Does your child love maths or science? Here are some extracurricular activities they will enjoy

If your child has a particular love for maths or science, you may think there aren’t many after-schoolextra-curricular activities outside of the classroom that will peak their interest. But that’s just not true.

We’ve spoken to the education experts at ITN Mark Education to find out which clubs are best for math geniuses and budding scientists to join.

Astronomy Clubs

If your child has dreams of one day being an astronaut or an intergalactic explorer, why not see if their school offers an astrology club?

Here your child will be able to discover planets, stars and constellations, while also learning the basic principles of the science of astronomy.

If there isn’t an astronomy club near you, browse the internet for astronomy based websites for kids. You’ll often be able to download space related puzzles and games for your child to solve at home.

Maths Clubs

Most schools have a maths club. Here young ‘mathletes’ will be able to solve problems using mental arithmetic, written calculations or a calculator. Not only do maths clubs help to increase your child’s maths ability, but they’ll also make plenty of new friends in the process.

Some primary schools even have a separate times tables club to give children the confidence to multiply numbers quickly and accurately.

Chess Clubs

A chess club is a less obvious choice than an astronomy or maths club, but it still encourages children to develop skills that will help them with their science and maths studies.

One of the main benefits of chess club is that it helps children to develop their critical thinking skills, as well as increasing their social interaction with others.

I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!

Although it’s not strictly an extracurricular activity, the website ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’ is a place where science-obsessed young people can interact with real-life working scientists to get information and advice about their studies.

For older kids, this website is fantastic for getting advice about what GCSEs and A-Levels are needed to get into certain science-based careers.

Swimming Clubs

You may be wondering what swimming has to do with maths or science? Well, a study by the University College London found that children who engage in swimming on a regular basis show increased concentration. According to research, young swimmers are also one and a half times more likely to reach higher than expected grades in their maths tests at the end of primary school.

ICT and Computer Clubs

Computing goes hand-in-hand with maths and science, so it’s worth checking with your local school to see if they offer a computing club for their pupils.

In a computer club, students could learn how to use the basics of a wide range of programmes such as Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel. They’ll also be able to find out more about internet browsing, which will come in handy for homework!

Coding Clubs

If your child is really into the science behind how computers work, then a coding club is perfect for them.

At a coding club, your child will be able to learn basic coding techniques including Scratch, HTML, CSS and Python. In today’s technological world, coding is fast becoming a necessary skill to learn, and can open many doors in adult life.

Find Clubs

Of course, now you’ve decided what after school activity your child would like to do you need to find one local to you.  That’s where comes in, click here to search your region.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

From PTA Mums to a Thriving Business – The IQ Cards Success Story

The time and hassle needs to be taken out of school fundraising – this first became clear to me during my time as an active member of the PTA at my son’s school. Too often were teachers pushed for time and money, with the quickest and cheapest fund-raising ideas having to suffice, with more exciting methods resigned to ‘maybe one day’. Teachers and parents everywhere are feeling the pressure to raise money for their schools in a fun and creative way, but time and financial constraints often result in generic fundraising events. It is no secret that schools are more pushed than ever for resources, and the need to raise funds in an enjoyable yet simple way is greater than ever.

So in 2009, IQ Cards launched. Experience at the IQ Digital House, and knowledge of the advanced printing methods they had available there, made the perfect playground for a new fundraising idea, and the lack of evolution made by the traditional school tea towel approach highlighted a gap in the market. By inviting children to produce all manner of personalised gifts for friends and family with their own designs, creativity is encouraged, group activity enjoyed, and fundraising made simple, enjoyable and affordable. Furthermore, its versatility makes it suited to far more than just Christmas – any occasion, or lack of, can be celebrated with personalised gifts, which include greeting cards, gift-wrap, postcards and labels.

The IQ Cards project has come a long way, and there is now a dedicated team (fellow parents on a mission) headed up by myself. Our collective first-hand experience of school fundraising struggles and continuous collaboration in school environments has improved the project year on year, eventually gaining us recognition as a preferred supplier for PTA UK. The need for imaginative fundraising solutions which require no upfront costs and very little maintenance was recognised, and we aim to provide all schools with a fundraising idea that offers variety, enjoyment and, of course, significant returns.

By Charlotte Baldwin, Operations Manager at IQ Cards:

IQ Cards are a fundraising company that provide schools and establishments with the necessary tools to fundraise via selling high-quality and unique gifts designed by pupils. As part of the established on-demand print and digital solutions provider The IQ Digital House, ensures that all requirements and products are produced to the highest standards, delivered on time and at great value prices. Several of the IQ cards team are mothers and PTA members themselves appreciating and understanding school protocols extremely well. They are the preferred supplier for PTA UK. For more information please visit:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are SATs becoming too challenging for primary school pupils?

As we’ve now come to the end of the academic year with a fantastic round up of sats primary schoolcelebration assemblies throughout the UK recognising our children’s academic and non academic achievements, maybe it’s time to reflect ourselves on some of the hurdles that our little ones will have to or have had to jump.

Are SATs becoming too challenging for primary school pupils?

‘Incredibly difficult’ and ‘ridiculous’ primary school tests left pupils in tears as they struggled to cope with tough new Government guidelines, according to concerned teachers.

Comments reported by the Daily Telegraph revealed how children had struggle to cope with the tests administered to years two and six this year.

Teachers also told the TES that they were concerned about what children were being asked to do on the reading, writing and maths papers.

One said: “That was, without doubt, the hardest reading test I’ve ever seen. Unbelievable. I’m so angry right now. That has completely demoralised a number of children in my class. It wasn’t even like the sample paper they released. Much harder.”

Another said the SATs their children undertook would’ve be more suitable to much older children, writing: “Children who had succeeded previously in the ‘sample’ test were sobbing! More able not finishing. If ever a test was set up to prepare children to fail, this was it.”

Tough questions

One University of Oxford professor pointed out that a question on angles was more suited to a ‘lower to mid standard’ GCSE test than one to be undertaken by 11-year-olds.

Meanwhile schools minister Nick Gibb was caught out on live radio, when World At One presenter Marth Kearney asked him to decide whether a word in a sentence was a preposition or a subordinating conjunction – just as SATs pupils had to do when answering grammar questions. He failed the test.

The Manchester Evening News published a list of 12 sample questions from the year two and six papers, if readers wanted to see if they could succeed where Gibb couldn’t.

The results

So, if the questions were so tough, what were the results like?

The official data showed that just over half of 11-year-olds (53 per cent) made the expected grade in all three of reading, writing and maths. That figure last year, albeit under a completely different system, was 80 per cent.

Again, it’s wrong to compare the two figures outright – and the number of pupils achieving the expected level in each individual subject is higher – but the Government will clearly want to see that figure going up. Statistically, at least, the tests could be seen as too challenging for almost half of the pupils who took them.

Government response

A Department of Education spokesman defended the new tougher tests, which aimed to push pupils to achieve higher standards. They said: “These tests should not be a cause of stress for pupils ‎- they help teachers make sure children are learning to read, write and add up well.

“The truth is if they don’t master literacy and numeracy early on, they risk being held behind and struggling for the rest of their lives – we are determined to prevent this by helping every child reach their full potential.”

It’s also fair to say that all new exam systems take time, with a need to find the right level of difficulty on tests papers.

Image of the profession matters

The row over SATs is set within a wider atmosphere of negativity within the teaching profession, with a recent strike highlighting anger at cuts to school budgets.

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan raised this, asking the unions not to ‘talk down’ the profession and give it a bad name. While her comments didn’t go down well with everyone, her successor Justine Greening will certainly hope to establish a more harmonious relationship with teachers than either of her two predecessors.

That’s especially true in the midst of a recruitment crisis – with politicians keen to get good graduates and jobhunters turning to the likes of EduStaff and putting their talents to good use in jobs within the profession.

Perhaps one way to set the right tone would be for Greening to have a thorough look at the positives and negatives of this year’s SATs tests. It’s clear that teachers and pupils have made the case that this year’s exams went a little too far. By showing she can listen and rein this in slightly, Greening would certainly curry favour with pupils, parents and teachers alike.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Win £20 Worth Of Crafts And Help Bring Creativity Back Into Childhood

Have you heard of our friends at The Creation Station? They are passionate about inspiring children’s imaginations and have a team of 97 franchise owners across the UK. It was started by Sarah Cressall, proud mum to Sam. Ollie and Josh.

“Our fantastic team of Creation Station franchise owners have already inspired over 250,000 children and families with the award winning art and craft classes, parties, clubs, events and products. We have ambitious growth plans for 2020 to help inspire the nation’s imagination”.

Creation Station pitch to Rich

Sarah has pitched to Richard Branson online to help bring creativity back into childhood and are now at position 3. They would love it if you can click to vote to help them reach number 1 and make a difference to more children and families.

If you believe more children should have the opportunity to unleash their creative spirit so they can dream, believe and achieve, we would really appreciate your support by voting for our project:

Voting takes just a few seconds and as thank you, when you share on Facebook with #creation station you‘ll have a chance to win a daily £20 craft giveaway!

Thank you from all at The Creation Station. It would mean a lot to many…

pitch to rich video

#VOOM 2016 is the UK and Ireland’s biggest and most valuable pitching competition, from Virgin Media Business. There’s £1 million (€1.2 million) in prizes and the chance to pitch to Richard Branson. Public voting is open until 9th May 2016.


Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Crafts, Little Ones, Parenting, School Kids, Uncategorized

5 Ways To Get Your Children Outdoors This Easter

With Easter just around the corner, finding ways to keep your children active during the holidays can often seem like a herculean task. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to get your little ones out and about in the spring sunshine and many of them won’t cost you a penny. So, lace up their shoes, button up their coats and start giving the Easter bunny a run for his money.

Eggs-ercise Outdoors With An Easter Egg Hunt

It’s nearly impossible to avoid chocolate at this time of year. But, an Easter egg hunt is aeaster-13646_640 great way for your children to burn off energy before they get their hands on any tasty treats. The garden or local park makes the perfect hiding place for these goodies, keeping your children active whilst they race around looking for them. For older children, you might want to introduce a scavenger hunt theme. Providing clues to where the next egg lies will help keep the game fun and engaging. Just remember not to go overboard, as the harder the clues, the higher the chance of your child growing bored of hunting.

Go Wild With Animal Role Play

Easter is the perfect time to introduce a little pretend play to your child’s life. With thousands of baby animals being born up and down the country, it can be fun to imagine what it would be like to be a sheep or a duck. Encourage your children to hop, waddle and quack their way across the garden, enabling them to exercise their imagination as well as their bodies.

Explore The Countryside With A Springtime Walkoutdoor play

If you live in an area where the countryside is close to hand, then you could think about trying to spot some local wildlife. The natural world is an abundant source of wonder to young children, especially if they’re introduced to animals they’ve never encountered before. Taking a stroll with your family through the fields or along the riverside can be a great way of letting off steam and exploring the world around you. Easter is also a great time to visit a petting zoo or local farm to see chicks, bunnies, lambs and ducklings.

Get Involved With An Easter Parade

Whilst there’s plenty to do in your own backyard, joining the local community in their Easter celebrations can be a great experience for the whole family. Check to see if your neighbourhood is putting on an Easter parade that your children can get involved with. These usually provide children with the opportunity to hop, skip and run down the street, along with the chance to create banners and play with their friends.


Encourage Creativity With Messy Play

If you’re looking for a sensory experience at home, then Easter themed messy play could be the ideal solution. Making shapes in sand, mud and paint allows children to exercise their creative side, as well as helping them develop core motor skills. By turning their creativity into a game, you can keep them active at the same time. Digging for eggs in the mud or searching for toys in the sand will keep toddlers happy for hours and only comes at the price of a quick cleanup afterwards.


Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing outdoor school play equipment for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.


Pentagon’s Facebook:

Pentagon’s Twitter:

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Crafts, Little Ones, Parenting, School Kids

Children should learn mainly through play until age of eight, says Lego

Toy company funds research suggesting educational development can be hindered by early formal schooling. So are UK schools getting it wrong?

The Guardian today reports that parents are squeezing the role of play out of their children’s lives in favour of the three ‘R’s as they try to prepare their offspring for a competitive world, according to the head of Lego’s education charity arm.

A lack of understanding of the value of play is prompting parents and schools alike to reduce it as a priority, says Hanne Rasmussen, head of the Lego Foundation. If parents and governments push children towards numeracy and literacy earlier and earlier, it means they miss out on the early play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy, she says.

According to Rasmussen, the evidence for play-based learning has built enormously over the last decade, but parents don’t know about it. “Both in the formal education system and in the homes of children, the focus on the value of play is rather limited. That’s really something we want to work on – to improve the understanding of the value of play and what play really can do, where more and more it is squeezed by a desire both from the formal system and from parents that children should learn specific literacy and numeracy quite early.”kid_learningthruplay

The intervention by Rasmussen directly challenges the knowledge-based, heavily tested approach to schooling favoured by the UK government – and questioned by many education practitioners.

The 29-year-old Lego Foundation, generously funded with a quarter of Lego’s post-tax profits, is beginning to flex its muscles. Where once it quietly dished out cash – and bricks – to lots of small projects, it has set its sights on campaigning for a mindset change in education around the world. “Our contribution to the world is to challenge the status quo by redefining play and reimagining learning,” says the foundation’s mission statement.

Part of the mission involves putting £4m into a new ‘Lego professorship’ at Cambridge University – the first incumbent will be chosen in April – and supporting an accompanying Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (Pedal). There are more links with Harvard, MIT and other prestigious institutions. The aim is to provide an incontrovertible academic underpinning to the educational value of play, and to define more clearly what works and how to measure it, arming Lego with more evidence to support its campaigning.boy_learningthruplay

But can a toy company – albeit the largest in the world and so famous that its every move makes news (David Beckham builds Lego “to relax”; Ai Weiwei embarrassed “non-political” Lego into bulk-selling him bricks for art) – really influence the way our children learn? Conquering the globe with little red and yellow bricks is one thing; changing the minds of governments is another.

As a child in Denmark in the 1970s, Rasmussen recalls there was more time to play simply because there were fewer of the planned activities that clog up the timetables of today’s over-scheduled children. “We had more room to actually engage and keep ourselves entertained and we learned through that and we grew in many different ways through that,” she says. She and her sister played with Lego, but Rasmussen’s real joy was her years in the sea scouts, when she and three or four other teens would island-hop at weekends on a small boat off the coast close to the Danish capital, adult-free and entirely independent.

SA boy with bricks

©LEGO Foundation

“All over the world, we see parents spending much energy doing the best for their child, and play is not on that list because they don’t have the background to understand what it could do.”

The problem is not that parents don’t have their child’s best interests at heart, she says. But “global competition, economic development – that has put fear or a concern into parents and into governments over how do we become relevant in 15 years or even right now”.

Countries fear seeing their young people left behind, their workforce made irrelevant. “And in that situation what the parent says is, ‘I want my child to have a job, without a job the child will not have a good life, so what can I do to prepare the child?’ And the answer often ends up being more focus on specific skills, and earlier and earlier.”

Rasmussen laments that “barriers in systems – school systems, homes, longstanding institutions that run on their own structures and methodologies” make it a “heavy, heavy task” to change things. Here in the UK – with a school starting age some three years earlier than that of our Scandinavian neighbours, “instructional” learning from the outset and external testing of seven-year-olds in literacy and numeracy – the barriers look pretty solid.

Lego identifies five types of play – physical, symbolic, with rules, with objects, and pretence – and points to the variety of skills developed through each. Even tech-driven play – that source of guilt and respite for so many parents – can fit in: not mindless screen-gawping but activities in which children can “engage with the technology”, or what Lego calls “hands-on, minds-on”. Its second definition of play is a playful state of mind in which, Rasmussen says, “you are open and try different things and are in a positive flow”.

Nailing the benefits of play seems a bit like describing beauty – the essence of it seems somehow diminished by scientific analysis – but research findings are accumulating.

A Cambridge University project, funded by the foundation, saw children devise, tell and act out stories with Lego before writing them down, with play shown to boost narrative and writing skills, as well as interaction and cooperation. The Cambridge study centre will now look into how early play relates to other aspects of young children’s development, explore what happens to the brain during play and conduct a longitudinal study examining what promotes children’s playfulness and how it helps learning and wellbeing.

With strong evidence of the power of play, parents and politicians can be convinced, Rasmussen says. It’s not a question of rejecting the importance of the “content” so beloved of Conservative education secretaries, “but things are changing so fast in our society so the understanding of how you gain and use content knowledge is for us much, much more important. It has to be a balance. You need skills to interact with others, to be able to seek knowledge yourself, because learnings will get outdated.”

An early school starting age need not necessarily be harmful, she says, providing the learning is based on whole-child development and not “sitting at a desk”. But, in contrast to the UK system, she advocates children learning through play well into key stage 2: “In the early years – and that’s up to around eight – a play-based methodology makes a lot of sense.” She cites New Zealand research indicating that early formal literacy lessons do not make children any better readers by age 11, and may even put them off reading.

If Lego is right, then in Britain, with our early formal schooling, we’re getting it wrong. Critics might say that the Lego Foundation – though separate from Lego’s commercial arm – is simply about flogging more models of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. But, Rasmussen points out, Lego isn’t producing pro-play research itself: the findings come from some of the most esteemed universities on the planet. The Lego link does not compromise the argument, she insists. “We certainly believe the brick is a very, very valuable tool in learning through play but is it the only way or only tool? No, certainly not.”

Can Lego really persuade fearful parents and governments to trust in play? It’s a safe bet that most of its audience will at some time have locked a few Lego bricks together – and just might be willing to listen.

Visit LEGO Foundation at

Visit LEGO at

1 Comment

Filed under Little Ones, Parenting, School Kids, Uncategorized

Kate Winslet says children being harmed by social media…should we unplug our families…??

In a recent article in The Guardian, Kate Winslet – co-star of new Steve Jobs film – says she is worried by the addictive qualities of devices Apple has created.katewinslet

Parents are “losing control” of their children to social media, award-winning British actor Kate Winslet has said, adding the she has banned her own from using such sites over fears their self-esteem is being damaged.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Revolutionary Road star, 40, said parents should confiscate technology from their offspring – who she said may turn to social media for validation from strangers. Winslet said social media made her blood boil and said it has a huge impact on young women’s self-esteem. “Because all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them. And what comes along with that? Eating disorders,” she said, adding: “We don’t have any social media in our house.”

The actor, shot to fame after the success of Titanic in the late 90s, revealed that when her daughter Mia had asked for an Instagram account, the photo-sharing site, she told her daughter that sharing photos is like giving away memories. Winslet would not however put her name to a campaign on parenting in the digital age saying: “Stars get slagged off for getting behind causes” and that she did not want to look like a celebrity who thinks “they’ve got the answers”.

The mother of three called for parents to take mobile devices out of the hands of their young. “Let your kids climb trees,” she said, adding the suggestion: “Play Monopoly!”

In the wide-ranging interview given ahead of the release of Steve Jobs, a new film starring Michael Fassbender and directed by Danny Boyle, Winslet said she and her husband, Ned Rocknroll, distance themselves from their mobile phones by charging them downstairs at night. Winslet added she was troubled by the addictive quality of the devices that Jobs created. People “practically kiss them goodnight” she said.ipads

Her harshest criticism was reserved for families who are glued to mobile devices when out together. She said: “You go to a cafe and grown-ups are at one end of the table and children the other, on devices, not looking up.” “They go into a world, and parents let them. I’m going to get slagged off for saying this, but it takes every member of a family to be a family, and there are too many interruptions these days — and devices are a huge interruption,” Winslet added.

Playing “I-spy” on long car journeys was more important, she said.

The mother of three is the latest to speak out on the effect of technology on the young. In August Tom Bennett, the government’s adviser on behaviour in schools, said children should be kept away from iPads for as long as possible. He states ”

“Schools are increasingly giving kids iPads, even primary schools. I am not a fan of that. There is absolutely no research evidence that giving kids technology helps them learn. Some people say, ‘Give kids iPads because they love them and then they will love learning too.’ No, kids love iPads, that’s all. From my point of view they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes.”

Strong opinions from Kate Winslet and Tom Bennett – what do you think? 

Are schools (and parents) using them just to keep children quiet? Or is there a benefit? Should we help our children keep abreast of technology?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized