Who is November’s Student of the Month?

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Last month the teachers of Spark Academy decided to celebrate Neha Patni as their first student of the month. You can read all of the reasons why by looking back at her post!

For November, the team got together again to share their nominations. It was then that something very exciting happened… There was a name that came up again and again!

As you know, we teach English and Maths as a package. As teachers, we are aware that not everyone feels confident in both. We know that many students prefer one to the other. We strive to help our students develop a passion for both subjects. Our end goal is that they can excel and participate in both English and Maths. This month’s student of the month does exactly that!

 

Who is Student of the Month for November?

 

This month we celebrate another Belgrave student. She (yes she!) comes to Year 8 classes for English, Maths and Science. Her Science teacher Nic told us that this student’s name also came to her mind when she was thinking about her nominations. To be considered for Science as well just shows you how amazingly she has been performing since joining Spark.

We would like to offer a big congratulations to… Shreya Kumari!

 

So why Shreya?

 

Let’s have a look at some of the lovely things Shreya’s teachers Chris and Charlotte had to say about her and why they nominated her.

Charlotte told us:

 

I nominated Shreya as pupil of the month because of her meticulous hard work and her ongoing effort. Shreya consistently completes all of the tasks in her booklet to an excellent standard. She has superb presentation in her booklets and takes care to ensure her homework is completed every week. Shreya deserves this award as her progress in lessons has grown massively since she first joined, and now every lesson her hands are up and she is ready to learn.

 

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Some of Shreya’s wonderfully detailed and beautifully presented work in English.

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Chris says that:

 

I believe that Shreya deserves to be student of the month because she is always on time, always prepared and eager to learn. She also puts a lot of effort into her presentation, even with her “rough” working out for Maths! One of the things that I have noticed about Shreya, is that her confidence has grown substantially since her first lesson at Spark. She is now willing to talk and help others and can explain to other students how to do Maths problems. This is a totally different Shreya that arrived first at Spark. Even though Shreya has a little voice, she has a big heart along with her personality.

 

Keep it up Shreya – Well Done!

 

The Spark: Christmas, Calendars and Charity

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Tuesday is news-day and this week’s edition of The Spark is here to introduce Spark Academy’s charity work.

Christmas, Calendars and Charity

Spark Academy founder Mital Thanki has always hoped that one day she will be able to take the education offered at Spark to children with little or no access to education. Moreover, a charity consciousness is at the heart of Spark Academy. It is unsurprising then that as the Spark team has grown, so has the desire to do more charity work in Leicester.

 

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Will all of Spark Academy be involved?

 

All of the staff at Spark Academy will be doing their part in charity work over the course of the year. Nicola Hey, Head of Science, has picked up the role of Charity Coordinator. This is because charity work is close to Nic’s heart. This is as she has raised money for various different charities in the past.

 

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Nic before a sponsored abseil in Derby.

 

Spark Academy also hopes that their students will get involved as much as possible. It is clear the almost 400 students will be able to make a big difference in their community and beyond. However, the Spark community is not just the staff and students. Nic and the rest of the Spark team look forward to parents joining in too.

 

What charities will Spark Academy be supporting?

 

The Spark team have voted to support Rainbows Hospice over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year. Rainbows cares for children with a limited life expectancy and supports their families at a very difficult time. You can find out more about the work Rainbows do and how to support them by clicking the link above.

 

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However, Spark Academy will still support other charities and causes wherever possible. If you know of charity events you think the Spark team and community should get involved with, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Charity at Christmas

 

Spark Academy’s first big charity event is the Christmas jumper week from Monday 11th-Friday 15th December 2017. During this week, staff will be wearing Christmas jumpers or fancy dress all week and are urging students to do the same. This is all to raise money to support Gem 106’s Mission Christmas. You can read more about the charity by visiting their website.

Mission Christmas is to support families in the East Midlands who live in poverty. There are lots of children in the East Midlands who will not have any presents to open on Christmas Day. All of the money raised by Spark Academy during this week will go to Mission Christmas to support these families and to make Christmas brighter for children in poverty. If you would like to take part, we just ask that you bring a small donation with you to your tuition session.

If you would prefer to support Spark’s charity efforts in a different way, we are also collecting donations for a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ in aid of the Y. The Y supports homeless teenagers and young people. Necessities like deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes make up the ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’. Most people take these items for granted. However, they are a huge help and often a huge cost for young people who are homeless. You can see more information about the Y and the type of donations that can help here.

 

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Spark Academy will be promoting and supporting these charities throughout December.

Who was November’s Top Sparkie?

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As you know, at Spark we like to celebrate one member of staff each month for going above and beyond to help the whole team. This month’s Top Sparkie is no different…

 

Why did we vote for this month’s Top Sparkie?

 

Before we reveal who this month’s winner was… Let’s have a look at some of the lovely things the rest of the team had to say.

 

helpful, patient and kind

 

helpful and always cheers everyone up by making us smile

 

This month’s employee of the month is valued for lots of reasons. These reasons aren’t just for the work they do but for the contribution they make to the morale and motivation of the whole Spark team.

 

But who actually won?

 

This month’s winner came from Spark’s admin department. She:

 

truly is the Chief Happiness Officer!

 

and one of the other reasons given for nominated her was for her

 

always being positive and working longer than necessary in the evening

 

This staff member works hard every day to help parents and students with any questions they have. This month has been no exception, even though the admin department has had a lot of changes. Most of you know that this month Spark welcomed Barbara to the team. Our Top Sparkie has worked through

 

lots of admin changes this month and she has worked hard to keep everything running smoothly

 

And the winner is…

 

The Spark team nominated our fantastic admin assistant Nidhi Rana as our Employee of the Month for October! Her continuous devotion to her role and hard work has not gone unnoticed. Nidhi is one of the keystones of Spark, holding lots of pieces in place to keep the whole business running successfully. And she does it all with a smile and a positive attitude!

 

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Keep up the good work Nidhi!

 

 

Headteacher Talk: What Can Finland Teach Us About Education?

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As we approach the end of the month, it’s time to hear from our Headteacher Gemma. She has been thinking about what we at Spark can learn about education from others. That could be schools, other professionals, and even other countries…

 

What makes Finland’s education system different?

 

Finland’s educational system underwent reforms about 40 years ago. Since then, they have consistently come at the top end of the world rankings for education. It is only recently, however, that they have been making waves in the world of education. With comparisons being made to our own educational system in the UK, are there lessons to be learned?

In Finland, a child starts school in the year that they turn 7 and remain in compulsory education for 9 years. This basic education is provided within a single structure, there is no divide between primary and secondary education. It is only in the last 3 years of their education that students are taught by subject specialists. There are no National tests for students in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for all assessment. There is just one exam at the end of the 9 years of study that will be the same for all students.  This is in stark contrast to our own system in the UK. Here, students as young as 6 will be entered for testing. There results measure the progress of the students throughout the whole of their academic journey.

 

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So what about the ethos?

 

One task of education in Finland is to develop a student’s ability to self-assess, to support the growth of self-knowledge and study skills and to help make student’s aware of their own progress.  This is something very close to our hearts at Spark.  We commit to supporting our students, not only in their study and learning of specific content, but also in developing their independence and resilience in learning.

It is not only the students that are the focus of education in Finland, teachers have a very different experience than many in the UK. Teachers in Finland are held in the same esteem as lawyers and doctors. They are seen as the keys to quality education. As a result, they spend 2 hours a week on their own professional development. As you are probably aware, teachers in the UK are also currently in the news, but for very different reasons. More teachers are leaving the profession than are joining, with much of this down to workload and pressures from league tables (something which is absent in Finland).

 

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Why is the Finnish system important to us?

 

At Spark, we too, believe that our teachers are the key to a student’s success. They are responsible for producing our bespoke resources and assessments. This allows them to concentrate on how they deliver the lesson in the best possible way for their students to learn. It is also important for us to allow for professional development. Our teachers continually look at teaching strategies and research other areas in education.

Looking at the Finnish system has drawn comparisons with our own ethos here at Spark. However, only time will tell if our schools will follow a similar path…

 

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The Spark: November’s Newest Sparkie

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Tuesday is news-day at Spark Academy. This week’s article introduces Spark Academy’s newest member, Barbara Herbert.

November’s Newest Sparkie

The Growing Team

 

In October 2017, it became apparent that the usual influx of new students at the beginning of a new term was still going strong. Founder Mital Thanki and the rest of the team were thrilled by the interest of so many students. However, the demand on Spark Academy’s administration team continued to increase. It quickly became clear that the admin team needed to grow at the same rate as Spark’s student base.

Mital decided to hire another admin assistant. Therefore, in November Spark welcomed a new member of the team. Barbara Herbert joined Spark Academy from a school-based background.

 

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Barbara (top left) in her first outing with the Spark Academy team before starting officially a few weeks later.

 

Background in Education

 

Barbara has worked in education for over ten years in various roles. Her roles began in the science department, where she worked as a Senior Science Technician for six years. More recently, Barbara also worked as an Inclusion Officer for four years. This involved running an alternative classroom for students with various emotional, physical and behavioural needs.

Barbara has previously worked closely with pupil premium students and vulnerable students. She supported these students with struggles in their school and home lives. Barbara told The Spark that her role as an Inclusion Officer included

 

raising students’ confidence by working closely with each individual.

 

What can Spark Academy offer Barbara?

 

Barbara chose to join Spark Academy to focus on education in a different way. She hopes to support students in their educational journey and in moving to the next chapter of their lives.

 

I enjoy working with the Spark team. Everyone is very friendly and they made me feel welcome. I am looking forward to my journey with Spark and to watch it grow and develop into something very special.

Student Thought: Different and Varied Learning

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This week’s Student Thoughts are from members of the Oadby Year 5 class. Their ideas and comments help us to shape our lessons and develop the way we teach Maths and English.

 

What do you like about Spark?

 

We always ask our students what they enjoy about lessons at Spark Academy. Without student enjoyment, Spark would be the same as all other tuition providers.

Rohan Upple told us that his favourite part of both Maths and English is

 

that it is fun

 

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Rohan (right) and fellow student Ariyan (left) working together.

 

At Spark, we strongly believe that making our lessons fun is key to helping our students learn. This is especially important as we are very aware that our students have spent all day learning, so by ensuring our lessons are enjoyable we can help our students stay focused.

Another student, Amelia Suleman, told us that

 

I enjoy learning different things in maths such as percentages. I enjoy learning different things in English such as spellings and comprehension.

 

The varied nature of our lessons and our coverage of the whole curriculum means that every week at Spark is different. This is obviously something our students also enjoy!

 

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Amelia working hard to create sentences using the progressive tense.

Why did you choose Spark?

 

Amelia told us that she

 

looked at Kumon before Spark and I picked Spark because they follow the school curriculum

 

We strongly feel that following the national curriculum is the best way to support our students at school. It is clear that our students feel the same way!

Surviving Sixth Form

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As we approach the final weeks before Christmas, some of you will look back and feel your first term at Sixth Form hasn’t been plain sailing. We spoke to Mital to get some advice for Year 12s. If her advice is as good as her A-level classes, you know you’re in good hands!

Sixth form. Sure, in essence it’s just the same as school –studying subjects and gaining qualifications. But as you are probably aware by now, it is a whole different environment. Free periods, no uniform, independent study, less subjects, more freedom – sounds great, right? Yeah sure, it is for a while, but the procrastination between lessons has led to your workload piling up. Crying might seem like the only option… And you no longer get excited about wearing your own clothes. If only you could wear pyjamas rather than make an effort!image001 - Spark Academy

The difficulty of the modules, the amount of deadlines and lack of structure can be an overwhelming adjustment. However, there are ways to overcome the stress of sixth form:

Time Management

 

You might not have a student planner anymore but this does not mean you don’t need one. It will become crucial to record your lessons, deadlines, targets and to-do-lists.

With the glorious introduction of free lessons, it feels like you have won the lottery, but this free time is an opportunity for you to get lots of work and deadlines done within school hours so you are able to use your time at home to get a head-start on reviewing your lessons and making revision notes. Wait? What? Revision notes already? Yes, now is the time to make revision notes but it will bail you out later on. The depth of the GCSE subjects you took pales into comparison to A-Level courses and so it will become important to revise as you go along rather than leaving it to the last minute.

Organisation

 

Sixth form may mean that you no longer use exercise books in lessons. It’s really important that you have a system in place for keeping track or your notes. You might want to buy folders for each of your subjects. Have sections so you can divide your class notes, revision notes, homeworks and past papers.

Balance

 

Organisation, time management and proactivity – mega important. But also making sure you have a good work life balance is just as necessary. Don’t forget to hang out with your friends, for a much needed break Remember the importance of regular exercise and a balanced diet– these help maintain a healthy state of mind for working. There is a lot that needs to be done but don’t burn yourself out!

Sixth form can be a daunting and an overwhelming adjustment, but it takes time to master the level of independence and increasing difficulty and depth of the work. We’ve discussed how to make the transition easier but also remember that this change is preparing you well for university. University lacks a lot of structure, more free lessons, less discipline and less guidance. This is all a process of growing up and becoming independent characters and your sixth form college is providing the first steps in this transformation. So take the bull by the horns and take control of your sixth form learning experience.

Student Thoughts: Organise; Revise; Survive!

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As you know, at Spark we are always looking for ways to share the successes of our students. What better way is there to do that than to ask our students to write about their successes themselves? This week’s Student Thoughts post with advise on how to organise and revise in Year 11 comes to you from one of our AS Level students. 

Hi, my name is Kiran and I am currently studying AS Chemistry and Biology at Spark Academy. I have been a part of the tuition centre since Year 8. I truly feel that Spark has not only helped me with my school work but has also allowed me to develop as a person and provided me with support throughout the years.

 

What I like most about Spark:

 

One of my favourite things about Spark Academy has to be the teachers. Their enthusiasm towards teaching their subjects is amazing; you can see and feel the passion that they have which encourages you to stretch your potential and work hard. Every lesson is unique and enjoyable which makes you look forward to next week.

 

Getting the balance right

 

I am here to talk to you about how I revised for my GCSEs and how I balanced my studies with extra-curricular activities. Over the course of a few blog posts I will be sharing ideas that I used to help me revise as well as manage my time!

If I had to narrow the key points down they would be:

 

Know What You Need to Do and When Your Deadlines Are

 

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Whether this is having a to-do list on post it notes or a diary that you check regularly, having work written down will prevent you from forgetting to do it. For example each piece of work I have I write on individual post its and stick them on my study wall so I remember. This can be used for reminding you about homework you need to be do or when and what to revise for an exam.

 

Stay Organised

 

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Try to have each subject’s notes or books kept separately instead of all mixed up. When it comes to revision you need to know where everything is and not waste time looking for your notes! You could use plastic wallets or folders with dividers to organise yourself.

 

Look After Yourself!

 

Make sure you have regular breaks. Revision in large chunks is not effective. For example, I used to revise for 30 minutes followed by a 5 minute break or even 45 minutes of work with 10 minute breaks. Whatever suits you best! Also don’t forget to leave time for you to relax and do things that you enjoy.

See you next time where I will talk about revision techniques that I use! Remember – if you organise, you can revise and you will survive your GCSEs!

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Parent Perspectives: Learning is ‘made fun’

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This week it’s time for another parent perspective post. The support and feedback from our parents is invaluable, so we like to showcase you wherever we can. We have caught up with Mrs Upple, whose son Rohan is in Year 5, to find out how she feels about Spark Academy and the fun Rohan is having in our lessons.

Rohan started studying English and Maths at Spark in September of this year. He joined a Year 5 group which was small at first, but is now growing to include a variety of students. All of the students in his class are individuals growing in confidence with the support of our teachers and each other. It’s a pleasure to teach a group that are so willing to help each other in every way they can! As teachers, we strive to create learning environments which are collaborative and friendly, so it is great to see that Rohan experiences this in his class.

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Mrs Upple told us that she looked for tuition for Rohan as she felt he

 

needed support

 

in his literacy and numeracy. For his teachers, it is clear that the extra support he receives at Spark is developing Rohan’s confidence and his ability. He is growing keen to answer questions in lesson and is often correct when he does.

 

Why Spark?

 

 

It’s often helpful for us to know why our students and parents chose Spark Academy to be their tuition provider, and Mrs Upple’s reasons were similar to those of many of our other parents. She told us that her cousin recommended Spark to her. After Rohan’s trial she felt she didn’t need to look anywhere else. Recommendations like this are just one way that our parents show their support for Spark and we feel very honoured to say that Mrs Upple would recommend us herself. We’re glad that the hard work and effort our teachers put in to every lesson does not go unnoticed!

 

What does Rohan like most about Spark?

 

Rohan

 

enjoys English as it is made fun

 

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Our students come to us after a full school day and we understand that they are often tired. That’s why we try to make our lessons fun wherever possible. We find that the more our students enjoy coming to Spark, the more they learn. It’s fantastic to hear that Rohan enjoys learning from us as much as we enjoy teaching him!

Mrs Upple told us that she is very happy with the

 

good teachers

 

who work at Spark. As a tuition service, we value our teachers very highly. It’s good to know that the quality teaching provided in both Maths and English is valued by our parents just as highly.

We’d like to offer a big thank you to Mrs Upple for all of her kind words. We also hope Rohan continues to find Spark useful, educational and enjoyable.

Teacher Talk: Finding Fun in Finding Information

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This week’s Teacher Talk comes from one of our English teachers, Charlotte. Her ideas for teaching a lesson on finding information in a text led to some fantastic experiences in our Year 7 lessons last week.

At Spark, we understand the importance of the national curriculum. However, we also see the benefit in steering away from typical teaching methods. This is why teaching information retrieval to Year 7 is important, but can also be made into an interesting and exciting activity.

Information retrieval involves being able to find information in a text. This allows students to form an understanding of the information a student is reading. Rebecca, our Head of English, explained how we used this concept but altered it to make it an activity that caters for all abilities:

Here at spark we wanted to maintain using the national curriculum, but we wanted to avoid teaching by the book. This meant that students worked as part of a group to make sure everyone was involved.

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Finding and compiling the information, ready to decide who was guilty.

Retrieving the information

 

The information retrieval mystery involves using witness statements to decide which suspect stole from a school. The witness statements were chosen from a variety of witnesses, ranging from 7-year old Maximus Marlo to the suspicious Caretaker, Argus Filch.

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The pupils had to note key information from these statements, including appearance, description of events and timings. They then had to cross-check these statements with the description of the suspects and come to a group decision in response to the big question: Who committed the crime?

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The suspects and everything we knew about them.

Year 7 student, Saimon stated

 

The information part was easy but then putting the suspects into an order was the hard part.

 

Presenting the findings

 

The second part of the lesson included a group presentation to the rest of the class. Presentations are sometimes a daunting experience for most students.

 

It’s best to focus the presentations on something fun. This means the students are less focused on presenting but genuinely want to explain what they have figured out as a group.

 

When presenting, students had to order their suspects in terms of most to least likely to have committed the crime. They received marks for how well they presented, and whether they placed the suspects in the right order.

Year 7 English student, Tanisha explained

 

It was really fun but I found it unfair that the boys won.

 

The group with the most points won, and received valuable Dojo points as their prize.

 

A summary of the lesson

 

Here at Spark, the students are at the heart of every activity we create. This activity required students to think critically and analytically. It also that they exercised both reading and summarising skills. The students also had to work as part of a group, and this not only ‘sparked’ debate between groups but also allowed the less confident pupils of the class to voice their opinions. We also had great fun finding out who did it!

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