Moving from primary to secondary school

Crossing the Chasm from Primary to Secondary School

Finishing primary school is a major landmark for every young student. As the summer holiday fun begins, there will have been friends for life made, some tearful goodbyes and many moments captured, to live on in the memory forever.

Secondary school, or big school as it was often referred to in my day, seems a long time away. Yet, as adults, we know that it’s just around the corner.

For every wildly excited child, there will be another filled with uncertainty and trepidation about what the new school experience will bring for them. I know when it was my turn, there were many horror stories about what lay in wait, but thankfully, it was mostly bluster from mean elder siblings and friends.

Stepping up to the challenges of secondary school is a big deal. New surroundings, new class mates, new teachers and an altogether new set of expectations from appearance to conduct to achievements. It all comes together to make the first term or so a very rich tapestry indeed!

That’s before we get to the educational demands. These days, most students have experienced homework in one form or another, well before secondary school comes around. What may come as a shock to many is the increase in assignments and projects.

Many schools ease pupils in, whilst for others, it’s straight into the deep end. Regardless, they will soon experience a demanding cadence of class work, homework, projects and extracurricular activities.

It’s in this whirl, where students are simply trying to get through the work, that standards can slip. It isn’t simply a case of grades suffering due to the volume of work. The real challenge comes in keeping up with the learning schedule. I know from personal experience as a student that struggled, and of course as a professional private tutor that once behind, it can take a monumental effort to catch up.

A friend of mine has a teenage that struggled through secondary school and it didn’t come together for him until Year 11! Talk about making hard work of it. All because of the overwhelm, combined with missed basics, experienced in Year 7.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, far from it. As a private tutor, I work with students as they embark on secondary education and towards their GCSEs, they typically excel at every stage.

Why is this? Because they are thoroughly prepared for what’s coming and because they have thoroughly learned how to problem solve independently. This skill is invaluable in generating high levels of confidence, which in turn boosts learning power.

Who does better, a student lacking confidence because they feel underprepared, or a thoroughly prepared student who is oozing confidence in their craft?

The difference in demeanour is quite staggering and this is often reflected in exam grades.

Private tuition provides the one to one focus that proves very difficult to provide in most schools. By providing a full spectrum of GCSE subjects, my students are often able to achieve beyond theirs or their parents’ expectations.

If you’d like to know more about how I may be able to help your child, please get in touch today.

Easter Revision

Easter Revision

The Easter revision course is a 2-day intensive course at 6 hours both days.

edexcelWe will be covering all key topic areas of the Edexcel IGCSE Maths syllabus and the new (9-1) maths GCSE (all boards). The pace will be intensive and we will aim to revise 2 years work within this period. We will also focus on exam technique and practice how best to answer questions according to what the examiners are looking for. Each group will be limited to a maximum of 6 and students will be encouraged to work collaboratively and discuss their solutions with each other.


The course is aimed at those aiming for at least a grade B(6).

The price of the course will be £300 (12 hours study). Full notes will be provided. To register your interest please email or call 020 7686 4307.

The dates will be Monday 10th to Tuesday 11th April for IGCSE and Wednesday 12th to Thursday 13th April for the new (9-1) GCSE both courses will run from 10am to 5pm (with a 1 hour lunch break). All courses will be subject to demand and availability.


The sum of my worries

I wasn’t prepared for the worry that went along with having a child. The joy. Yes. The new level of Love. Yes. The frustrations. Absolutely! But the constant worry? That came as a bit of a shock. Every emotion I feel, every experience I have with my child, is accompanied somehow with worry. Sometimes just a faint beat of it and sometimes an overwhelming scream of it! As soon as you conceive the worry begins…. Well in truth, I am a natural worrier, so that’s not entirely true – but I suppose I mean my worry became focused; specific and constant on this little creation.


Even now I creep into his room (he is nine by the way) just to check he is breathing and to watch his chest rise and fall. When I watch him playing football my heart switches between overwhelming proudness and these shocks of unbearable worry that he will get injured.

So it was only natural that I would have some worries about him when it came to school. I knew socially he would be fine but I had a few unspoken concerns when it came to his academic abilities. My son was naturally creative but struggled with maths, just like me. His teacher had gently, yet consistently, reminded me of this fact during parents evenings, but if I am honest I had not let this fact bubble into a full blown worry as he was happy going to school. It was only when he came home after a maths test last summer, visibly upset, I really took notice. He told me he’d done bad on his test” (I bit my lip here – there is a time and place for grammatical corrections!). It was the first time it struck me that he cared about his results. He didn’t want to just accept maths was not his strongest subject. He wanted to understand the language of mathematics like he understood letters and words. He wanted algebra to be as natural as the alphabet was to him! This therefore, marked the point where it was time for me to find some way to address this for my boy. I gave him a hug and told him I would have a think (and a worry!) about what I could do to help.

I spoke to his teacher, who clarified, yes he was a little behind, yes maths did not come naturally and perhaps I should consider doing additional work at home with him to get him up to speed; a suggestion which was not viable due to my lack of maths skills (I think I would have just stressed my son out with my own frustrations and then blamed myself if he didn’t improve!). I asked what support he could receive at school to which I was curtly told that only children who had a statement of SEN had additional help. There was no suggestion that the teaching could be adapted or additional time given to explain things, it seemed it was my responsibility as his parent to resolve this or he would be left behind.

Read more


Preventing Summer Learning Loss

School summer holidays stir up a chaotic concoction of activity and emotion; the seemingly endless days, the boundless energy, the eye-popping costs, the pulling out of hair (parents!), the unmeasured pleasure of spending time with your children, the whines of ‘I’m bored’, the late nights, the house filled with an often delightful, often headache inducing, noise.

The summer stint is long. Too long, some would suggest, with recent talks looking at reducing the traditional 6-week school holiday. But just what does a long period off from a learning environment mean for our children?

Summer Switch Off

In anticipation of the summer holidays beginning children can lose their spark for learning days before they run out of the school gates. We know as adults how our brains can switch off and we find ourselves in a daydream state when a holiday is nearing. Our ‘brain holiday’ has begun. We are in switch off mode, we resist new tasks and adopt a ‘sorry I can’t do that as I have a holiday coming up’ attitude. As humans we want to protect the period we have to relax and quite simply, we relax by not thinking! This is fine for 1 – 2 weeks… but for 6 weeks or more, children can experience summer learning loss.

MST Summer Switch Off

What Is Summer Learning loss?

Coined the ‘summer slide’, it is quite simply a prolonged lack of educational activity, which children can experience through the summer. This can have negative effects when returning to school and cause children to underachieve.

Some believe children can regress by a few months in the summer due to this:

“The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income. A common finding across numerous studies is that on average, students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do at the beginning of summer (on the same test). Summer loss for all students is estimated to be equal to about 1 month.” (Cooper 1996)

This was also found to vary in subject matter with Mathematics being over 2.5 months regression and reading up to 2 months.

This means on their return their razor sharp brains have become rusty! Time is then taken to re-teach and re-train their brains, much like an athlete would if they took a break from training. And shockingly, summer learning loss is also cumulative, which means every year children can fall further and further behind.

What can we do to prevent this?

Encourage learning during the holidays! This doesn’t need to be in a ‘classroom style’ way, we are not asking parents to take on the role of a teacher. It is about engaging children in discussion, ensuring some of their time is spent effectively, thinking and considering, planning outings where they can learn a fact or two, giving them opportunities for their brains to stay active once or twice a day, consistently, during the holidays.

Some Ideas – 

Read more


Private tuition places now available from September 2016

With the summer holidays fast approaching we are preparing to pack away the textbooks for another academic year. It will be a sad farewell to some of our students, but we look forward to starting a new journey with many new faces too.

MST logos

If you have been considering private tuition for your child, MST have a number of spaces opening up from September for private, one-to-one tuition in Maths & Science.

MST Facebook advert 1


Read more

About Me

Tutoring: There’s More Than One Side

I chose to be a tutor not because I can’t teach but because I can and love to teach. I made an active decision to make it my full time occupation and as a result I have a very varied and satisfying career, meeting all sorts of people. Tutoring is not solely an indulgence of the rich to ensure their child exceeds in exams, it is a much needed service that supports a child’s learning, boosts their confidence, eases their pressures and worries and helps them to untangle subjects they previously thought of as impossible; all this, regardless of their social background and academic needs. Tutoring is unique learning; the child is the absolute focus of your teaching and I am always amazed by the achievements and improvements they can make by being taught in this way.

Muhammad Ali


Recent press articles such as have condemned tutoring and given it a bad wrap. My beginnings of tutoring are humble, as is my background, so I find these articles hard to relate to. It paints a picture of children being unwillingly ‘subjected’ to tutoring but many of my students want extra help and their parents work day and night to provide this. It is also important to remember that tutoring fills a tiny percentage of a child’s free time; their childhood is not sacrificed, in fact it is enhanced as they feel more relaxed because their worries about a subject diminish.

Tutors are not trying to belittle the education system or glory grab from hard working teachers. We have a different role. We supplement a child’s learning. And some, regardless of where they live or go to school, need this additional support.

Read more

MST science

Create a Scientifically Inspired Homework Space

Private tuition by MST

When homework and revision are a challenge for students, many parents struggle to know how they can help. One simple way you can be involved is by setting aside a place at home where your student can work effectively. Environment plays a big role in supporting your child’s revision efforts. One 2015 study by the University of Salford found as much as a 16% difference in student performance could be attributed to environmental factors including lighting, temperature, and customisation.

Home learning environments are growing increasingly important as families look online for courses to help students maintain their skills or tutoring to help improve their scores.

Helping your student find a dedicated spot for homework and revision allows them to work more quickly and efficiently. The best space is quiet and has sufficient room for supplies and revision aids. Ample research has gone into how to make school and office environments more effective and these same ideas can be applied to your home too. Here are a few tips from the experts to help get you started.

  1. Ergonomic is best

A desk or table is the foundation of a good workspace. According to the charity BackCare, a quarter of all secondary students in the UK suffer from regular back pain. An appropriately sized desk plays an important role in keeping your student pain-free, both at school and at home. When it comes to purchasing a desk one size does not fit all. Consider instead buying classroom tables, which are available in multiple heights, so that you can select one in your child’s size.

  1. Light for Success

If possible, put your student near a window. The natural light and airflow has been shown to promote good health and create a positive learning environment. A quality desk lamp is also essential for those evening homework sessions.

Read more


How Leicester’s Premier League win can help you to succeed in your studies

Absurd. Astonishing. Amazing. Unbelievable. Remarkable. These are just some of the words that describe Leicester City’s recent Premier League win. But, impossible? No. As their manager Claudio Raniero said when he wrote in The Players’ Tribune, “This is a small club that is showing the world what can be achieved through spirit and determination. Twenty-six players. Twenty-six different brains. But one heart.”

PICTURE ALEX HANNAM - Burton Albion v Leicester City - Claudio Ranieri - STORY

Previously plodding along at the bottom of the Premier League, at risk of relegation, they were thought of as failures; people didn’t take them seriously. Even the bookmakers’ odds last summer on them winning the Premier League were 5,000-to-1. Can you imagine how those players felt when they ran onto the pitch facing a top-notch club? Knowing that no one believed in them? Their focus at the time must have been to simply get through the match. Not win it. And this is how I think a lot of my students feel about their schooling and exams. Their focus is on the finish but not on the win. Why?

In my work as a tutor I see many children who have convinced themselves they are bad at maths or science or they are unable to do it. This most certainly comes from the fact they do not have the time in the classroom to repeat things, which leads to misunderstanding of the subjects, then bad marks, then frustration, anger and finally disengagement. If you have no fans cheering you on, or no Raniero believing in you why would you keep heading back for failure? It is hard to have belief in yourself when you have not seen success.

Cambridge university logo

Like Raniero I believe nothing is impossible given hard work and determination. I am testament to this. I went to a rundown school in Moss Side where I failed all but two of my GCSEs. But a few years later I was doing a PhD at Cambridge. This turnaround was due to a change in my focus and the desire to challenge myself but also from an inspirational physics teacher I met when doing my resits. He believed in his students and made the subject engaging. I wanted to learn and succeed because I was interested. And when I began to see good results my confidence grew and my attitude changed. I believed I could achieve and I knew the measure of work this would take. It was never easy but I persisted, as Leicester did. Once you taste that success you fight for it.

Read more


Counting on a Good Start: Pre-School Maths


Pre school maths tuitionAs dad to two daughters under-5, pre-school learning is a topic that is close to my heart. I tutor  children from as young as 6 years old so I appreciate the impact of those early years; those vital development stages before official education begins. This tender time when the foundations of all later learning are built, through play, interaction and everyday activities.

Children begin learning about number, shape and space as they play with objects, pour water in the bath or share with their siblings. I was recently playing a game of catch with my 4 year-old, (currently at nursery). We were playing ‘up to 10′ and when my daughter got to 7 I had asked her how many more points to win. She paused for thought and a few seconds later replied ‘3.’ I will admit I was (pleasantly) surprised for I had not taught her any formal maths. It made me realise how children gain experience of more complex concepts in a practical context. For instance, children develop an implicit notion of probability, something that researchers have even found in babies. Developmental Psychologist, Alison Gopnik describes this fascinating experiment:

Eight-month-old babies were shown a box full of mixed-up Ping-Pong balls: mostly white but with some red ones mixed in. The babies were more surprised, and looked longer and more intently at the experimenter when four red balls and one white ball were taken out of the box — a possible, yet improbable outcome — than when four white balls and a red one were produced.

The groundwork that is laid for later mathematical learning through stimulating experiences and an enriching environment in the early years can’t be underestimated. In many ways children’s earliest learning is the most important, just as strong foundations are essential to any building. I often find that difficulties students are having in maths can be traced back to more basic concepts that were not properly grasped. For instance a primary school child who hasn’t fully understand the concept of ‘place value’ and can’t explain that 12 is one ten and 2 units will be totally lost when it comes to arithmetic beyond the most simple sums.

So, how can we as parents support our children’s emerging mathematical skills and understanding in the pre-school years?

Read more


Ten things to remember as a parent in exam season

As parents our priority is ensuring the needs of our children are met and during exam time this need is at an all time alert! With additional pressures and worries it is important you are able to provide sufficient support to help them cope. So this week we consider how, as a parent, you can sail through the choppy currents of exam time without feeling overwhelmed with the strains and stresses yourself.

You will need to be many things for your child; their facilitator, their soundboard, their support and their parent. So here are some things to remember to help you with this during exam time.

Remember to use MST

No. 1 Remember to give them space…

Space and calm to revise is crucial. They need to feel as relaxed as they can about revising else it is a pointless task. Avoid trying to control how they study as this only adds undue pressure. They need to feel responsible for their own learning. This does not mean, of course, leaving them to their own devices and hoping they pick up a book! Ask them when they are planning to revise and how you can help with this e.g. ensuring the house is quiet at certain times or being available to test them.

No. 2 Remember planning is key…

Planning will ease their concerns as well as yours! Sit down and write a list with them breaking down all the subjects they need to cover, or help them devise a revision timetable. A plan will help them to stay focused and reduce your need to check up on them!

No. 3 Remember your exam days…

Looking back at how you coped during exam time can help give you an insight into how your child is thinking. No matter what your results were, this period was probably accompanied with worry, anxiety and even a sense of isolation. Were your parents supportive? What would you have appreciated from them? Can you give this to your child?

No. 4 Remember this is all part of growing up…

Experiencing challenges is essential for a child’s emotional development. Through preparing for and sitting exams they hone crucial skills such as patience, organisation, concentration and resilience, all of which are needed for success and survival in the adult world. Think of this time as a naturally tough but necessary phase for your child.

Private tuition by MSTNo. 5 Remember to provide all round support…

Cooking nutritious meals, having healthy snacks on standby, encouraging them to break for a cup of tea or go for a refreshing walk with you are all great for ensuring they are getting the correct sustenance mentally and physically. Be their support by letting them know during breaks you are available to them to offer assurance or distraction. It is also important to notice changes in their behaviour. Are they eating properly? Are they getting enough rest? How is their general mood? Look, listen and respond to your child.


Read more