Headteacher Talk: What is the Power of Positivity?

This month’s Headteacher Talk is all about positive thinking. Now that we’re approaching exam season, it’s easy for students to become dissuaded and let negative thinking take over. Let’s have a look at what Gemma has to say about the importance of keeping positive.


The power of positivity.


A couple of weeks ago, a few Year 13 Biologists were talking about tests they had had or were going to have. During their discussions, they were saying to each other that they were going to stay positive and hope it goes well.

This led onto a discussion about the power of positive thinking.  We all found some way in which we had thought we couldn’t do something and so gave up. My own personal experience at present is running. I couldn’t run. I hated it. But I have signed up for a 10km run in April and so have been training. I found it hard and thought I’d never be able to complete 2km let alone 10! However, I turned a corner when I actually started to believe that I could do it. Training is still hard, but I’m making progress and seeing results each week.


So, is there any truth in this?


Well, research suggests there is. A negative thought can create fear. When we are fearful we concentrate solely on that fear. This is useful in life threatening situations, as you need to concentrate on that one thing to survive. But passing an exam isn’t a life-threatening situation. Even if it seems like it is!

Now let’s think about positive emotions, like joy and happiness.  These allow you to open up to lots of possibilities, rather than focus on one area. Being positive about a situation allows you to be more productive. The more productive you can be the more successful at achieving your goals you will be.


So, how do you remain positive in the midst of revision or completing a 10km run?


  1. Believe it or not, smiling improves your whole mood. Try it!
  2. Start saying, ‘I can’ instead of I can’t. Or ‘I will be able to’ instead of ‘I’ll never be able to.’
  3. Celebrate your success. No matter how small the gain is, all gains are positive.
  4. Be kind to yourself. If you take a knock, don’t dwell on it and focus only on the negative. Brush yourself off and get back on to the road of success.
  5. Everyone knows that they do not function when tired and grumpy. Being tired encourages negative thinking. So get your rest!


What are the Top Five Weirdest Science Experiments in History?

Spark founder Mital is (happily) busy with business most days, but she still loves to take some time out for her science passion. And when it comes to science, sometimes weirder is better! What do you think the weirdest experiment she has found was?

The history of science and its experiments can be rather daunting! You might think that the story of Frankenstein is absurd and fictional. But what if I was to say to you that it’s not very far from the truth? Here’s my top 5 most weirdest scientific experiments in history.


Glow in the dark pigs



In 2006, National Taiwan University Department of Animal Science and Technology inserted the genes for ‘fluorescence’ from jelly fish into pig embryos. It resulted in three pigs that glowed in the dark!  The scientists claimed that not only did the skin glow with a fluorescence green, but the organs of the pig glowed too! Do you think this was ethical? What was the need to do such experiment?


The mouse with the human ear



To demonstrate how to grow tissue-engineered cartilage, the Vacanti Mouse participated as part of the study in 1997. The ear on the mouse was made from a biodegradable polymer frame from a three-year old child. Cartilage was able to successfully grow using chondrocytes (cartilage cells from a cow). Why do you think scientists did this experiment?


The two-headed dog



Vladimir Demikhov was known for his grisly experiments between the 1930’s – 1960’s. One of his experiments was to sew the forearms and heads of two different types of dogs. He had to sever the jugular vein, the aorta, and spinal column and linked the circulatory systems. The two heads could eat and drink separately. Unfortunately both canines dies after four days. Was there any point to this experiment? Do you think this was cruel?


The Milgram experiment



Milgram experimented to find out how far people would go in obeying an instruction – even if it involved harming another person. His research helps us to understand how ordinary people are easily influenced into committing atrocities like the Germans in World War 2.

There were two test subjects, one was a ‘teacher’ and the other the ‘learner’. The teacher is asked to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake and increase the level of shock each time! If the teacher refused to give the shock, the experimenter gave a series of orders to ensure that they continued. Milgram found from his experiments that people are more likely to follow orders given by an authority figure! Pretty scary if you ask us!


Project MKUltra



Also known as the CIA’s Mind Control programme, Project MKUltra were a series of experiments on human subjects. The project developed drugs and procedures to be used in torture in order to weaken the individual to confess through mind control.

They used many different methodologies to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions, including hypnosis, sensory deprivation, abuse, psychological torture and isolation.


If you have found any weird science experiments from the past, we would love for you to share them by leaving a comment below!

Teacher Talk: Lively Literature

This week’s Teacher Talk is all about literature – specifically thinking about our Year 7 classes, who have just finished a topic on A Christmas Carol.



Why study A Christmas Carol?


Charles Dickens is one of the most well-known writers in English Literature and A Christmas Carol is one of his most famous works. The novella is chosen by many schools as a GCSE text to study in Year 10 and 11, which makes it a perfect choice for our Year 7s. Not only does studying the book at Spark help them to understand the content ready to study it further in future, but it also gives the students a great chance to start analysing nineteenth-century literature. Language was a little bit different in the 1800s, which many students find tough at first. However, after a few weeks all of our Year 7s were making leaps and bounds in understanding the novella!

Our classes took a tour of everything important about the novel. This included the plot, the characters, the context and how to start answering an exam-style question…

One of the most interesting areas we looked at was context. Our groups really enjoyed learning about the little differences between how we live and how people lived in the 19th century. In particular, we had lots of discussions on how the treatment of the poor then was very different to now – and all agreed we’d rather live in our time then theirs!


Creative Character Discussion


Another fascinating part of A Christmas Carol is the characters. All of our students studied the main characters in the novel. These included Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the three Ghosts.

One class, taught by Charlotte, decided they were going to take on the role of teacher themselves. The students were each given one character from A Christmas Carol and were given the task to create a mind map discussing their characters attributes.



They then created their mind map on the board, whilst teaching the rest of the class facts about their character. The class then made notes on these facts and began to build up a better understanding of the characters in the text.



Each student then had a range of characters that they understand in excellent detail. They also demonstrated their higher level thinking skills. They were able to understand, condense and re-explain information to their fellow students.
This kind of activity is fantastic to get students reading, analysing and pushing to develop their understanding of a text. Characters are a very significant part of any literature; our students proved to be experts in analysing them!

Who was February’s Student of the Month?

We are a few days into March now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate February’s Student of the Month! It’s hard for us to choose just one student each month as all of our students consistently work hard to improve in lessons.

Nic, our Head of Science at Spark, nominated this month’s winner.


What did Nic have to say?



Nic choose this particular student for a variety of different reasons…

At the Belgrave site, this person has consistently

Grown in confidence within science


and has started to


challenge the information given and ask questions in and around the topics being covered to broaden her knowledge.


It might seem like challenging what you are told is a negative, but for our budding scientists it is the potential beginning of a glittering scientific career in the future. At Spark we encourage learners to push their knowledge. They often achieve this through questioning the facts they are presented with. What, why and how are our students’ tickets to great futures!

Another reason Nic nominated this student is


for consistently out performing her peers with her homework.


As you know, at Spark we set weekly homework to help improve our learners understanding and depth of knowledge. The month’s Student of the Month has a great attitude towards her homework. She commits to gaining the most out of her homework each week.


So who is our Student of the Month?


Congratulations to Year 9 pupil Maysha Hoque on her win this month! Maysha studies at the Belgrave site and also attends lessons for English and Maths. Hopefully her can-do attitude will be infectious in all of her lessons! We have no doubt that she will continue to be just as fantastic a student in her lessons to come.



Congratulations Maysha!

What are the benefits of Group Tuition?

Whenever it comes to tuition, it always boils down to two methods of studying: either in a group, or in a one-to-one scenario. At Spark Academy, we are all very strong advocates of group study, and this blog post will give you some of the reasons why we think group learning is the best!


Year 3 students at the Belgrave branch writing stories using cue cards they created themselves.


Avoiding Boredom and Learning Faster


Studying by yourself, especially for long periods of time, can and will become boring! This is especially true if it is a topic or a subject that you are unsure about the first place. It’s easy to become distracted when you have questions that need answering.


By joining group tuition, you can blow the boredom away. Because of the social factor of group study, you can always find someone to support you if begin to struggle with something. At Spark, tutors teach through the content during the lesson so students are more confident approaching tasks.


A little bit of silliness at the end of lesson just goes to show our students really do form good relationships with each other and their teachers.


In general, students that work in groups learn faster than students that work on their own. This is because of the collaborative factors involved in group tuition. For instance, if there is a topic you cannot get your head around, there might be someone else who understands it straightaway. Whilst studying in a group, rather than wasting time, you can simply get the answer by simply asking someone else. If someone struggles with a topic that you understand, you might be able to help your fellow student as well!

Group tuition allows you to find new study techniques. Your tutors can help you see different ways of revising and remembering key information. These can help you in your own revision and at school.


Gaining new perspectives


In one-to-one tuition, you will only view your revision material from one perspective: yours!

Whereas this is not necessarily a problem, you might just need a fresh perspective to help you learn the material more thoroughly. Particularly in subjects like English Literature, talking about different interpretations and idea can hep you dive deeper into a text and have more to say in your exams.


Year 7s prepare to teach each other about the characters in A Christmas Carol and share their ideas.


By being in a study group, you notice a wide variety of viewpoints on the same subject. This could help you see the position from another’s points of view, therefore developing your critical thinking skills while helping you study.

By comparing notes and methods with others, you can patch up the gaps in your knowledge a lot faster than doing it on your own. One the flip side, you can help others fix their misunderstandings and help them learn better techniques as well.


Holistic Benefits of Group Tuition


One hidden benefit that no-one really talks about is that group tuition is a way to help build confidence and social skills as well as supporting students academically. Many of the students who come to Spark are shy and feel lost in a class of 30. By studying topics in a small group, our students build their confidence to a higher level. We often find students become more willing to join in and offer ideas during their group tuition and this new-found confidence translates to school as well.

A Year 6 class at our Oadby branch, based in Manor High School. The school offered Year 6 up until 2017 and thought Spark’s SATs preparation was top notch.

Group tuition at Spark Academy


The staff at Spark Academy practise what we preach! We believe group tuition is best way for students to gain the support they need for their school work, as the benefits are not just academic.

So, let’s see what group work can do for you, we’re just a phone call away!

Headteacher Talk: What Does Success Mean to You?

March is just beginning and the year is ticking on towards exam season for many pupils at Spark. It’s time to hear what our Headteacher Gemma has to say about success and it’s role in your life!


ever doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. – Hillary Clinton




What does success look like to you? For me, it is a measure of achievement. If I set myself a goal, no matter how big or small, and I’ve reached it, then I say that I have been successful.

There is still plenty of time left of this academic year to end it with success. Although we only publicly recognise the successes and hard work of one student a month, it is clear that so many of our students are working hard to make sure they have achieved their goals at the end of the school year.


I never dreamed about success. I worked for it. – Estee Lauder



One of my favourite  scientists, Charles Darwin is quoted as saying


‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’



For me, I think this is a powerful thought. Okay, so he was talking about species becoming adaptive to their environments in order to survive. However, it can be applied to anything in life. For example, if you don’t get a great score in a test or a mock exam, what are you going to change about your preparations to ensure you do better next time?


This is emphasised by a quote from Winston Churchill,


Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.



So if you get knocked down, or you experience a set back, you will only see success if you pick yourself up and try again. Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them!


So, what are you going to do to make a success of your goals? I leave you with this final quote,


A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. – Colin Powell