wooden toys, artwork, jewellery, lovingly produced leather and cashmere fashion, to natural soap, grooming gift sets, stunning home accessories, Christmas decorations and more.

It’s not just about the shopping though; families are sure to enjoy the live music, festive entertainment, and of course the traditional funfair.

For the protection of everyone at the event, tickets to the Winter Fair 2020 will be limited and should be booked here before arrival to ensure entry, and to avoid queues. Tickets are available from seas.org.uk and cost £6.75 for adults and £5.85 for senior citizens/students (inclusive of 10% online discount until 20.11.20). Under 16s go free.