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A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years Reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts
You’ve lived through 2 a.m. feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So why is the word “teenager” causing you so much worry?

When you consider that the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically but emotionally and intellectually, it’s understandable that it’s a time of confusion and upheaval for many families.

Despite some adults’ negative perceptions about teens, they are often energetic, thoughtful, and idealistic, with a deep interest in what’s fair and right. So, although it can be a period of conflict between parent and child, the teen years are also a time to help kids grow into the distinct individuals they will become.

Understanding the Teen Years
So when does adolescence start? Everybody’s different — there are early bloomers, late arrivers, speedy developers, and slow-but-steady growers. In other words, there’s a wide range of what’s considered normal.

But it’s important to make a (somewhat artificial) distinction between puberty and adolescence. Most of us think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics: breasts, menstrual periods, pubic hair, and facial hair. These are certainly the most visible signs of puberty and impending adulthood, but kids who are showing physical changes (between the ages of 8 and 14 or so) also can be going through a bunch of changes that aren’t readily seen from the outside. These are the changes of adolescence.

Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from mom and dad and become more independent. At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in. Their peers often become much more important than parents as far as making decisions.

Kids often start “trying on” different looks and identities, and they become very aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents.

Butting Heads
One of the common stereotypes of adolescence is the rebellious, wild teen continually at odds with mom and dad. Although it may be the case for some kids and this is a time of emotional ups and downs, that stereotype certainly is not representative of most teens.

But the primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. To do this, teens must start pulling away from their parents — especially the parent whom they’re the closest to. This can feel like teens are always at odds with parents or don’t want to be around them the way they used to.

As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They’re forming their moral code. And parents of teens may find that kids who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves — and their opinions — strongly and rebelling against parental control.

You may need to look closely at how much room you give your teen to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: “Am I a controlling parent?,” “Do I listen to my child?,” and “Do I allow my teen’s opinions and tastes to differ from my own?”

Tips for Parenting During the Teen Years
Looking for a roadmap to find your way through these years? Here are some tips:

Educate Yourself
Read books about teenagers. Think back on your own teen years. Remember your struggles with acne or your embarrassment at developing early — or late. Expect some mood changes in your typically sunny child, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Parents who know what’s coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare.

Talk to Kids Early and Often
Starting to talk about menstruation or wet dreams after they’ve already begun is starting too late. Answer the early questions kids have about bodies, such as the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from. But don’t overload them with information — just answer their questions. If you don’t know the answers, get them from someone who does, like a trusted friend or your pediatrician.

You know your kids. You can hear when your child’s starting to tell jokes about sex or when attention to personal appearance is increasing. This is a good time to jump in with your own questions such as:

Are you noticing any changes in your body?
Are you having any strange feelings?
Are you sad sometimes and don’t know why?
A yearly physical exam is a great time to talk about this. A doctor can tell your preadolescent — and you — what to expect in the next few years. An exam can be a jumping-off point for a good parent/child discussion. The later you wait to have these talks, the more likely your child will be to form misconceptions or become embarrassed about or afraid of physical and emotional changes.

And the earlier you open the lines of communication, the better your chances of keeping them open through the teen years. Give your child books on puberty written for kids going through it. Share memories of your own adolescence. There’s nothing like knowing that mom or dad went through it, too, to put kids more at ease.

Put Yourself in Your Child’s Place
Practice empathy by helping your child understand that it’s normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it’s OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a kid the next.

Pick Your Battles
If teenagers want to dye their hair, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think twice before you object. Teens want to shock their parents and it’s a lot better to let them do something temporary and harmless; save your objections for things that really matter, like tobacco, drugs and alcohol, or permanent changes to their appearance.

Ask why your teen wants to dress or look a certain way and try to understand how your teen is feeling. You also might want to discuss how others might perceive them if they look different — help your teen understand how he or she might be viewed.

Set Expectations
Teens might act unhappy about the expectations their parents place on them. Still, they usually understand and need to know that their parents care enough about them to expect certain things such as good grades, acceptable behavior, and sticking to the house rules. If parents have appropriate expectations, teens will likely try to meet them. Without reasonable expectations, your teen may feel you don’t care about him or her.

Inform Your Teen — and Stay Informed Yourself
The teen years often are a time of experimentation, and sometimes that experimentation includes risky behaviors. Don’t avoid the subjects of sex and drug, alcohol, or tobacco use. Discussing tough topics openly with kids before they’re exposed to them actually makes it more likely that they’ll act responsibly when the time comes. Share your family values with your teen and talk about what you believe is right and wrong, and why.

Know your child’s friends — and know their friends’ parents. Regular communication between parents can go a long way toward creating a safe environment for all teens in a peer group. Parents can help each other keep track of the kids’ activities without making the kids feel that they’re being watched.

Know the Warning Signs
A certain amount of change is normal during the teen years. But too drastic or long-lasting a switch in personality or behavior may signal real trouble — the kind that needs professional help. Watch for these warning signs:

extreme weight gain or loss
sleep problems
rapid, drastic changes in personality
sudden change in friends
skipping school often
falling grades
talk or even jokes about suicide
signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
run-ins with the law
Any other inappropriate behavior that lasts for more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble, too. You may expect a glitch or two in your teen’s behavior or grades during this time, but your A/B student shouldn’t suddenly be failing, and your normally outgoing kid shouldn’t suddenly become constantly withdrawn. Your doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you find proper counseling.

Respect Kids’ Privacy
Some parents, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their kids do is their business. But to help your teen become a young adult, you’ll need to grant some privacy. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your child’s privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off.

In other words, your teenager’s room, texts, e-mails, and phone calls should be private. You also shouldn’t expect your teen to share all thoughts or activities with you at all times. Of course, for safety reasons, you should always know where teens are going, when they’ll be returning, what they’re doing, and with whom, but you don’t need to know every detail. And you definitely shouldn’t expect to be invited along!

Start with trust. Tell your teen that you trust him or her, but if the trust gets broken, he or she will enjoy fewer freedoms until it’s rebuilt.

Monitor What Kids See and Read
TV shows, magazines and books, the Internet — kids have access to tons of information. Be aware of what yours watch and read. Don’t be afraid to set limits on the amount of time spent in front of the computer or the TV. Know what they’re learning from the media and who they may be communicating with online.

Teens shouldn’t have unlimited access to TV or the Internet in private — these should be public activities. Access to technology also should be limited after certain hours (for example, 10 p.m. or so) to encourage adequate sleep. It’s not unreasonable to have cellphones and computers off limits after a certain time.

Make Appropriate Rules
Bedtime for a teenager should be age appropriate, just as it was when your child was a baby. Teens still need about 8-9 hours of sleep. Encourage your teen to stick to a sleep schedule that will meet those needs.

Reward your teen for being trustworthy. Has he or she kept to a 10 p.m. curfew on weekends? Move it to 10:30 p.m. And does a teen always have to go along on family outings? Encourage a reasonable amount of family time together, but be flexible. Don’t be insulted when your growing child doesn’t always want to be with you. Think back: You probably felt the same way about your mom and dad.

Will This Ever Be Over?
As kids progress through the teen years, you’ll notice a slowing of the highs and lows of adolescence. And, eventually, they’ll become independent, responsible, communicative young adults.

So remember the motto of many parents with teens: We’re going through this together, and we’ll come out of it — together!

Reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts

School Improvement Resources from Liverpool City Council website
My Creative School Learning Resource
Arts-led, schools focused resources exploring new approaches to school development

Welcome to the My Creative School Learning Resource: a selection of tools, case studies and writing based on the learning from a two-year partnership with primary schools across South London.

My Creative School (MCS) was a two-year programme of arts-led ‘Creative Catalyst’ projects which ran from 2016 to 2018. These projects forged new models of working between artists and teachers, developing creative approaches to school improvement and curriculum delivery.

Three project models formed the cornerstone of MCS:

Pioneer teachers: Teachers empowered to pioneer new ideas
Immersive adventure: Igniting appetites for learning
Child leaders: Children directing their own learning

These models have informed the MCS Learning Resource and are woven throughout the tools and case studies. As you continue to develop new approaches to your own school improvement / development priorities, we hope the MCS Learning Resource will support you to pioneer new ideas, create immersive learning experiences and support children to lead, with the arts at the centre.

The resources
Whether you are a senior leader or class teacher, we hope these resources will support schools at strategy level, in classrooms and teachers’ own development:

The Narrative of My Creative School
Compendium of Ideas
Framework for Change
Stories and Tools
Case Studies
The MCS Learning Resource can also be download as a PDF containing all three chapters in full (Narrative, Compendium and Framework tools).

Why should we prioritise creative approaches
to teaching and learning?
How a Creative Catalyst ethos supports schools
By MCS Programme Researcher Sarah B Davies
Adaptive Practice: Creating the conditions for new approaches to grow
By MCS Creative Advocate Greg Klerkx
Logbook of Ideas
In this resource
This resource contains three short essays to introduce you
to the MCS programme and why it made such a difference
in participating schools – and how a similar approach could
make a difference in yours, too.
Chapter 1 – The Narrative of My Creative School
Life skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, risk taking and
resilience are increasingly important to modern life. A 2017
Sutton Trust report identified that 88% of young people, 94%
of employers and 97% of teachers consider them as important
as academic qualifications – if not more so.1
Many economists
and business leaders argue that, in years to come, such flexible,
creative skills will be more critical to employability than engineering,
data analysis and any number of other STEM-driven subjects.2
Nearly three-quarters of teachers surveyed by the Sutton Trust
said the arts were the most effective way for children to learn
these skills, whether in school or through extracurricular activities.
Schools rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted also tend to prioritise the
arts and creative approaches to teaching and learning.3
Why, then, are arts on the back foot in terms of funding and
school strategy across the country? Even schools with strong arts
provision can often find it challenging to use it as a driver for
more powerful, impactful learning experiences.
My Creative School (MCS) aimed to give the context, training and
opportunity for teachers to embrace and engage with the arts as
a powerful teaching tool. We did this by pairing working creative
practitioners – in art, drama, dance, and music – with classroom
teachers, so they could learn from each other and understand
how best an arts-led approach could address key challenges as
identified in school development plans. We also provided CPD
for both the creative professionals and teachers, together and
separately, to deepen this exploration and to help embed
the learning.
Most of our participating teachers weren’t arts subject specialists;
many began their MCS journey believing that they ‘weren’t creative’
or ‘couldn’t do art’ or performance. Such attitudes can easily transfer
to young people, so a consistent theme across the two years of
the MCS programme was that the creative skills that underpin the
arts are inherent in everyone: the arts just help bring them into the
light. Thus did we find PE specialists happily making sculptures or
maths subject leads creating treasure hunts across an entire school.
The creative impulse is a human impulse, one that schools play a
critical role in nurturing and developing. Creativity is the engine
that built modern Britain and it will be arguably even more
important in future, not least in our schools. My Creative School
offered a pathway to that future, and we hope you find the
lessons we’ve learned as useful and powerful as we have.
1. Life Lessons: Improving essential life skills for young people, Carl
Cullinane and Rebecca Montecute, The Sutton Trust, October 2017
2. Broadly speaking, STEM includes any school subjects that cover aspects
of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. See for example ‘Full STEAM ahead
as arts and tech shape future of skills together’, Julie Feest, The Engineer, 5 July 2018,
accessed on 12 July 2018 at
3. Why do good and outstanding OFSTED schools demonstrate a creative
mind set and an understanding of the importance of creativity?, Drew Rowlands,
IVE White Paper, 2017
Why should we prioritise creative
approaches to teaching and learning?
Chapter 1 – The Narrative of My Creative School
More than an art project delivered in school, the MCS
programme aimed to do something different.
Participating schools in the MCS programme received three
terms of CPD and support, and created a term-long Creative
Catalyst project.
A Creative Catalyst project supported a long-term ambition
for change. Designed to support the needs of a school, these
projects were delivered in partnership between a teacher
and a creative practitioner, who brought their creative strategies
to a school’s challenge.
The MCS programme was underpinned by a set of principles
which supported the success of our schools’ Creative Catalyst
projects. These were:
Creative Catalyst projects were developed in response
to priorities identified in School Development/Improvement
Plans (SDP).
The arts were employed to support school-wide shifts in results
and culture. The creative practitioners used their skills to assist
schools to investigate an identified school priority in a different way.
Teacher focused
Teachers’ learning was given as much priority as the arts project.
Supporting the embedding of learning into practice was a key
element, creating greater potential to develop change at a
systemic level. Continuous strategies for consolidating learning
were in place throughout the process, including learning journals,
post-session reflection, sharing across staff and CPD.
To support teachers’ learning, we developed two kinds
of peer networks:
Communities of learning: A regional approach to CPD and
support, promoting local cultural venues, borough sharings
and peer clusters. Networks of teachers met half-termly
at regional gatherings where shared challenges, ideas
and new collaborations could be explored.
Communities of practice: Whole programme cohort CPD
sessions to nurture a community of practice between teachers
and creative practitioners, underpinned by shared learning.
This helped to break down preconceptions, generate new
knowledge and create a greater sense of a communal
approach to school development.
How a Creative Catalyst ethos
supports schools
MCS Programme
Researcher Sarah B Davies
Chapter 1 – The Narrative of My Creative School
Can a Creative Catalyst ethos support you?
Examples of SDP priorities MCS supported:
Improving engagement in reading and writing.
Increasing vocabulary.
Developing independent learning.
We found that through employing the arts as a teaching tool,
teachers could identify shifts in knowledge and understanding
demonstrated, often gaining a new insight into the abilities/
capabilities and understanding of their pupils.
Creative Catalyst projects do not require a large budget to get
started. You can do a lot with the resources you currently have
(making inventive use of any supplies at hand).
The key point is that you already have your SDP; a Creative
Catalyst ethos simply proposes a new way of working towards
achieving your priorities, with the added potential to develop
new skills in your staff and pupils along the way.
To help, we have created tools to support you in designing
a Creative Catalyst project to fit your school’s needs and SDP.
You’ll find:
A framework to kick off your own Creative Catalyst project,
from principles to practice
A set of example project plans and case studies from
MCS schools.
Could an arts-led approach to your school development priorities
help achieve the change your school needs?
For me it was the point where we realised
vocabulary was actually very good.
We wouldn’t have come to that realisation.
This allowed us to change our focus to creative
writing, for children to use that vocabulary…

Adaptive Practice: Creating the conditions
for new approaches to grow
During the MCS programme, a type of practice evolved to
support the risk taking nature of the Creative Catalyst projects:
Adaptive Practice.
Comprised of three ideas – reflection, adaptation, and
translation – Adaptive Practice forms a cyclical notion of constant
improvement of teaching and learning, catalysed by the arts,
that is at the heart of MCS.
We outline the stages of Adaptive Practice with some ideas
for you to try.
Adaptive Practice: Creating the conditions
for new approaches to grow
Reflection can be a highly personal activity, but in the context
of MCS it was also essential that reflection be collaborative,
with teachers and creative practitioners sharing their skills
and knowledge. We used a number of creative approaches
to strengthen co-reflection, such as:
I Like, I Notice, I Wonder – Why not try commenting on what
happened in a session using only these phrases to begin, as in,
‘I wonder what would happen if…’, encouraging honesty and
a non-judgemental atmosphere.
Objects – Try selecting an object that reflects how you felt
after a session. Go with instinct: something might simply appeal
because it’s comforting or uncomfortable, simple or complicated.
Use the objects as you discuss and debrief.
Free writing – Begin with a phrase like, ‘That session felt…’
and write what comes to mind for up to two minutes. Circle
three words/phrases that seem most interesting as a starting
point to unpick what happened in the session and what might
improve the next one.
For more on reflection, see the Creative Lesson Evaluation tool
in our Compendium of Ideas

A constant readiness to adapt plans and delivery to accommodate
change in progress was a feature of MCS and a strength of our
teacher-creative practitioner partnerships.
How might you adapt your setting to fit your vision for your
project? Two key considerations are space and time. These sets
of questions can help guide your adaptation.
How far have you pushed the envelope when it comes
to innovative use of physical space?
If your school has constraints or concerns around using school
spaces differently, can you create an agreement
for how such transformations are to be managed, e.g.,
all spaces to be returned to their original state after X time of
day, or on a given date?
Can you find ways for other teachers and pupils to benefit
from any transformations or novel uses of physical space, thus
potentially increasing buy-in and participation?
What can you do creatively with what’s already in your classroom? What can be moved, removed, repositioned, reconfigured? How can you involve your pupils in this conversation
or even get them to do the reconfiguring as part of an activity?
How much ‘flex’ are you building into your session plans? Could
you create short and long versions of an activity that allow you
to pursue promising areas of pupil interest while still delivering
desired work?
If your project feels too time-constrained, could you create a
‘time map’ of the school day or week and try to identify extra
time ‘spaces’ you might be able to work, whether for planning,
delivery or reflection?
Creativity is like cooking in
a slow cooker, if you take time
to cook things you can get more
interesting flavours.
Chapter 1 – The Narrative of My Creative School
The third aspect of Adaptive Practice is translation. A key aim
for MCS was to ensure that learning around creative approaches
can be ‘translated’ into a broader school context, achieving
practical outcomes and longer term impact across the school.
Translational Practice within MCS was about sharing core ways
of working across teachers and creative practitioners. It was
about embedding new learning to inform and support new
creative teaching and learning practices
Strengthening collaborations
We noticed three broad qualities that created the conditions for
strong and effective collaborations and, thus, impactful creative
projects throughout the MCS programme: vulnerability, resilience,
and experimentation.
At the core of being vulnerable is acknowledging not only that
you might get things wrong, but also that getting things wrong
has an impact. In MCS, acknowledging vulnerability had the effect
of creating greater trust and a greater willingness to take risks.
Several creative practitioners worked well outside their core art
forms, learning new skills as they went along; the same was true
of teachers.
An unwillingness to settle for ‘OK’ was a deep point of connection
between teachers and practitioners. Great artists never settle for
OK, and neither do great teachers. If at first you don’t succeed,
try again.
Experimentation requires both vulnerability and resilience
because it so often ends in failure. This can be frustrating and
difficult – particularly in high-pressure modern schools focused
on achieving visible, measurable results.
We believe that Adaptive Practice is a useful framework for
pedagogical development for arts-led school programmes
and partnership working in schools. We have also seen Adaptive
Practice support new creative practices in teaching and learning.
How might Adaptive Practice support teaching and learning
in your school?
Use this page to note down any ideas or inspiration as you make
your way through the My Creative School Learning Resource.
Logbook of ideas
Things I found interesting
Ideas I want to explore
What I will need to be able to do this
One thing I can do today
One thing I would tell a colleague to share what I’ve learned
Chapter 1 – The Narrative of My Creative School
Compendium of Ideas
Tips, tools and case studies by
teachers and creative practitioners
Arts-led, schools-focused resources exploring Chapter
new approaches to school development 2
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 15
Using the arts to explore different
curriculum areas
Develop arts-led approaches to curriculum
challenges using cultural venues.
Channel the power of WOW
in your school.
Design exciting class ideas and experiments
in independent thinking.
A Strange Event: a cross-curricular
immersive mystery
Plan your own immersive, pupil-led mystery
and explore cross-curricular lesson
planning opportunities.
Free-range assemblies: child-led
presentations of learning
and achievement
A new assembly format where children lead.
The Game of Life: child-led redesign
of British Values
Enable pupils to designa whole-school board game
exploring the values of the school community.
How to begin a wellbeing
conversation in your school
Create a safe space to discuss issues
and achievements alike together.
Creative Lesson Evaluation:
activities and tips
Plan and deliver effective evaluation
with your pupils.
Logbook of Ideas
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 16
In this resource
In this Compendium of Ideas you will find six teacher development
and classroom ideas, contributed by the creative practitioners
and teachers that took part in MCS. In each resource you will
find a step-by-step list of activities and a case study of how these
ideas have supported SDPs.
You will also find a lesson evaluation tool with activities and tips
to reflect on your creative ideas and experiments.
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 17
Use these teacher planning activities to help staff reflect on their
teaching practice and develop their own arts-led approaches
to curriculum challenges.
Visiting cultural venues is beneficial for teachers as well as
for pupils. Exploring the passions and interests of staff during
a visit to a museum or gallery can expand thinking, leading
to the development of new arts-led approaches.
Using the arts to explore different
curriculum areas
Activity 1: INSET warm-up – re-imagining an object
It helps to develop story muscles and is a light-hearted way to begin a staff
meeting about creative learning.
(10 minutes)
Gather ordinary objects together.
Participants sit in a circle and pass one of these objects from
person to person.
Individuals re-imagine the purpose and ‘story’ of the object.
Useful questions to prompt imagination include “Whose is it?”,
“What is it?” and “Where does it come from?”
In this way, a rock becomes an aide to a magician or the
toothpick of a giant. The longer you pass the object around,
the more imaginative and unusual the suggestions become as
participants gain confidence in expressing imaginative thought
and move beyond more obvious ideas.
Tip: Use this storytelling
activity with your pupils
in class time.
By Greg Klerkx
(MCS creative advocate) and
Alex McIntyre
(Creative practitioner)
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 18
Activity 2: River
This activity explores teachers’ own motivations and challenges using an
alternative, visual method.
(20 minutes)
On a large sheet of paper, using coloured pens, plot the
journey of your teaching practice as though it is a river.
Start with the source – what is your motivation for being
a teacher?
Map the journey of your practice from its source to now. How
has it grown? What other experiences / tributaries have joined
it? Where are the shoals, rapids or bits of dead water where
you feel like you can’t move forward?
Share your drawings in small groups. Use the below questions
to facilitate discussion:
What does your drawing express or reflect about your
experience of teaching and learning?
What values underpin your view of learning? Which key
experiences influence this view?
How do you currently use the arts / creativity in your teaching
and learning?
Which new insights can you identify through your river?
In particular, where are your areas of challenge / risk?
Activity 3: Quadrant
This activity supports teachers to identify a personal challenge
– an alternative method to a strengths and weaknesses exercise.
(20 minutes)
Individuals each draw a quadrant on a sheet of paper. In the
different quarters, map out and answer the following questions:
What do you love about what you do?
What don’t you love?
What do you feel you are good at?
What would you like to do better?
In small groups, discuss the quadrants. What do you notice?
Are there areas of common interest or challenge?
Individuals should each choose one area of interest/challenge
to enhance, improve or change through an arts-led approach.
This will be that teacher’s personal challenge
Activity 4: Problem translation – turning your
personal challenge into an enquiry question
Use this Problem Translator template during the INSET or individually
to explore in detail your chosen challenge within a creative learning
and/or enquiry-led framework.
(60 minutes)
You could introduce a competitive group element to see
which group can generate the most potential solutions
or explorations of a challenge.
Problem Example: Students don’t pay attention during
physics lessons and thus perform poorly
The way physics is presented isn’t engaging us,
so we don’t find it meaningful or valuable
(Potential for multiple responses)
Low engagement, poor performance on tests
How can we find ways to interest students
in physics?
What they’re
really saying
your challenge
Approaches Explore movement and interactivity as a way
to convey some key ideas
(Potential for multiple responses)
Cultural venues are receptive
environments for teachers to
explore new ways into their
teaching practice
2: Visiting a cultural venue as a staff group
to expand thinking
Choose a cultural venue such as a museum or art gallery to visit
as a staff group. Cultural visits enable fresh stimulus for ideas and
can help imagine new ways for the arts to impact on curriculum
or teaching and learning challenges.
Individually, explore your chosen cultural venue:
What exhibition, artwork, or physical space are you drawn to?
What do you connect with and what inspires you? Why?
Choose one thing you wish to look at in more detail. Spend
time either drawing or writing about it.
In groups of two to four, share inspirations from the venue,
responding to the following questions each time:
What do you notice about your chosen inspiration? What drew
you to it?
How does your inspiration connect to your teaching?
What learning activities would you like to devise and try as a
result? Think small and experimental: something you could slip
into a lesson to open up a new perspective.
Put your plan for a creative project into action – this may feel
daunting but hold your nerve.
Reflect and process both individually and with a group of staff:
what did you notice about how pupils responded?
As a group, reflect on what you notice about the activity – was
anything surprising? Consider your challenge again, potentially
over coffee or food to create a relaxed atmosphere.
Using your thinking and experiences from your visit today,
what new experimental action can you take to address your
challenge? How will the arts be incorporated? What are you
going to do? How can this be broken into smaller steps?
When will you take these steps?
What or who do you need to help you (resources / SLT /
external input)?
Tip: Tip: Adapt this activity for your pupils during
a visit to a local cultural venue.
Use the creative lesson
evaluation activities later
in this resource as a guide.
3: Implementing and experimenting in class
Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can arts-led curriculum approaches help
build the skill and confidence of NQTs
and grow a culture of peer leadership?
Our aim was to build the skills and confidence of newly qualified
teachers (NQTs) in connecting arts-led learning with key school
development priorities around writing. We wanted NQTs to
be able to devise and deliver a whole staff INSET around new
approaches in this area.
St. William of Perth Roman Catholic Primary School (SWOP)
noted that their children’s progress in writing slowed from
Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2, particularly compared to reading.
The school believed that much of this challenge was a matter
of engagement: too many pupils were not interested or lacked
confidence in writing.
This project sought to equip NQTs George and Laura with the
ability to create small arts-led interventions and to reflect on
whether these improved writing engagement. By placing George
and Laura at the centre of this ‘up-skilling’ process, the school
hoped to build their confidence within the SWOP teaching team –
positioning them as internal leaders for arts-led learning.
Both writing and art are inherently
visual forms that lend themselves well
to connections for mutual benefit in
teaching and learning
MCS Creative Advocate
Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can arts-led curriculum approaches help
What we did…
Session 1: A half-day workshop led by Alex and Greg that
explored George and Laura’s interest in, and experience of,
teaching and learning.
Session 2: A full day at the Turner Contemporary, a gallery
in Margate. We used a series of visual art and discussion
activities to create our own connections between the visual
and the written.
Session 3: George and Laura were tasked with adapting one
of the visit’s activities into a small intervention they would then
try with their class before our next session.
Session 4: George and Laura co-delivered a two-hour
INSET for the other 12 members of the SWOP teaching and
senior leadership team, using ideas from our art-writing
experimentation process. They used recorded sounds, images
and objects as stimuli for writing, and then led brainstorming
sessions about how other teachers could adapt these methods
for the particular writing challenges their pupils were facing.
What we learnt
A personalised training intervention with a clear process and
goals can build confidence in individual teachers and NQTs
that can then cascade to whole teaching teams.
When visiting cultural venues, have clear goals in mind as to
where your exploration will ideally lead. In our case, we knew
we wanted to find new ideas for engaging Foundation
and KS1 pupils with writing and we believed visual art would be
a potentially powerful way to do this.
School leadership must be willing and able to provide cover
and planning time for teachers to engage in deep learning
about their practice.
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 22
(NQTs) have really moved
forward with their teaching
Deputy Head Teacher
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 23
This set of activities will help teachers to collaboratively explore
what makes learning “WOW”!
WOW lessons are exciting, engaging and conducive to
independent thinking. WOW lessons originally responded to
a desire for awe and wonder in teaching and learning at St. Joseph’s
Catholic Primary School in Bromley.
They took two forms:
WOW learning experiments: small, engaging experiments
for teaching a lesson of your choice, combining your own
passions with consideration of the needs of specific children.
Wonder Days: an extension of WOW learning experiments,
taking place across a half/whole day of immersive activities.
Channel the power of WOW in your school
Activity 1: Warm-up
This opening activity brings people together in an energising way.
(5 minutes)
Split teachers into pairs.
Standing facing each other, ask them to count up to three,
taking it in turns so the numbers are passed between them,
and repeat as a round until you say stop.
Once they get the hang of this, they can introduce a sound
or physical action for each number (one becomes a hum,
two becomes a clap and so on). This should provoke laughter. By Alex McIntyre
(Creative practitioner)
Tip: This activity can be used
with pupils as a lesson opener
or during circle time.
Activity 2: Defining WOW
(20 minutes)
Invite teachers to explore what WOW means to them.
Individually, recount the story of a WOW learning moment
in your own life, highlighting what was important about it.
(5 minutes)
In pairs or fours, share your examples with each other.
(10 minutes)
Group reflection: what does WOW mean to us as adults/
teachers/children? Is it scary/loud/meaningful/quiet?
(5 minutes
Activity 3: Focusing on your learners and their needs
This is a practical activity to support the visualisation of your pupils
and their needs. You will need modelling clay or playdough.
(15 minutes)
Individuals should create a model of a child in their class using
playdough, making it symbolic rather than realistic to reflect:
(10 minutes)
What is this child like as a learner?
What needs does s/he have?
When does s/he currently demonstrate independent thinking
and learning?
What influences or obstructs this learning?
Return to the group (or split into small groups) and introduce
your playdough children to each other: (5 minutes)
What commonalities / differences do you notice?
What would inspire WOW/awe and wonder in your child
/ these children?
Activity 4: Design a WOW Experiment
(15 minutes)
Design at least one learning experiment by thinking about
what you would love to teach and what you think would inspire
awe and wonder for this child/children. Plan out:
What will you do?
When will you do it?
What materials / support do you need?
Give staff one week following the INSET to think through
and develop their ideas further.
Meet in pairs or year group teams to workshop each person’s
WOW experiment to ensure they are ready to deliver it.
Be curious and suspend judgement to facilitate free discussion.
What excites you about this?
What is challenging and how will you address that challenge?
2: Developing your ideas
Go and try out your planned experiments on your classes!
3: Small WOW learning experiments
Tip: Use the lesson evaluation
activities later in this resource
to gauge how your pupils
responded to your WOW
learning experiments.
Following the WOW learning experiments, meet and reflect
in the same pairs or year group teams as before. Use these
questions to help facilitate your conversation:
How did the experiments go?
What happened?
What did you notice?
What were you excited about? Why?
What felt more challenging? Why?
Where would you like to take your thinking next?
How could this become a bigger project?
What opportunities and benefits can you see?
What would help you expand your ideas further?
How could your teachers expand their WOW learning experiments
to embed their learning? Consider the differentiated options below:
Plan a series of linked WOW learning experiments (one per
week) over a specified period of time. Staff deliver and reflect
on any changes they observe. This approach is particularly
useful if you are aiming for long term change to address
a problem.
Plan a full scale Wonder Day – or make them a regular event.
The teachers’ ideas were full of wonder
and highly experimental. Responses
to this challenge were exciting
and varied.

How can awe and wonder
improve learning?
Project partners
Alex McIntyre (Creative practitioner)
Katharine James (Creative practitioner)
Jane Burr (Class teacher)
Sharon Grange (Head Teacher)
All teaching staff
The Big Idea
Through a creative exploration with all teaching staff,
we experimented with ways of incorporating and evaluating
the impact of WOW moments in learning.
St Joseph’s Primary School’s most recent Ofsted report highlighted
a need to develop children as independent thinkers and learners.
Teachers observed a lack of engagement, focus and child-led
learning across the school. The school decided that the ambition
was to put the WOW back into learning for children – to capture
attention, inspiration and imagination using the arts in non-arts
curriculum subjects.
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 26
What we did…
As a starting point, Alex facilitated a conversation with school
leadership to identify a list of characteristics of independent
learners. These became success indicators for the project:
Curious and intrinsically interested in learning
Excited about learning
Able to listen
Responsive and attentive
Active, responsible learners
Able to use vibrant language and ask questions
We felt that in order for these characteristics to occur, a child
needed to experience a sense of awe and wonder. This led us
to explore the questions:
What is awe and wonder?
Is the experience the same for everyone?
How can we create the conditions for another person
to experience this?
After an initial INSET session and two “Wonder Labs” to develop
staff ideas, teachers delivered their own WOW learning
experiments in class. They used feedback from these to run
longer Wonder Days.

Wonder Days were ambitious class activities which were coplanned and co-delivered with the help and skills of a creative
practitioner to develop and extend the learning of the WOW
learning experiment. This led to exciting and engaging lessons
across the curriculum, e.g.:
Year 6 pupils experienced what it was like to work in the mines
during the Victorian era in their history lesson. They pulled
heavy loads on gym mat ‘trucks’ across the hall, crawled
through a dark tunnel in one of the corridors (made from
black bin liners) and crouched in boxes to get the sense
of limited space and darkness.
A Year 4 teacher led a WOW lesson to demonstrate a chemical
reaction in digestion through a dramatic chemistry experiment.
The experiment was filmed and showed audible gasps and
amazed expressions across the whole class. The children went
on to develop their own movements and actions for different
chemical elements and created a rap song together.
What we learnt
The teacher was very much the lead, with the creative practitioner
providing encouragement for the teacher in stretching his/her
own practice. This created a developmental opportunity
for teachers, increasing the potential for ideas and skills to be
practised and embedded.
The words awe, wonder and WOW set emotional and social
expectations that an activity is going to be amazing. Some
activities didn’t work as well, which is a normal part of trying
something new. When taking any risk, small failures along
the way are a useful and important learning process.
The highlight of the whole project was seeing the energy and
enthusiasm of the teachers for their WOW learning experiments
and Wonder Days. They finished the project keen to take their
learning forwards and with the skills to do so.

The whole class’s attitude to learning
is beginning to shift towards being
more free thinking and questioning
across the curriculum.

A Strange Event: a cross-curricular
immersive mystery

An immersive mystery can:
Provide a participatory cross-curricular learning experience.
Offer a space for children to lead their own learning and
develop communication, collaboration, critical thinking and
analytical skills.
Be a platform for staff collaboration and experimentation.
Create a buzz of excitement and curiosity within the wider
school community.
Use this tool to think through your own immersive mystery.
We’ve outlined a week-long mystery but you can adapt this
to suit your setting/needs.
A Strange Event: a cross-curricular
immersive mystery
Talk to the Head Teacher / SLT: You’ll need their buy-in.
Establish a core team: We recommend three: a project
manager (in charge of the schedule, deadlines and logistics);
a lesson-planning facilitator (present at lesson-planning
sessions to maintain clarity, share great ideas and be the
go-to person for concerns / issues); a senior leader.
Work out your lead time: We recommend six weeks as a
sensible timeframe in which to generate an event idea,
introduce it to staff, organise it and plan a lesson framework.
Put it in the diary: Ideally you’ll explore all areas of the
curriculum through the lens of the project – this might mean
you come off-timetable for up to a week depending on your
ambitions. When could this fit into the school calendar?
Might it be a way to open or close a term?
Define your guiding principles: Agree on some key words
/ phrases that communicate how you want people to feel
and how you want staff and pupils to participate.
Here are a few examples:
AMAZING: a theatrical, physical stimulus that will grip
imaginations and provide the foundation for a whole week

of work.
PLAUSIBLE: an event that could happen – something that
Y6 children could believe

COLLABORATIVE: staff take ownership and have the
space to experiment, take risks, and play.
EMPOWERING: children are empowered to guide the
week’s learning with their questions and ideas.
OPEN-ENDED: a project with an emphasis on investigating
rather than solving, recognising that evidence can point in
many directions.
COMMUNAL: the whole school is involved as a community
1. Generating ideas for your Strange Event

Brainstorm ideas with your core team, a wider staff group, or
through a suggestions box in the staff room. Use the following
questions as a starting point:
Has something landed on the roof / in the school grounds?
Has something appeared in a classroom? Has something
mysteriously disappeared?
What is it?

2. Developing your idea
Once you’ve got a strong idea for your Strange Event you need
to hone it to make sure it’s clear, simple and possible. The
following questions might help:
Does it excite, inspire you and fire your imagination?
Does it speak to the project aims and guiding principles?
Is it plausible? Will the children buy into it?

Is it safe?
Is there any cost involved? If so, how much and do we have
the budget?
Once you’re clear on your idea, work out:
When will people encounter the event and who will discover it?
Are going to transform any areas of the school? If so how,
when, and who can help?
What do you need the staff to do and when?
Finally, write your idea into a short, exciting pitch. Create
a backstory as a “jumping off point” – it should offer avenues
for pupils to explore, not just a linear path to one solution.

3. Engaging the staff – the introductory
briefing session

Invite all staff (including teaching assistants / cover staff /
anyone who might be involved) to a meeting to introduce
your Strange Event idea. Explain:
What will happen and how? (Pitch and backstory)
The purpose of the project for pupils and staff.
The timeframe.
Responsibilities: What will they need to do – do they have
to make things? Who will they need to work with? When are
the deadlines they will need to meet?
How the core team will support them.
Swear them to secrecy – this is vital!

4. Lesson sketching: planning a flexible
framework for child-led learning

We recommend planning lessons in small teams – two yeargroups together for example. These should be facilitated by the
assigned member of the core team who will need to:
Outline any expectations / specific tasks that all classes
should complete. We recommend dedicating a lesson early
on – if not the first – for the staff and pupils to create an
evidence board or space in their classroom which is added
to throughout the week.
Encourage staff to share their concerns / excitement.
Share any ‘gem’ ideas generated by the other teams.
During this one-hour planning session you should:
1. Recap the shape of the week. Get the teachers to note any
key moments on a blank timetable. (5 mins)
2. All together: discuss all the exciting things you could teach
off the back of the Strange Event (have a few prepared in
case it’s a slow start). Keep the discussion moving – the point
is to get as much information as possible. (10 mins)
3. Brainstorm 15-20 lesson headings across all areas of the
curriculum that could stem from the Strange Event. (5 mins)
4. Take three each and expand them into three bullet-point
plans. Share them verbally. (10 mins)

5. Swap plans. Everyone adds two additional points to each of
their colleague’s three plans. (5 mins)
6. Take six of the expanded plans and write the headers onto
your blank timetables. Take a different colour and switch the
order. (5 mins)
7. Open discussion – have we got enough material? Are we
covering the curriculum? Do we need more ideas? (5 mins)
8. Think about the momentum of the week – when would it be
good to find clues to help the mystery, how do you want this
to happen? Does the caretaker come in with a bag ‘found’ on
the roof? Does someone find a key in a flower bed? (5 mins)
9. Discussion: how is everyone feeling now and what else do
they need to do to feel confident before the week starts? (5 mins)

When someone stops in their tracks,
it changes their normal way of
going about their day… the children
and the adults were really excited.
They needed to know what had
happened. They were launching
into their own enquiries, both adults
and children were very engaged.

5. Preparing for the Strange Event

In the run-up to the event, hold short weekly meetings to ensure
everyone is on track. All teachers involved need to be on the
same page and need to feel confident that they can improvise
in response to pupils’ ideas. Remember not to let pupils know
something is afoot.

6. Reflecting on the Strange Event

1. Build in time for staff personal reflection. We recommend short
written surveys before and immediately after the project week.
Before: How are staff feeling and why? What do they think
the challenges will be? What are they most excited about?
What they are nervous about?
After: How do they feel now and why? What were the most
exciting/challenging moments in the week and why? What
did they learn from the project? Did any of their pupils
surprise them – how? How did the project address the key
aims? What would they change?
2. Hold an open discussion session in the week after the event
to reflect on the value of the project and its impact on the
children / parents / you. Close this discussion with everyone
making some commitment that will move towards embedding
the project learning.
3. Final evaluation: With the core team, review the surveys /
themes identified in the discussion and isolate two or three
learnings that you want to commit to embedding. Then work
out how you’re going to do this: who will help? What’s the
timeframe? What does success look like?

4. Pupil reflection: You might find it valuable to reflect on the
event with your classes. Be careful though, you don’t want the
children to realise it was all a hoax.

Tip: You might find the creative lesson
evaluation activities listed later
in this resource helpful.


Developing the idea: Can you plan an immersive, crosscurricular week every year? Every term? Can you involve
parents, invite local schools? Create press interest?
Scaling the idea down: How can an immersive mystery
be planned for one day / one year group / one class?
Bite-sizing the idea: Consider how an immersive mystery
can take over one lesson. How can you create a mystery
out of a locked cupboard / a strange shell that has appeared
on the teacher’s desk one morning?
Adapting the idea: Could an immersive mystery / stimulus
event help launch new topics?

Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can a whole-school mystery
help boost pupil engagement
and build cross-curricular links?

The Big Idea

To develop a project that could collapse traditional subject
boundaries and provide opportunities for pupils to write across
the whole curriculum. We wanted to create a physical, theatrical
project that would capture the imaginations of the whole
school community; that would open the space for staff to work
collaboratively and that would allow children to take responsibility
for their learning.


Staff at Malden Parochial had noticed a trend: pupils were writing
to different standards for different subjects. Someone might be
a brilliant writer in English lessons, an average writer in history
and a poor writer when it came to science.

I’ve learnt the importance of trusting
children with their learning; stimulus
inspired learning is the best

We discussed the fundamentals of writing and agreed that at
heart, writing – whether it’s creative or factual or personal –
communicates story. Maybe pupils needed a space to find the
story in whatever they were writing, irrespective of the subject

What we did…

1. We came up with a clear, exciting idea…
“On Monday 5th February, pupils arrive at school to find three
fantastical flying machines crash-landed across the grounds.
WHY are they there? WHERE did they come from? WHO flew
them? It’s all a bit of a mystery…”
We also created the following backstory:
“Three amateur flying machine enthusiasts have taken part in a crazy
Wacky Races-style flying contest. They ran into weather trouble and
were forced to crash land in the school grounds. They have scarpered, unharmed, leaving behind their flying machines and a series
of clues which are discovered over the course of the week…

2. We facilitated a project design workshop with
the whole school staff
We split the staff up to work in their three ‘phase’ teams
(i.e. years 1 & 2). Each team would take responsibility for designing
a flying machine. The teams had 45 minutes to decide:
Who was their pilot? Their name / where they were from /
their passion or occupation
What machine had they flown? What did staff have at home/in
supply cupboards that could make a plausible flying machine?
What clues have they left behind? What could their pilot have
dropped on the premises that would point to their identity?
The teams then had three weeks to assemble their flying
machines and source clues. They used items they already
had in their store cupboards and the results were fantastic –
and believable!
3. We facilitated a session to create a flexible lesson
Teachers collaborated in their phase teams to:
Sketch out a loose list of cross-curricular lesson ideas based
on the machines and clues that would be found. The children
would be leading the investigation and the teachers would
need to be able to respond flexibly to whatever direction they
wanted to take.
Decide when they might need clues to be ‘discovered’ in order to
maintain momentum, deepen the investigation, or re-energise it.
4. We established a closing frame
The only task that we asked all the classes to do was to write a letter
to one of the pilots at the end of the week. All the letters would
be gathered up into one envelope ready to post before half term.
5. We set the structure of the week
1. Monday: an ‘emergency assembly’ was held to brief the whole
school that although the site has been checked and everything
is safe, no-one knows what has happened – so let’s investigate!
2. Wednesday: a ‘journalist’ came in to interview all classes.
3. Thursday PM: a pilot came in to give a talk.
4. Friday PM: parents were invited to look around
the classrooms at the work created by the pupils.
The result was a week-long mystery that captured the imaginations
of pupils, parents and staff alike. Children led their own way
through the curriculum areas guided by their interests and clues.
Written work thrived across these different curriculum areas,
inspired by the mystery.
What we learnt
With strong, willing collaborative work, it’s possible to create
amazing learning experiences that don’t cost the earth or involve
a lot of planning. The important thing is to create a process and
a project structure in which everyone is invested and responsible
for making it work.

This has been the best week
of my life!

Free-range assemblies: child-led
presentations of learning and achievement

A free-range assembly is an interactive event developed and led
entirely by pupils, where visitors roam the “market stall” setup
and get a taste of the work pupils want to share with other years,
parents and teachers. This type of event offers a new invitation
for parents to connect with their children’s learning.

Your free-range assembly could include:

Pupils demonstrating their learning through timed performances.
Participatory activities that challenge parents to do the same
learning activities as their children, but in bite-sized ways –
enabling parents to understand what and how pupils learn.

Ingredients for a successful free-range assembly

. Pupil voice: pupils steer the development of stalls and activities
for stall visitors, developing their own communication
and collaboration skills.
2. Ensure every pupil has a role: this will mean that the free- range
assembly format reflects all ranges of learners/types of student.
3. Parent participation: parents are not simply an audience,
but actively participate in class project ideas for themselves

4. Step back, let go and allow children to direct the learning.
5. Allow children to choose their working partners.
6. Senior leadership support and encourage staff and pupils.
7. A quick and easy system for self-evaluation.

Tip: Why not seek inspiration from
the lesson evaluation activities
listed later in this resource?

Reflecting on your event

Hold one or more staff meetings / INSETs to answer the
following questions:
What would feel like an exciting yet manageable risk to take
in your event? What could connect teachers, pupils and parents
in a powerful new way?
How can participatory activities underscore key messages you’d
like parents to receive about their child’s learning and school
How will you gather and make best use of feedback, both from
children and parents?
Who else might you invite, e.g., governors, councillors, others
with a key stake in your school? Can the invitation itself be
participatory and engaging?
How can you ensure every student has a meaningful role in
assemblies, whether it be presenting, welcoming, or capturing
feedback from your visitors?
How will you embed this into your assembly schedule?
Could parts of selected lessons be dedicated to adding to and
building up small scale displays for an eventual market stall event?
Could the focus be either about a book, a topic, or about
a curriculum area such as a concept in maths?
Can the free-range assembly help teachers to assess their
pupils’ learning?

They [the teachers] also
learnt that they too are
creative even when they
think they are not.
Head Teacher

Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can an alternative assembly
approach give children greater
decision-making opportunities?

St Peter and St Paul Catholic Primary Academy – Bromley

Project partners
Lucy Thornton (Creative practitioner)
Dan Stringer (Year 4 Class teacher)
Erika Mint (Year 3 Class teacher)
Joanna Seymour (Head Teacher)
The pupils of Willow and Birch classes

Parents’ perspectives of what happens
in schools has improved, and their
willingness to engage is much greater,
and they have a more positive outlook
on what we do.

The Big Idea
To use the idea of ‘free-range assemblies’ to put children in
the lead and boost levels of parental engagement. To explore
the potential connection between parental engagement and
improved attendance.
The school wanted to improve vocabulary and problem-solving
skills and to share pupils’ learning around vocabulary with parents
and the rest of the school.
What we did…
In classes
Year 3 and 4 children developed team building, vocabulary and
problem-solving skills through ten weeks of separate arts-based
tasks, using sound as stimulus. This was linked to the classes’
individual curriculum topics using the creative techniques taught
to us by Lucy and the MCS team.

Central project: tree sculpture

Lucy, the teachers and the pupils jointly developed a vision
to build a large sculptural tree, which would host their new
vocabulary and learning within the bark, branches and leaves.

Parental engagement
Parent engagement wasn’t limited to the assembly. For example,
one day at home time parents were met in the playground by
their children and asked to take home a leaf, write a word on it
and share this word the next day with the class.
An outline of the free-range assembly
One day before: Children set up their stalls showcasing ten
weeks’ worth of MCS class activities and finished the large
‘vocabulary tree’ sculpture.
9.00am on the day of the assembly: Parents were greeted at
the school gate by Lucy and a group of pupils reciting a chant
they had created as part of a music-led MCS activity. Pupils led
parents to the hall.
Inside the hall was the finished vocabulary tree sculpture, surrounded
by ten stalls setting out different themed pieces of writing and
images with different activities parents could try themselves. Each
stall was attended by around five pupils who introduced their work
and explained the activity the visitors could try. Every pupil had a role.
Activities for parents included:
Make your own hieroglyphic codes
Add a word to the vocabulary tree
Make a ‘virtuous vocabulary’ sentence using set words
Write scripts for shadow puppetry
Make your own poem using the forest sounds as inspiration.
Suddenly, the pupils left their stalls to form a circle around the
vocabulary tree and collectively performed a forest soundscape
using their own voices and bodies. A select number of pupils
stepped forward to read poems they had written about forests.
They repeated this at regular intervals.
The parents were free to stay as long as they wished. Other
classes were invited to visit. The event lasted all morning
and was repeated again after school for those parents who
didn’t manage to see it in the morning.
What we learnt
The development of the free-range assembly was at first daunting,
as both teachers and children had to let go of the norm and free
themselves from a perceived convention of what an assembly
should look like. Once the children discovered that they were
going to share their learning in a participatory way, which they
found very stimulating, the idea of presenting in a different style
held no fears for them. Teachers took a longer time to realise the
whole vision as they had to address the issues of how to manage
the assembly, the health and safety of all taking part and have the
courage of their convictions that it really was going to work.
Once called to the hall, the free-range assembly allowed the
children to speak to parents about their learning, to question
parents’ own knowledge and show off their expertise. It meant
that parents could witness first-hand the things teachers see daily
such as collaborative working, listening, questioning of each other
and waiting for each to express their opinion. As the parental
feedback demonstrated, this came as a revelation to many.
Chapter 2 – Compendium of Ideas 37

It’s just brilliant, I love being able
to hear my child speak like this.

Malden Parochial Church of England Primary School – Kingston

Project partners
Katharine James (Creative practitioner)
Felicity Coyne (Class teacher)
Fiona McConville (SLT)
The staff of Malden Parochial C of E Primary School

The Game of Life: child-led redesign
of British Values
Identify a class or group to become ‘Game Creators’. We suggest
Year 3 pupils, but the activities can be adapted according to the
age and ability of any age group.
Stage 1: Children develop a set of common Life Values
(45 minutes)
1. Roll out a big sheet of paper. In pairs, ask the children to lie
down on the paper and draw an outline around each other.
2. Ask children, what is important to them? What are they
passionate about? Write/draw these personal values in the
body area.
3. Ask children, what life skills do they need to achieve their hobbies
and interests? Write/draw these life skills in the head area.
4. Looking at these life skills, think about the school environment:
what skills do the children need to be able to work at their
best and what skills are needed for a safe, successful school
community? Circle those skills.
5. Ask each child to choose one life skill they think is most
important and write it on a post-it note. Sit in a circle. Play
snap. If one child has the same as another, they move to sit
next to each other. Go around the circle sharing why the
children chose those skills.
After the lesson, bring together all of the skills that came up more
than once – these are the collective Life Values, unique to the class.
British Values can often feel difficult to teach or understand.
Bringing these abstract concepts to life and making them
relevant to pupils is key, and the Game of Life offers the
opportunity to do so through ‘creative challenges’.
British Values can be rearticulated by children to form a common
set of ‘Life Values’, unique to the school: values that pupils feel
are important to create a safe community. The Game of Life
is a creative, child-led way of teaching these values.

Identify a class or group to become ‘Game Creators’. We suggest
Year 3 pupils, but the activities can be adapted according to the
age and ability of any age group.

Stage 1: Children develop a set of common Life Values
(45 minutes)
1. Roll out a big sheet of paper. In pairs, ask the children to lie
down on the paper and draw an outline around each other.
2. Ask children, what is important to them? What are they
passionate about? Write/draw these personal values in the
body area.
3. Ask children, what life skills do they need to achieve their hobbies
and interests? Write/draw these life skills in the head area.
4. Looking at these life skills, think about the school environment:
what skills do the children need to be able to work at their
best and what skills are needed for a safe, successful school
community? Circle those skills.
5. Ask each child to choose one life skill they think is most
important and write it on a post-it note. Sit in a circle. Play
snap. If one child has the same as another, they move to sit
next to each other. Go around the circle sharing why the
children chose those skills.
After the lesson, bring together all of the skills that came up more
than once – these are the collective Life Values, unique to the class.

Stage 2: Children co-design creative challenges based
on each Life Value
(45-60 minutes per value)
The Game of Life is played by exploring and demonstrating
these values through arts-based ‘creative challenges’, which
classes across the school complete.
Over the course of a lesson, take the Game Creators through
these steps to create a set of five creative challenges for every
Life Value:
1. Set the class the creative goal: to develop a set of exciting,
creative challenges to explore the Life Values for other pupils
across the school.
2. Demonstrate: have the pupils explore a number of creative
challenges set by you, e.g. play human bingo, create a group
‘freeze-frame’, drawing, short poem, sculpture, music etc.
3. Co-create: in small groups the children can now develop some
ideas of their own for creative challenges together.
Start by asking the children to think about different
challenge outcomes, for example getting people to write
a poem, draw, perform, build etc.
Take one Life Value at a time and explore how to creatively
represent it. For example, what might ‘kindness’ sound like?
As a group, choose a favourite challenge from the
4. Groups pitch this challenge idea to the rest of the class.
5. As a class, decide upon the final five challenges per Life Value.
6. Design a Creative Challenge card for the board game.
7. Move on until each Life Value has its own Creative Challenge
card of five challenges.

Game of Life
Creative Challenge card
• Build the tallest tower using
anything in the room.
• Make music using your bodies.
A whole group 2 minute
• Choose a colour that
represents teamwork.
Draw a picture of teamwork
in that colour.
• Make a whole group bridge
using just your bodies.

Stage 3: Children design a board game and space to
share challenge outcomes
1. Design the board to track the progress of the game. You
will need the same number of squares as the number of Life
Values, plus a finishing point. Make it big and colourful.
2. Design a shared space for the challenge outcomes (artworks,
poems etc) to be displayed.
3. Create counters for classes to move across the board.
4. Think of a prize for the winning class.

Game of Life
Creative Challenge card
• Build the tallest tower using
anything in the room.
• Make music using your bodies.
A whole group 2 minute
• Choose a colour that
represents teamwork.
Draw a picture of teamwork
in that colour.
• Make a whole group bridge
using just your bodies.

Stage 4: Children launch the game across the
whole school
1. Find a fun and creative way to invite the rest of the school
to play. For example, put the invites in golden envelopes
or have children dress up to deliver them.
2. Gather the school and launch the game, e.g. at a whole
school assembly. The Game Creators could open the event
with a performance.
Stage 5: Play the Game of Life as a school
We suggest allocating one week for each class across the school to
explore one Life Value. Therefore, if you have eight values,
you will need eight weeks left in the term to complete the game.
The activity could be set as a 10 minute activity on a Monday
morning, in circle/ golden time, or as homework.
1. Issue the week’s Life Value challenges in an exciting way.
Classes pick a challenge from the list of five options and place
their creative outcomes (drawings, photos etc) into the shared
display space for all to see.
2. Classes move their class counter forward on the board game
as they complete their weekly challenge.
3. Each week, ask teachers to choose a ‘Creative Champion’
– a pupil who has demonstrated the Life Value for that
week, e.g. Kindness – and award them with a rosette and/or
certificate. You could celebrate in assembly and newsletter.
4. Encourage the children to talk with each other about the
challenges, the values, opinions and beliefs.
5. Pick an overall winning class and celebrate their creations
in an assembly.

Reflect with your class on the activities – how are these Values
related to British Values? How was the process of letting children
create their own Life Values?
Tip: Why not seek inspiration from
the creative lesson evaluation
activities listed later in this
Scaling this idea down: Can the Game of Life be developed
and played in one class/one year group only?
Scaling this idea up: Can other classes across the school
develop their own Life Values to keep the game going?
Scaling the idea up even more: Can the Game of Life be
played with another local school, or school/s in your multiacademy trust, alliance or umbrella trust?
Adopting and adapting the framework: The Game of Life
framework hinges on setting the goal; demonstrating;
co-creating. It supports child-led exploration and development
of ideas. Can you adapt this framework and apply this
to other projects or lessons?

Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can child-led creative exploration
make British Values meaningful?

Project partners
Simon Batchelor (Creative practitioner)
Pauline Newton (Year 3 Class teacher)
The pupils of St Bridget’s class

The project has provided a chance for
me to share… what I truly believe in,
the way education should truly be;
letting the children lead and putting
creativity at the heart of learning.

The Big Idea
To support the teaching of British Values across the whole school
through child-led exploration.
British Values make a lot of us feel uncomfortable, but why?
Defined as ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, respect
and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’, are these values
unique to Britain – or are they universal?
This was our starting point at Regina Coeli Catholic Primary
School: to take the ‘Human Values’ concept and explore how
to create a safe and successful community in an exciting way.
What we did…
Discovering what they value
To begin with, the children generated nine common Life Values,
all of which the children believed were necessary in order
to become a safe and successful community:

A session framework for pupil-led exploration
We developed a session framework that would support our Year 3
‘Game Creators’ to work together to develop these activities
entirely themselves.
Every session began with the Game Creators sharing thoughts
and experiences about the week’s chosen Life Value. This value
was then brought to life, with the children being given time to
visually represent the word through physical movement and
‘freeze frames’ in small groups. Following this, the whole class
completed an example creative challenge which we set them.
This gave them a chance to see different exciting outcomes to
challenges – a poem, story, sculpture, physical act, sound etc.
Back in their groups, the Game Creators then put on their
thinking hats and began designing new and exciting challenges
of their own for this Life Value. Each group could come up with
a few ideas but then had to agree amongst themselves a final
idea to pitch to the rest of the class. The class eventually
agreed on five ideas to become the creative challenges for
that Life Value.

Their use of ‘value-based’ language demonstrates
their sense of ownership. Respect, Friendship,
Kindness, Helpfulness, Listening, Empathy,
Knowledge and Teamwork are bandied around
the room, permeating the conversation.
Class teacher

The children also created an enormous board game and display
space so that, once the game was officially launched across the
school, classes could collectively exhibit their creative responses
to chosen challenges.
What we learnt
Collaboration between teachers and practitioners can be difficult
at times due to differing approaches and boundaries, but if a good
relationship can be formed where there is trust and listening, this
allows everyone to take risks. The job of the creative practitioner
is to work with the teacher to try new ways of working with
students. This can be as simple as ‘let’s push the tables and chairs
back’, or ‘let’s get the children to lead and create the challenges
with no input from us’, and ultimately ‘let’s see what happens!’

How to begin a wellbeing conversation
in your school

Use these tips and arts-led ideas amongst your whole staff
team, to help you create a safe space to discuss issues
and achievements alike together.
How to begin a wellbeing conversation
in your school
Like exercise, looking after personal and community wellbeing
is an ongoing practice. Longer term rewards may include: more
emotionally aware staff; adults who take a solution-oriented
approach to problems; improved communication; and better
functioning teams.
Make time to reflect on current staff experiences and be sure
to listen to each other actively and without judgement, thereby
creating a safe environment for discussion.
Expect some resistance and have courage.
Embark on your journey with team mates and a support
system in place.
You might like to agree some codes of behaviour together
1. To listen
2. Be kind
3. Be open and honest

Two activities to try in your staff meeting:

Postcard chats:
This activity helps stimulate a conversation through visual aids.
(10 minutes)
1. Lay out postcards / images
2. Each staff member chooses an image that represents their day
3. Have a conversation with someone you haven’t connected
with in a while (sharing in pairs):
Why did you choose the image?
What were your best moments today?
What about challenging moments?
What one thing do you want to remember?
Reflect as a group – what was useful about the activity?
What do you notice?

You can use this activity in your
class as a warm up or themed
discussion prompts around
a curriculum area or topic.

Wellbeing Collage:
This is a practical, creative exercise to stimulate conversation through the
process of making and collaborating.
(30 minutes)
Lay out a large sheet of paper, glue sticks and scissors. Together
create a collage.
You might like to explore, discuss and respond to the questions
below at the same time:
What does wellbeing mean to us?
When do we experience it?
What stops or damages a sense of wellbeing?
Whose responsibility is this?
What do we do currently to look after our wellbeing (personal
and community)?
What else could we do?
How would we like to take our thinking forward?

Reflect as a group
What was useful about these activities? What do you notice?

The teachers we worked
with were amazing. [Their]
generosity and sense of
personal responsibility,
combined with a moral
compass and dedication
to building a better world
through teaching and
education, is extraordinary.
They have inspiring ideas
and hold the potential
to fulfil them.
Creative practitioner

Putting this idea into practice: Creative Catalyst case study
How can creative activities for all school
staff open up opportunities to discuss
personal wellbeing?

Project partners
Abigail Hunt (Creative practitioner)
Alex McIntyre (Creative practitioner)
Maggie Delwiche (Class teacher)
Claire Bracher (SLT)
The staff community
The Big Idea
This Creative Catalyst project focused on the needs of the adults
in school rather than the children. Our aim in this project was to
find ways for adults to discuss, understand, take responsibility for,
and improve, their own wellbeing – both individually and collectively

Nationwide media coverage talks of teacher stress, increasing
pressure and burnout. Many schools also speak of the challenges
of changing staff teams and staff retention. These issues are by
their very nature difficult for staff to acknowledge and discuss.
The project ambition was therefore to begin to shift school culture
and to find ways for the school community to support each other
– to do ‘things’ differently.

What we did…
The project had two strands:
1. Space 2: A place for adults working in the school to visit in spare
moments. Visual artist Abigail created artworks within the space
and invited staff to respond. Staff could collaboratively add
to the art, allowing it to grow gradually. This hands-on activity
helped people connect to the space – staff were focussed on
something away from stresses of school, if only briefly.
2 Artist and coach Alex offered confidential 1-to-1 and group
sessions with selected members of staff. Using drawing and
coaching techniques she facilitated a listening space, which
was directly responsive to the needs of the individual/s. Each
participant set a goal for the session and was primarily responsible for its content, outcomes and subsequent actions.

What we learnt
Our key role as creative practitioners was to provide support
for the teachers. They will continue to address the issue of adult
wellbeing in school– our role was to create an environment
for them to begin the journey.
A strong collaborative partnership is based on mutual trust and
the ability to articulate, share and challenge each other safely.
Everyone brought different skills and perspectives, creating rich
opportunities for the exchange of ideas. Early project planning
conversations meant the four-person team formed a strong
partnership through which we were able to articulate thinking
and challenge each other.
The project was a positive reminder of the importance of the
process of creativity, and the value of immersing yourself
in materials and making.

The key to this project was us
acting as support for the teachers.
They are climbing a mountain,
and for a short time we offered to
carry bags, give water – offering
permission and encouragement as
they marched upwards.

Creative Lesson Evaluation: activities and tips

This document is a tool for class reflection. It outlines a sample
of evaluation activities and ideas developed by some of our MCS
teachers and practitioners to capture the opinion of the pupils
at the end of a project session, lesson or workshop.
Things to think about when setting up an evaluation
Have a clear understanding of what you want to evaluate and
why. We used these questions: what new things did you learn?
How hard did you find today’s workshop/project? Did you find
a way of solving the challenge? How well did you work together?
What was your favourite part of the workshop/project? What
would you do differently next time?
How long can you allocate to evaluating your lesson?
Our teachers reserved the last ten minutes at the end
of each project session for evaluation.
Who will be leading the evaluation activity and who will
be recording and observing?
Make sure you understand what you need to know and the
best way to achieve this. Choose your evaluation approaches
that work best for you and will best achieve insight for the
questions you need answers to.
Make sure you have all the materials you need prepared
and ready for each session.
Think about how the activity leads into the session reflection
– how the evaluation activity flows on from what you have
been exploring. Which activity works best if your session has
focused on drama? Which one would be most effective if you
have been working outdoors?

Tip: These activities can also be
adapted for teacher INSET
and CPD sessions.

Activity idea
Activity idea
Good because…
Good because…
Be aware…
Be aware…
Use a microphone (pretend
or real) and ask the pupils
questions in the manner of
a TV interview. Could be
recorded or just pretend.
Create a tree on a display
board. Pupils add a leaf
detailing what they think
they have learnt.
It can be used to address most
evaluation questions.
Gets pupils used to speaking out.
Encourages quick thinking: you have
to say what you think straight away.
A powerful documentation
tool if recorded.
Creates a visual record that
documents progress as an
additional element of the
evaluation. Something the
class can watch develop.
A more kinetic version of
written feedback.
Quieter ones may not be
so keen.
Requires someone to
make notes to document
pupil responses, if not
being recorded.
If facilitated, it requires dedicated time for pupils to
write down their learning and pin it up.
If not facilitated, it will require constant prompts
and reminders.
You need to document any new additions to the
tree in the context of your project plan.
If the session you are evaluating was very active,
sitting down to write a reflection can be inhibiting
for some.
Place the pupils in the role of roving
reporters who are interviewing fellow
Support pupils to develop interview
questions that address the evaluation
and probe further to understand the
Discuss the value of open-ended and
closed interview questions.
What they write
on their leaf could
respond to a range
of other questions.
It could be adjusted
depending on what
you want to track.

Anyone who…
(also known as fruit salad)

Activity idea Good because… Be aware… Adaptation
Get the group to sit in a circle. Facilitator sits in
the middle and makes a statement that starts
with ‘Anyone who…’, e.g., ‘anyone who ate
breakfast this morning’ or ‘anyone who has a pet.’
Everyone who the statement applies to has to get
out of their seat and find a new seat. Participants
are not allowed to move to the chairs next to
them or back into their own chair. The exercise
gradually moves towards statements relevant
to the project, e.g., ‘Anyone who has learned
something interesting today’. Facilitator can also
‘freeze’ the exercise, holding people mid-move,
and tap them on the shoulder to ask them about
a given statement, e.g., ‘What did you learn that
was interesting?
Physical way of
your opinion.
In an evaluation/
documentation context,
it is important that the
same or similar questions
are asked each time the
activity is done.
It may also be useful
to note which children
are being asked and
gauging the evolution
of their responses.
Pupils could act as the facilitator
rather than the teacher: the
person left without a seat
moves into the middle and asks
the next question beginning
‘Anyone who…’ Pupils may need
some guiding thoughts on what
questions to ask that will explore
a specific area for your evaluation.

Activity idea

You can use a similar activity
with your pupils in class time.

How teenagers can protect their mental health during COVID-19 6 strategies for teens facing a new (temporary) normal. By UNICEF
Being a teenager is difficult no matter what, and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is making it even harder. With school closures and cancelled events, many teens are missing out on some of the biggest moments of their young lives — as well as everyday moments like chatting with friends and participating in class.

For teenagers facing life changes due to the outbreak who are feeling anxious, isolated and disappointed, know this: you are not alone. We spoke with expert adolescent psychologist, best-selling author and monthly New York Times columnist Dr. Lisa Damour about what you can do to practice self-care and look after your mental health.

1. Recognize that your anxiety is completely normal
If school closures and alarming headlines are making you feel anxious, you are not the only one. In fact, that’s how you’re supposed to feel. “Psychologists have long recognized that anxiety is a normal and healthy function that alerts us to threats and helps us take measures to protect ourselves,” says Dr. Damour. “Your anxiety is going to help you make the decisions that you need to be making right now — not spending time with other people or in large groups, washing your hands and not touching your face.” Those feelings are helping to keep not only you safe, but others too. This is “also how we take care of members of our community. We think about the people around us, too.”

While anxiety around COVID-19 is completely understandable, make sure that you are using “reliable sources [such as the UNICEF and the World Health Organization’s sites] to get information, or to check any information you might be getting through less reliable channels,” recommends Dr. Damour.

If you are worried that you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to speak to your parents about it. “Keep in mind that illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults,” says Dr. Damour. It’s also important to remember, that many of the symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated. She recommends letting your parents or a trusted adult know if you’re not feeling well, or if you’re feeling worried about the virus, so they can help.

And remember: “There are many effective things we can do to keep ourselves and others safe and to feel in better control of our circumstances: frequently wash our hands, don’t touch our faces and engage in physical distancing.”

>> Read our handwashing tips

2. Create distractions
“What psychologists know is that when we are under chronically difficult conditions, it’s very helpful to divide the problem into two categories: things I can do something about, and then things I can do nothing about,” says Dr. Damour.

There is a lot that falls under that second category right now, and that’s okay, but one thing that helps us to deal with that is creating distractions for ourselves. Dr. Damour suggests doing homework, watching a favourite movie or getting in bed with a novel as ways to seek relief and find balance in the day-to-day.

3. Find new ways to connect with your friends
If you want to spend time with friends while you’re practicing physical distancing, social media is a great way to connect. “I would never underestimate the creativity of teenagers,” says Dr. Damour, “My hunch is that they will find ways to [connect] with one another online that are different from how they’ve been doing it before.”

“[But] it’s not going to be a good idea to have unfettered access to screens and or social media. That’s not healthy, that’s not smart, it may amplify your anxiety,” says Dr. Damour, recommending you work out a screen-time schedule with your parents.

4. Focus on you
Have you been wanting to learn how to do something new, start a new book or spend time practicing a musical instrument? Now is the time to do that. Focusing on yourself and finding ways to use your new-found time is a productive way to look after your mental health. “I have been making a list of all of the books I want to read and the things that I’ve been meaning to do,” says Dr. Damour.

“When it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through.”

5. Feel your feelings
Missing out on events with friends, hobbies, or sports matches is incredibly disappointing. “These are large-scale losses. They’re really upsetting and rightly so to teenagers,” says Dr. Damour. The best way to deal with this disappointment? Let yourself feel it. “When it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through. Go ahead and be sad, and if you can let yourself be sad, you’ll start to feel better faster.”

Processing your feelings looks different for everyone. “Some kids are going to make art, some kids are going to want to talk to their friends and use their shared sadness as a way to feel connected in a time when they can’t be together in person, and some kids are going to want to find ways to get food to food banks,” says Dr. Damour. What’s important is that you do what feels right to you.

6. Be kind to yourself and others
Some teens are facing bullying and abuse at school due to coronavirus. “Activating bystanders is the best way to address any kind of bullying,” says Dr. Damour. “Kids and teenagers who are targeted should not be expected to confront bullies; rather we should encourage them to turn to friends or adults for help and support.”

If you witness a friend being bullied, reach out to them and try to offer support. Doing nothing can leave the person feeling that everyone is against them or that nobody cares. Your words can make a difference.

And remember: now more than ever we need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others.

>> Read our tips on dealing with cyberbullying.

Stay informed with the latest information on the coronavirus (COVID-19)

< Back to UNICEF COVID-19 portal Interview and article by Mandy Rich, Digital Content Writer, UNICEF This article was originally published on 20 March 2020. It was last updated on 24 August 2020. [/et_pb_accordion_item][/et_pb_accordion][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Is my child regressing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Is my child regressing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you’re noticing regression with your children, you’re not alone.

22 March 2021
Most children have a very strong urge to move forward in their development. However, along with the excitement of being able to do new things comes stress. This stress can cause regression: temporary steps back in development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis of care and learning. With the disruption of school, playdates with friends and other beloved routines, regressive behaviours (difficulty with skills your child had formerly mastered such as toilet training and sleeping, and difficulties managing their feelings of anger, sadness and anxiety) have become increasingly common.

We spoke to Nancy Close, PhD, an Assistant Professor at the Child Study Centre at the Yale School of Medicine and Associate Director of the Yale Program in Early Childhood Education, about what you may be experiencing with your children (from toddlers to university students) and how to – with kindness and understanding – get through it together.

Why is my child regressing?

What regression are you seeing among children during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve been seeing a lot of regression and more than what, in typical times, is developmentally appropriate. I’ve seen children regressing through using baby talk, needing help with routines, needing help with sleeping and toileting – and much more than what’s usual for them. Coping with and expressing strong feelings can be really challenging, so we’re seeing temper tantrums in older and younger children and even college students. Even as adults we regress when our stress levels increase or when we experience changes and transitions, so I think it’s important to keep that in mind: It’s a developmental phenomenon from childhood through adulthood.

We’re also seeing a lot of behavioural challenges. We notice children getting really sad over not being with their friends or their teachers and demonstrating exaggerated emotions and behaviours around the shifting in what school looks like. All of these uncertainties are so much more prevalent and so much more frustrating because we are all striving to reach something that is normal and predictable. We are discovering that consistency and predictability have been more difficult to achieve during COVID-19. This can lead children to feel anxious and frustrated which can certainly result in behavioural dysregulation.

Some parents are seeing tantrums in their teenagers. How should they respond?
Support them to figure out ways to regulate their emotions – going for a walk, running, deep breathing, drawing, painting. Find ways for them to be in touch with friends and family. However, they will not be able to use any of these strategies during the tantrum. Once regulated a parent can say, “You were really upset. I wonder what is going on.” It can help to perhaps speculate about connections between their underlying feelings and the tantrum. Typically, these feelings are mixed – anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, etc. It can help to acknowledge how difficult and different life is during COVID-19 and how hard it is. Teenage years are challenging for parents and children as the main developmental task is to take those giant steps towards independence – a process that began in early childhood. This process is fraught with excitement, pain, struggle and anxiety for both parent and the adolescent.

Other parents are noticing that their toilet-trained toddlers are now wetting the bed. What would you recommend to them?
This can be a very typical regression. Notice whether there are changes at home or school that may be impacting this. If it is something that may be making your child feel anxious, you can work to support your child. At this age, it might be helpful to have them put on a pull up/diaper for sleeping. Keep track of your child’s fluid intake and limit it before bed and note to yourself how often the pull up/diaper is dry in the morning. That would give you an indication of your child’s growing night time control. Let your child know you will help her to eventually stay dry at night. At the same time, support children to grow independence in dressing and undressing, washing hands, eating and doing small age-appropriate jobs like clearing their plates from the table (as long as they are capable). Supporting and growing age-appropriate independence in other areas supports growing competence and self-esteem and can help lead to mastering all aspects of toilet training.

Many children are being affected by the disruption to their ‘normal’ school setting, childcare, play and/or learning environment. What would you recommend to parents who are dealing with this at home?
We know that children often do or emulate what their caregivers do, so I think parents need to find supports around managing their own stress as this can ultimately help their children’s wellbeing. My children are grown up, and I cannot imagine having to juggle what parents with growing children are doing now! They are having to help with virtual or in person school, many have to handle childcare at home and at the same time they’re worried about their jobs and their health as well as that of their family.

Parental guilt has intensified during COVID. Parents are concerned about their children’s social isolation. They worry about their children’s social skills, play opportunities and their learning. Children have great antenna for their parents’ worries, so sometimes giving voice to that is reassuring to your children. Let children know what you are feeling worried about in a developmentally appropriate way, such as: “This is hard for mommy and daddy too and we’re trying to do our very best to help you learn and play the best way we can.”

Parents are feeling very alone during these difficult times. Many find it helpful to hear that other parents are feeling the same way as they are. Parents feel comforted in knowing they’re not alone, but the stress and anxiety can quickly return when children are not doing the work that the teacher sent, not listening to the virtual lessons and maybe even refusing to attend virtual school. I do not have a magic solution here. Just know you are not alone, and you are going to feel helpless, frustrated, guilty and worried. It is really hard.

Many parents worry about their children catching up after the pandemic. Do you think children can catch up?
I do not have the ability to predict this. By staying hopeful and appreciating children’s natural curiosity, motivation and resilience, I would say yes, they will. In the meantime, read to your children and find ways to be together. Think and talk about what is going on outside. Play together and try to learn and grow together. Always remember the greatest thing you can do for your children is to provide them with love and care.

What advice would you give to parents right now?
Hang in there! We’re all doing the best we can. Not everyone parents in the same way, so do not compare yourself to other parents or your children to other children. You know what your values are, you know what you want for your children. We’re doing what we need to get through this.

Nancy Close, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Centre; Associate Director of the Yale Program in Early Childhood Education; Lecturer in Psychology and the Clinical Director of the MOMS Partnership® and the Yale Parent and Family Development Program. She is a mother of two and grandmother of two.

Interview by Mandy Rich, Digital Content Writer, UNICEF

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Most countries have achieved gender parity in primary enrolment, but in many countries, disparities disadvantaging girls persist
Primary education provides the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Providing universal access to, and ensuring the completion of, primary education for all girls and boys is one of the key areas of concern identified in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted in 1995. Since then, considerable progress has been made in achieving universal primary education and closing the gender gap in enrollment. More than two-thirds of countries have reached gender parity (defined as having a gender parity index [GPI] value between 0.97 and 1.03) in enrolment in primary education, but in countries that have not reached parity, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, girls are more likely to be disadvantaged than boys. In Chad and Pakistan, for example, the GPI value is 0.78 and 0.84 respectively, meaning that 78 girls in Chad and 84 girls in Pakistan are enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys.

Gender disparities disadvantaging girls in primary education persist in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
While considerable progress has been made in reducing the number of out-of-school girls of primary school age, there are currently 5.5 million more out-of-school girls than boys, worldwide
Between 2000 and 2018, the number of out-of-school girls of primary school age decreased globally by 44 per cent, from 57 million to 32 million. Boys saw a decrease globally of 37 per cent during this same period, from 42 million to 27 million. Despite this progress, some 59 million children of primary school age were out of school in 2018 (55 per cent of whom were girls), with sub-Saharan Africa observing the highest overall rates. While globally out-of-school girls are more likely than out-of-school boys to never enrol in school, progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children has stagnated for both girls and boys since 2007, as increased access to primary education has barely kept pace with global child population growth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children at the primary level has stagnated for both girls and boys since 2007.

Nearly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys of primary school age are out of school in sub-Saharan Africa.
The barriers that deter children from attending primary school vary across and within countries but are often associated with poverty, geographic remoteness, armed conflict, lack of school infrastructure and poor-quality education. Moreover, these obstacles often interact with gender inequality to intensify learning disadvantages for marginalized girls. Interventions that address the high costs of education for families, including the abolition of school fees, cash transfer programs and school feeding programs, have demonstrated success at reaching out-of-school children, whether applied universally or targeted towards specific populations, such as rural girls. Additional interventions to reach the most marginalized girls include village-based schools to shorten the distance girls must travel to attend school; ‘girl-friendly’ schools with separate latrines for boys and girls; gender-sensitive teaching approaches, and flexible education opportunities for girls who have dropped out of school and wish to return, such as young mothers. [1] However, more data are needed to understand the precise impact of gender norms on the likelihood of girls and boys being out of school, including the relationship between decisions around child marriage, the withdrawal of girls from school and perceptions of the value of girls’ education versus boys’ education.

Gender disparities increase at the secondary level but the patterns of disadvantage are more complex
Investing in secondary education is essential for equipping adolescent boys and girls with the knowledge and skills needed to become productive engaged citizens. Advancing girls’ secondary education, in particular, is one of the most transformative development strategies countries can invest in. Completion of secondary education brings significant benefits to girls and societies – from increased lifetime earnings to reductions in adolescent childbearing, child marriage, stunting, and maternal and child mortality.

Gender disparity in enrolment is found in more countries at the secondary level than at the primary level. Moreover, in contrast to primary education, the gender disparity disadvantages boys at the secondary level in many countries – although the disadvantage is typically less extreme. In India, the Philippines and Burundi, 93 boys are enrolled in lower secondary school for every 100 girls. The largest gender gaps at the expense of girls are observed in sub-Saharan Africa. In Central African Republic and Chad, for example, only 61 girls and 62 girls, respectively, are enrolled in lower secondary school for every 100 boys.

Gender disparities disadvantaging girls in lower secondary education are widest in West and Central Africa, but boys are disadvantaged in some countries.
While both out-of-school adolescent boys and girls face social and economic marginalization, out-of-school girls are at greater risk of early and forced marriage and attendant health risks, including adolescent childbearing. Globally, girls comprised 49 per cent of the out-of-school population among children of lower secondary school age in 2018, compared to 54 per cent in 2000. The global rate of out-of-school adolescent girls of lower secondary age is 16 per cent and for boys 15 per cent, but as expected, there is variation between regions. Less than 10 per cent of adolescent boys and girls are out of school in North America, Europe and Central Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean while the rates are 36 per cent and 39 per cent for adolescent boys and girls, respectively, of lower secondary age in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mali, the country with the highest overall lower secondary out-of-school rate worldwide (54 per cent), 49 per cent of lower secondary school age boys are out of school compared to 56 per cent of girls. In Sierra Leone, nearly 1 in 2 girls and boys are.

Globally, in 2000, there were more out-of-school girls of lower secondary school age than boys – the opposite is true today
Gender disparities in the out-of-school rates among children of lower secondary age vary by region

Out-of-school rate among children of lower secondary school age, by sex, 2018.
International student assessment shows that adolescent girls systematically outperform boys in reading skills while gender differences in math and science skills are more varied
Assessing the relative achievements of girls and boys in secondary education provides insights into the quality of the education they receive as well as whether the education systems are meeting the needs of girls and boys equally. Where gender disparities in learning outcomes are pronounced, a gender-sensitive pedagogical approach should be emphasized.

Results from the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of 15-year old students reveal that girls performed better than boys in reading literacy in every country participating in the assessment. In contrast, boys performed better than girls in mathematics in about 80 per cent of participating countries. Gender gaps favoring boys and girls were observed in 38 per cent and 55 per cent of countries, respectively. While there has been much debate about the factors that account for gender differences in educational attainment, emerging evidence of the role of positive gender socialization, both at school and at home, suggests that parents, teachers, and policy makers can foster foundational skills in reading, math and science in all children. [2]
Difference in average scores of 15-year-old female and male students on the PISA science and mathematics literacy scales, by education system, 2018.
While global youth literacy rates have increased since 2000, gender disparities persist, with females accounting for an estimated 56 per cent of the illiterate youth population today.
Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa and South Asia experience the widest gender gap in youth literacy, with a gender parity index (GPI) at 0.93, 0.95 and 0.96, respectively. In Chad, the GPI is only 0.55 – there are 55 literate female youth for every 100 literate male youth.

The widest gender disparities in youth literacy occur in West and Central Africa at the expense of female youth

Youth literacy rate, population ages 15-24, gender parity index (GPI), 2012-2018