Author Archives: Chris Walsh

  1. Remembrance Day: Why do we teach about it?

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    Why is Remembrance Day still taught in schools? What value does it hold with our young people? If you are looking for an answer to the question of why Remembrance Day is still so important in schools, you really need to look no further than the Royal British Legion’s website:

    Remembrance honours those who serve to defend our democratic freedoms and way of life.”

    You couldn’t ask for a clearer explanation of what remembrance is all about – or for a better reason for its continued importance.

    Having said that, it’s still worth drilling down a little bit on the topic to consider its importance and its intentions.

    Again, the Royal British Legion really say it all on their website, explaining that:

    “Remembrance does not glorify war and its symbol, the red poppy, is a sign of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future.”

    The Poppy And Remembrance Day

    It’s worth pointing out that there is no right or wrong way of showing remembrance. The poppy was never meant to be compulsory. Sure, wearing one will always be greatly appreciated by those it is intended to support. But if people feel compelled or forced to wear one it devalues what it is meant to stand for: remembering those who fought for freedom – the freedom of choice and free speech.

    Remembrance is intended to unite people of all faiths and cultures. This is another reason why it is so important that schools continue to mark the day.

    It was originally intended as a way to remember the sacrifice and service of the Armed Forces in the UK and across the Commonwealth, but it also serves as a timely reminder of the horrors of all wars. That’s a message that cannot be stressed enough in schools.

    The Royal British Legion are clear in their message. We should also look to remember all the innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict.

    It’s never about taking sides. It’s about highlighting that, ultimately, there are no winners in war.

    Of course, the wearing of the poppy and Remembrance Sunday has evolved over the years. Originally introduced as a way to remember those who lost their lives in World War One, its scope has grown as the years go by.

    Honouring Service

    Each year, the Royal British Legion announces a particular focus. For 2023, it is remembering and honouring ‘Service’.

    We are reminded this year that for those who serve usually do so at a cost. It isn’t just the cost of lives but also the physical or emotional trauma, and upheaval and separation from families and loved ones.

    Anniversaries are always remembered. In 2023, it is the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War; 60 years since the last serviceman was demobbed from National Service, and the 75th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of settlers from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush. It is important to recognise the part they played in rebuilding Britain post-World War Two.

    Tradition And Recent Events

    The traditions of Remembrance: the wearing of the poppy; the two minutes’ silence; and the playing of ‘The Last Post’ remain largely the same after all these years. However, in recent years, several events have been introduced to make Remembrance more interactive for schools.

    A great example of this is the Remembrance Live Assembly. This live streamed experience takes place this year on Friday 10 November. It brings together art, poetry and music in an interactive event aimed at students in Years 5-8.

  2. How To Write Horror

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    ‘Tis the season to be jolly!  No, hang on… we’ve gone too early there…

    Before we get to the season of goodwill and put the tinsel up again – and we won’t have to wait long; as I write this, there are only 73 days before Christmas… Eeek! 😳 – Yes, as I was saying, before we get to all that, ‘tis the season to be scary and go all out on the ghostly ghouls for Halloween!

    So, what better time to look at how to write horror effectively?

    After all, a good horror story is the stuff of nightmares. In fact, it’s the place where our nightmares come alive: the place where our darkest and deepest fears are faced head-on.

    Horror stories are not the faint-hearted but for many of us they hold an irresistible appeal. So…

    What makes a great horror story?

    Essentially, a horror story is a narrative that triggers either of two emotions: fear or shock.

    The horror genre comes in many styles and forms. From dark psychological horror that can really mess with your mind to the classic slasher serial killer rampage that has genuine shock value and makes us jump out of our skin.

    Regardless of the sub-genre, a horror story’s main purpose remains the same: to scare the living daylights out of you.

    So… let’s answer that burning question… “How to write horror?”

    Create a sense of fear in your reader

    Key to this is to be a master of the dark art of suspense. Don’t show your readers the monster/ghost/maniac axe-murdering psychopath serial killer straightaway. Instead, hint at its presence… focus on the anticipation; let your readers smell the fear – but hang fire on the full reveal.

    As iconic horror writer Stephen King once said, “Nothing is so frightening as what’s behind the closed door.”

    Add a plot twist

    When you’re reading a story, there’s nothing worse than thinking that you’ve got the whole thing figured out. But when you believe you know where a story is heading and then an unexpected curveball is thrown into the mix? Well then there’s nothing better…

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the plot twist.

    Unexpected twists keep the reader guessing and they can send them into a whole new level of terror and horror.

    Use cliff-hangers

    A cliff-hanger is the ultimate page-turner – and they are ideal for any horror story.

    Picture the scene: a character has spent the best part of the chapter running away from a monster. He thinks he’s escaped: the reader thinks he’s escaped and then…

    “As silence filled the room, he heard footsteps in the distance…”

    There you have it! – The protagonist and the reader are thrust back into the action and the horror.

    Try putting that book down!

    And finally… Show don’t tell

    Show don’t tell is a writing technique that works well with any genre and any type of descriptive writing. Basically, it means enabling the reader to experience details of a story through character’s emotions, feelings, and by describing sensory details of the scene, as opposed to simply describing events and saying what happens.

    It’s a winner in all settings – and a staple of the horror genre.

    Looking for more horrifying tips? Check out this article by Knights Of The Borrowed Dark author Dave Rudden, who breaks down his top 3 tips – he’s nailed exactly how to write horror in a captivating way that both draws in and terrifies readers in equal measure.

    Perhaps you’d like to discuss how an English tutor could help you learn how to write horror like a pro? If that’s the case, feel free to drop us a quick enquiry.

    Happy horror writing!

  3. What is the Difference Between Combined and Triple Science GCSE?

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    When it comes to GCSE Science, secondary school students across the UK are faced with a tricky dilemma. They might not realise it, as a lot of schools make the choice for you, but they have been earmarked for sitting either the ‘Combined’ or ‘Triple’ course (and on rare occasions even a single science option) – often before they are even in Year 10. So, what is the difference between combined science and triple science? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that unlike the content delivered in both, understanding the key differences is a piece of cake!

    It’s All In The Name

    Essentially, the ‘Combined’ science GCSE course is worth 2 GCSEs and covers all three sciences – that’s Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Students who study the Combined course can be entered for either Foundation or Higher. ‘Separate’ Sciences – also known as ‘Triple’ – also cover all three disciplines, but the critical differential here is that this course is worth a whopping 3 GCSEs, rather than 2. Most Triple students will take Higher but it’s worth noting that entrants can be put in for the Foundation equivalent… although this isn’t very common!

    But that isn’t the only difference. As you would expect, being worth an additional GCSE comes with its fair share of extra work – as you’ll soon see…

    A Case Study

    For example, both the AQA version of the Chemistry Combined and Triple courses have a module called “Organic Chemistry” (this is the study of Carbon-based molecules – “riveting”, I hear you say…) and whilst it may therefore appear that both courses have duplicate modules, it isn’t quite the case.

    There are certainly similarities between the modules on both courses, but if you scan through the exam specifications for both and compare, you’ll find that whilst Combined learners need to learn about groups of molecules called ‘Alkanes’ and ‘Alkenes’, Triple students need to understand these as well as ‘Carboxylic Acids’, ‘Esters’ and ‘Alcohols’ (and no, the practical involved for this lesson does not involve chugging back some of the local pub’s inventory).

    What is the difference between combined science and triple science?

    Which Course Is Right For Me?

    Unfortunately, there is no set answer. However, there are some things to consider if you do get the option of deciding which course to take (or if you wish to go against the school’s advice and campaign to switch courses). 

    Firstly, it’s important to think about it from a practical standpoint. What would an extra GCSE in Science mean to you? Is it a case of vanity or pride making you want to have more GCSEs than your peers? Just think – your GCSE grades unlock the doors towards your chosen Post-16 courses. And whilst it’s fantastic to want to push ourselves, it’s important that we don’t bite off more than we can chew if it’s going to be too much of a struggle.

    Secondly, are you looking to take Science at A-Level? If you are, then this is a solid argument for wanting to select the Triple option. As previously discussed, the Triple Science course delves into more detail and teaches you little nuggets that the Combined simply won’t cover. If you went into your A-Level class as one of only a handful who had taken the Combined option, you may find yourself playing catch-up before the course has even begun!

    And lastly – and this is certainly worth considering – do you enjoy Science? If you do, then it makes sense to want to learn more about something you are naturally passionate about. But if you don’t, then trust us, doing extra work towards something you aren’t particularly fond of will certainly feel like a drain in the long run.

    Now you know the answer to ‘what is the difference between combined science and triple science?’. What Next?

    The advice is simple – if you’re still unsure which route to go down, speak with the Science teachers at school. They’ll be best placed to advise you as an individual since they have data and first-hand experience to back up their suggestions.

    If you want a second opinion, a general chat to answer any pressing questions about what’s been covered here, or if you’d like a bit of extra support with studying Science at GCSE – please feel free to get in touch and the team at TutorRight will be more than happy to help!

  4. Top tips for an effective extra-curricular programme in schools

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    The two most common types of extra-curricular clubs in schools tend to be sport or music-related. Long may that continue – but there are a wide range of other activities that schools could offer as well to create a truly outstanding effective extra-curricular programme.

    With the relentless focus on exam performance (and the curveball that Covid threw into the mix), extra-curricular has been put on the back burner somewhat over the last few years. This is a real shame as everybody knows that education shouldn’t just be about the hours that students spend in the classroom.

    Research shows that the students who perform better socially and academically are the ones who participate in extra-curricular activities. However, it is difficult for many schools to put together an effective out-of-hours offering. Time is often taken up with interventions. What’s more, staff are overburdened as it is. It’s a bit much to expect teachers to run a club on top of everything else they do.

    This is why some of the best extra-curricular programmes in schools are the ones that draw on the support and expertise of parents and the wider community. Here are some tips for putting together a programme that genuinely inspires.

    Run activities that teachers and pupils alike love

    Tapping into people’s passions will always be a winner. Despite the issues of workload, many teachers will still give their time willingly – especially for something that they genuinely love doing.

    Be open, creative, and experimental in terms of what can be offered – moving things away from the typical sports-based clubs. Not that there’s anything wrong with sport, of course – but there are plenty of other ways to enthuse and engage young people.

    Involve the whole school community

    Involving the whole school community makes an extra-curricular programme truly inclusive. Involve older students. It is great experience for them and creates positive role models for the younger ones. Give senior students the opportunity and space to lead and watch them flourish as they rise to the challenge. Open things up to all non-teaching staff too. Many are more than willing to run clubs.

    Get support from parents and local businesses

    Schools should also tap into the experience and expertise of parents and local businesses. It can create a whole new set of role models for students. It can also open up a wide range of opportunities. Not only that, it reinforces the place the school holds within its local community too. 

    Why does all this matter so much?

    Schools are under much pressure to deliver progress and ever-improving exam results. Therefore, ‘the other stuff’ is pushed to one side. However, the development of young people and preparing them for adult life is about much more than how they do in exams. The culture of a school is vital. Crucially, an enriching and effective extra-curricular programme can play a major part in shaping that culture.

    Remember: be open, creative and experimental with your extra-curricular programme!

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  5. Self-help tips for teachers to fight stress

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    It’s sad, but true: the words ‘stress’ and ‘workload’ have become almost synonymous with the teaching profession. Long before ‘funding cuts’, ‘recruitment crisis’ or ‘Covid catch-up’ became the issues that school are grappling with, workload has been a constant concern for teachers.

    The numbers don’t lie. In recent research from Hays, 71% of school leaders said that they were finding it increasingly difficult to recruit permanent teachers. The recruitment of new staff has been an issue for a long time. However, the shortage of new blood is compounded by that fact that schools seem to find it hard to hold on to what they have. Shockingly, in 2020, one in six new teachers left the profession after just a single year in the classroom. It’s estimated that 40% of teachers leave within 5 years.

    And, although they are by no means the only issues, ‘workload’ and ‘stress’ always feature highly on any list of reasons why teachers leave the job.

    So, what can be done?

    Well, teacher workload is undoubtedly a complex issue. But despite the weight of evidence suggesting the negative impact it has on the profession, few at the chalkface would say things have improved much – if at all – recently. Major change is needed and regardless of how many ‘workload surveys’ are carried out, little impact has yet to be seen.

    The individual class teacher is really at the mercy of their school leadership. However, it is not a hopeless situation. Sometimes, it can be the little things that make a real difference.

    Self-help and self-care could be the answer. Ultimately, teachers need to look after Number One. It is important that teachers do not let the job define who they are.

    Here are some tips to keep stress away – or at least in check.

    Take up a hobby

    Okay, so this bit of advice might seem a bit daft! Teachers are struggling with their workload, as if they have the time to take up a hobby. We get that – but hear us out…

    After a hard day and week, the temptation is simply to switch off: Netflix, a bottle of wine and the sofa might sound like an irresistible combination. There’s no denying that we all need some R&R from time to time; however, it’s important to ‘switch on’ as well as to ‘switch off’. Being physically active, learning a new skill, or taking up a new hobby will be better for your wellbeing in the long run.

    Try Journalling

    The notion of keeping a diary might seem slightly old-hat these days, but the benefits of journalling are celebrated in all circles. There are a plethora of apps to choose from but traditional pen and paper is fine too. It is the principle behind journaling that is important. The process forces you to balance any negativity that may occur during the day with a few moments of self-reflection and positivity. It is about focusing on what you have, rather than what you haven’t got.

    Practice what you preach

    Finally, aim to have more of a growth mindset about everything you do. It’s a case of practising what you preach with the students you teach. Think about the advice you would give about how to revise: take regular breaks and give yourself rewards – and take a leaf out of your own book.

    Remember how a growth mindset can challenge negative feelings. If a pupil doesn’t believe that they can make progress in subject, they probably won’t.

    The thing is, if you don’t think things can get better for you – they probably won’t either.

    At TutorRight we work with schools and councils. Sharing the workload can help your students to excel.

  6. The secret to success in exams: 5 Top Tips

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    How do you succeed in exams? 

    Unsurprisingly, this is probably the most frequently asked question from students. They want to know the secret to success. Of course, in many ways, the answer is simple and straightforward…

    If you work hard in lessons, do your homework, and revise regularly (not just for a few days before an exam!), it stands to reason that you are putting yourself in the best position to succeed.

    The problem is that most people find this very hard to do. To be honest, it is difficult to maintain a strong level of consistency all the way through a course.

    But don’t panic – even if you haven’t been a ‘model student’ all the time, you can still succeed!

    It’s also true that even those students who have done everything they should have done still need to make sure that their revision is focused and effective if they want to reach their potential in exams.

    Is there a secret to success in exams?

    Well, these 5 top tips will keep you on the right track:

    Secret to success: Put some space between your practice

    You are bound to have heard the advice not to ‘cram’ your revision before. It’s common sense really. Trying to desperately cram everything in at the last minute is never going to work. That much is obvious. But it’s worth looking at how the brain works too here.

    Take something that you might do a lot that you get better at over time – a new Xbox game, for example.

    Research shows that people who play on a new game 5 times and then leave it alone for 24 hours before playing it again will do better on their next 5 plays than a person who continues to play for 50% longer.

    Putting some space in between actually helps your performance. The same is true for learning and revising. So, space it out rather than cramming it in!

    Don’t be afraid of getting things wrong

    You may have heard the saying ‘Nobody gets better by getting things right all the time’. It might sound a little weird, but it really is true. Getting things wrong every now and again can actually help you to get better over time.

    This is why you should never avoid or ‘put off’ the questions or topics that you struggle with the most. Tackle the toughest bits head on!

    Obviously, you don’t want to deliberately get things wrong. But if you do, don’t worry about it – you can learn from the experience.

    Spending too much time revising the stuff you already know is not the best use of your time. Instead, always start with the topics you find the hardest.

    Be active in your revision

    It’s important to do something with your revision material. You could have the best set of notes in the world but if all you do is read through them then they won’t be much help. You need to be active when you revise. 

    And the best way to be active is to…

    Practise exam answers

    Doing well in exams isn’t just about showing off your knowledge or remembering information, it’s about knowing exactly what is expected from you in every single question. You need to know this inside out. 

    The skill that is being assessed in a question is more important than the content on your answer.

    Rest and sleep

    It’s a natural reaction – especially if you are stressed – to spend more time revising, if you are worried about how you are going to do in an exam.  But there are only so many hours in a day.

    It is better to have frequent breaks, days off, and a good night’s sleep every single night than to stay up late every night trying desperately to catch up. 

    Rest and sleep really is a major part of the secret to success.

    Our friendly and expert tutors can help you make sense of everything and get you exam-ready.

  7. Checking in with kids’ mental health

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    The last few years have seen a considerable amount of progress made regarding mental health. The stigma there used to be around the issue no longer exists – at least not to the same extent. Mental health certainly isn’t the taboo subject it used to be. 

    There is more openness – generally – across society when it comes to the issue. High profile figures, such as England cricketer, Ben Stokes; and US gymnast, Simone Biles, have helped to raise awareness by being open about their own personal struggles. They were roundly praised, respected, and supported for doing so.

    All of this is overwhelmingly positive – progress, as we say.

    However, we need to be grateful that such progress has been made because not only was it long overdue, it is now also more important than ever in today’s world.

    This is a growing problem across all age groups and all areas of society.

    And it is particularly shocking to see how much it affects young people.

    Mental health: Supporting school and parents to identify concerns

    The numbers paint a bleak picture. Statistics show that 75% of mental illnesses begin before a person turns 18. In fact, around 50% of mental health problems that occur in adult life start before the age of  15. 

    Despite the size of the issue, it is estimated that as many of 75% of young people suffering from a mental health problem aren’t receiving treatment. Not only that, despite progress being made in this area, around 50% of young people still say they feel embarrassed about mental health.

    With around 10% of children having a diagnosable mental illness, it means that in an average class of 30 students, 3 will have a mental health problem.

    These are shocking figures.

    So, where do schools fit into this? 

    School leaders need to protect staff wellbeing. The last thing that is needed is to somehow turn teachers into mental health professionals by proxy. There are already more than enough expectations placed on teaching staff. We cannot expect them to take on the full responsibility of supporting the mental health of families and children. 

    But that doesn’t mean that teachers can’t be supportive. The daily contact that teachers and schools have with their pupils puts them in a unique position. They have considerable influence on a young person, the potential to have a significant impact – and the knowledge about an individual to be able to spot the signs of mental health problems when a child begins to show them.

    So, what can schools do? 

    Schools can be proactive by sharing positive and healthy habits through communication with parents and by the overall culture and climate that it set within the school. This can take many forms, from promoting the likes of having a decent sleeping routine or the family eating together. Similarly, much can be done in terms of signposting useful information, such as websites like Mind and Young Minds.

    It is important that a child feels able to talk to someone when they need to. A friend, parent or teacher might be the most obvious candidates, but equally it could be somebody from a child’s wider family. It doesn’t really matter who, young people just need to be encouraged to talk to someone if they feel the need to. The encouragement to talk can come from schools.

    Mental health: Don’t forget the parents

    It’s a sad sign of modern life that it’s likely that many parents will be suffering from mental health issues themselves. Because of this, they are unlikely to be in the best place to support their child’s own mental health needs. Even if the parents aren’t struggling with their own wellbeing, identifying similar concerns in their children can be very difficult to come to terms with. Some parents feel like failures or worry that they will be judged themselves. Others are concerned that their child will be given a label due to their difficulties.

    Some parents will see a school as part of their own support system. Naturally, schools will be good listeners and want to help but there is a balance to strike – the wellbeing of the school’s own staff needs to be looked after too.

    Safeguarding and knowing when to escalate

    Schools – rightly or wrongly – have an important role to play in supporting their pupils’ mental health. However, teachers are not mental health professionals. Schools need to identify when a child’s needs become so serious that a referral needs to be made so that the child can receive professional help.

    School leaders need to be aware of the relevant thresholds. They need to know when it is appropriate to involve doctors, mental health services, or social services. The mental health of young people demands our attention. After all, it is the responsibility of adults to keep young people safe and healthy. 

    And when young people feel better, we feel better too. 

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