Student Thought: No Stuffy SATs Prep at Spark

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When we think of students preparing for exams, most of us think of GCSEs. We even posted about Spark’s GCSE preparation here but they aren’t the only students in an important year. Our Year 6s are in full SATs swing now and enjoying the support that Spark offers in the run up to their exams.

It’s not just in our own after school lessons that we offer SATs support. Over the past two years Spark has been supporting schools with their preparation – you can read all about our successes here.

 

What do the Year 6s study at Spark?

 

Like all of our Year groups, the Year 6s follow the national curriculum. For them, this includes the content that they will be tested on in May and exam skills practise. They will be tested on numeracy and numerical reasoning for Maths and spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension in English. This is exactly what they spend their time at Spark studying.

 

What do the Year 6s have to say about Spark?

 

Rhea told us that she enjoys

 

learning interesting things

 

to support her SATs preparation. Mohammed said that at Spark

 

they go over stuff that school doesn’t […] and adapt lessons to your learning

 

which goes to show the dedication that the Spark teachers put in to making sure that SATs preparation is relevant to each class and each individual student.

Many of the students commented on how much they enjoyed the lessons each week because of

 

a variety of activities

 

SATs related games and because they

 

enjoy how the teachers teach

 

Of course, much of the preparation for SATs involves exam-style questions and practise papers, but we’ll thrilled to hear how much our students enjoy our lessons!

 

Is Spark the best place for SATs prep?

 

Over half of the students we asked told us that they didn’t look anywhere else for tuition. We thought that was a big compliment! The others told us that they chose Spark over other providers because

 

it gave me better education

 

and

 

it stood out from the rest

 

which is always fantastic to hear.

 

Are there any places left for Year 6?

 

Now that we’re so close, our classes are filling up quickly. There are a few spots left across our two sites but you will need to be quick; book your free trial today!

 

 

Teacher Talk: Understanding Literature

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This week’s Teacher Talk is from our English teachers. Literature is an important aspect of studying English, but for many students reading something written almost 100 years ago can be a little off-putting. Our teachers share some of their ideas for bringing great novels to life in tuition.

 

Why do we study literature at Spark?

 

Literature isn’t just important because it’s on the GCSE curriculum. Reading is a way of thinking about the world in a different way. This can be especially important when thinking about history. Many of the novels studied in schools are chosen because of their important place within history and Animal Farm is no exception.

 

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Why Animal Farm?

 

Most of our Year 9 students had never heard of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That is, until we started studying it at the beginning of January. Now they not only know what happens during the novella, but they’ve also started to understand the difference between communism, socialism and capitalism. They’ve explored the impact of propaganda and thought critically about their own political ideas. And of course they’ve sharpened their analytical and writing skills!

 

How does studying a novel work at Spark?

 

As we teach our students once a week for English, we aren’t able to read through the whole text in class. What we can do though, is look at important extracts that demonstrate the key themes and characters.

We started our study of Animal Farm by exploring the key themes and how they are presented in the text.

 

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We looked at context and the main characters involved in the novel.

 

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Students did their own research into some of the key terms at home before we looked at more detailed context together.

 

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It was important for the students to understand how the characters in Animal Farm parallel the real-life politicians during the Russian Revolution.

Most recently we looked at the use of propaganda in the novel. We used this as an opportunity to consider how each of us would run a farm. Our student wrote a speech and created a poster campaign to showcase their ideas.

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Students peer-marked each others speeches to think about their use of persuasive techniques. They also check spelling, punctuation and grammar.

 

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Some tables worked as a group to share ideas on their slogan and logo, before creating their own poster.

 

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Slogans and main campaign points definitely stand out here!

 

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Lots of colour helps the campaign points stand out on this poster. You can see where another student has peer-marked this speech in purple pen.

 

We try to make our lessons engaging and interactive for our students. By introducing creativity and asking our students to question their own ideas, we encourage them not only to explore the text we’re studying but to examine it place in their lives. Showcasing your plan for running ‘Animal Farm’ is a good way of understanding how the themes and characters in the novel realistically relate to your own life.

 

Are you interested in reading Animal Farm? You can read it online here.

Spark Top Tips for GCSE Maths Exam Success

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For those of you who are looking towards your GCSE revision now, here are our Top Tips for GCSE Maths success!

Getting formulas onto one page.

 

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When revising for Maths, creating a formula sheet is an effective way to kick-start your work! You should include formulas that will and will not be given to you in your exam. This will also give you a quick point of reference when doing revision practice. By constant referral to your formula sheet you will find it easier to memorise them and to use them more accurately.

Past paper practice.

 

This is single-handedly the most important tip out there. With Maths, there is nothing more valuable than practising questions. By marking your attempts against official mark schemes you can see where you have gone wrong and what examiners are looking for.

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Balance revision.

 

In GCSEs, pupils often miss out revising certain topics because they think it is beyond their understanding. If you have a weak link, work to improve your confidence because it can stop you gaining marks in questions that relate to your ‘strong’ topics. Focus your revision on the topics you are struggling with so you aren’t blindsided in the exam.

Revise your calculator.

 

You NEED to know your calculator inside out. It is so easy to mess up the answer to a whole question because you inputted a number incorrectly; you rounded too soon; you put the brackets in the wrong place. Don’t let your hard work and revision be ruined in the exam by silly mistakes on a calculator.

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Time yourself.

 

When attempting past papers to begin with, give yourself more time than is allocated because you will need to refer to your notes and look things up. The closer the exam gets, though, the more important it is to practise papers in timed conditions. Furthermore, you need to get to a point where you don’t use your notes to help you. You might think to yourself that you will be fine and remember them on the day, but if you don’t try to go ‘blind’ beforehand, there is a risk you will draw a blank with certain methods and formulas when you really need them!

If you take these tips on board, success will follow.

Who is December’s Student of the Month?

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It’s time to celebrate another student of the month here at Spark Academy. Our holidays mean that our lessons end this week – but that doesn’t mean that our student of the month is any less deserving.

As you know we’ve already nominated two students to celebrate: Neha Patni and Shreya Kumari. You can read all about their nominations by following the links.

 

What should we know about December’s student of the month?

 

This month we are celebrating a student from our Oadby site – for the first time this year! Once again we have chosen this particular student because he (yep, another first for this year!) has been nominated by more than one teacher.

In fact, this particular student had nominations from three different teachers. We have to say we were very impressed by all of the wonderful things everyone had to say.

We’d like to offer a huge congratulations to Adnan Ahmad, December’s Student of the Month!

 

Tell us more about Adnan!

 

Adnan is a Year 10 student at our Oadby site, attending Spark for English, Maths and Science. His nominations all came from English and Maths. Adnan’s Friday night class is in the unique position of being partially shared by both English and both Maths teachers. Therefore, Adnan’s efforts and determination have been noticed by everyone.

Let’s have a look at some of the wonderful reasons the teachers gave for nominating Adnan!

 

Working 1-1 with Adnan, I have seen the huge progress he has been making since he first joined. He uses feedback to improve his work, and remains positive if ever he is unsure of a topic. He continuously strives to improve his work, and tries his hardest every week.

Adnan definitely deserves this award.

Charlotte, English.

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Adnan always tries really hard in his Maths lessons. If he does not understand anything he always makes sure he asks for help and has a good understanding by the end of the lesson. He is polite to everyone and always says thank you for helping him.

Katherine, Maths.

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Adnan is always very positive during his lessons. He is always fully focused and ready to learn each week. This shows that he always puts in 100% effort. His work ethic and determination to improve his English work is very admirable, and he has a positive impact on everyone in the class.

Rebecca, English

 

Congratulations Adnan! Keep up the good work!

Teacher Talk: Countdown to Christmas!

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In this week’s Teacher Talk we asked the Maths department to give us a taste of some of the fun things they do at Christmas. One fun starter or plenary is playing Countdown – let’s have a look at how they do it.

Onto the Countdown to Christmas!

On behalf of the Maths department at Spark, we’ve decided to give you all some gifts that only a maths teacher can give;

Countdown Puzzles!

 

How do you play Countdown?

 

We give you a target number and 6 numbers to work with… The aim is to make the target number and you can only use each of the 6 numbers once.

At Spark, we always give worked examples in our Maths lessons, so this will be no different!

So for the first puzzle, we have these numbers:

 

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So we need to use the numbers 100, 25, 1, 7, 10 and 7 to get to the grand total of 510.

 

Have a go yourself and see what answer your get!

 

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It looks like Chris got the right answer! Hope you did too!

 

Let’s try another one!

 

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Before you scroll down to see if Chris has figured it out… Can you get to the target number? Comment if you managed it!

 

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Whoops! Chris was only one away from the final answer! So near, yet so far! Could you get the right number?

Oh dear, it looks like Chris is struggling with this next one. I think we should leave this one to you guys to have a go at yourself! Comment below with your closest answer and method!

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Happy Christmas everyone, don’t forget to enjoy some pi over the festive season!

Parent Perspectives: Raves in our Reviews

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In this week’s Parent Perspectives post, we thought we’d look somewhere a little different than usual. Many parents have been rating and posting reviews for Spark Academy for years – it’s time we celebrated their views!

 

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Where can you rate and review?

 

Spark’s Facebook page is a perfect place for anyone looking to give us a rating or write a review. In fact, many parents have been doing just that! You might also know that we recently launched our Spark Forum. This is another amazing place where you can review or leave comments for the Spark team. You can even give us suggestions on how we could make Spark even better.

 

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So now you know where you can go to rate, review and rave about us…

 

What sort of things have our parents been saying?

 

The first fantastic point we noticed when we looked at our Facebook reviews is that we have an amazing 5 star rating! This rating is averaged out over the years since our first Facebook review, which just goes to show that Spark is providing the same high quality tuition it has since opening.

 

review - Spark Academy

 

Here are some highlights from our favourite reviews. It was tricky to choose from some many wonderful comments from our parents!

 

My boys will be joining this great teaching academy soon in January 2018. They will be working to their school level […] Spark Academy is far better – classroom based and a more professional set up.

P. S.

We strive to provide excellent tuition to support our students in their education, so it is always wonderful to hear that parents can see and appreciate everything we are doing!

 

The support has been priceless […] A designated time to study is key in getting excellent results. I knew I needed a great tutor service and was so pleased when Spark was recommended to me by a friend.

N. W.

Recommendations are another fantastic way so many of our parents review Spark. It’s great to hear that from their perspective, we’re so good they just can’t wait to tell others!

 

It’s clear to see the passion you have to teach and the desire to make every child a winner. I can’t fault anything you guys do. My kids love coming to Spark and they’re making great progress.

B. P.

Our small class sizes are key to our ability to make every child feel successful and vital to our lessons. And we’re always glad to hear our students enjoy coming to Spark!

 

How can you get involved?

 

If you’re a parent and you want to share your perspective on Spark, there are lots of ways to get involved. You can use our Facebook page, our Spark Forum, or you can comment on this post with your reviews!

Teacher Talk: Creativity and Perfecting Poetry

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English at Spark Academy is nothing if not varied: from persuasion to poetry, and comprehension to creative writing. You only need to see our previous Teacher Talk posts to see that – you can read all about our work on political speeches and information retrieval by looking back through Spark Ideas. At the moment our Year 6 students are beginning their SATs preparation in earnest. This year is very important for them. This is why we have already started practising their reading and SPaG skills – but we also know there’s more to English than comprehension and grammar!

 

Why poetry?

 

That’s why we like to sprinkle some creativity in with our SATs preparation. Earlier this term, the Year 6 classes at both Oadby and Belgrave spent some time working on poetry. They learnt to create similes and metaphors. The classes also looked at more complex literary techniques: personification and hyperbole are two such techniques. These are all techniques that the students will be identifying and analysing all the way up to their GCSEs.

We looked at lots of different types of poetry, from acrostic poems to traditional poetic forms. Here are some examples of poems our amazing Year 6s wrote themselves!

 

An Acrostic Poem about Ice Cream

 

Ice cream, ice cream

Cookies and cream.

English toffee…

Chocolate chip and

Rocky Road.

Even strawberry or

Almond chocolate… but

Most certainly vanilla!

Ria J.

If anything could make us want to eat ice cream in December, it’s Ria’s clever poem.

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The Vaccum

 

The vacuum sleeps in a dark store

Waiting to be picked up and roar.

You can give him anything to eat

When you press the button, it looks for meat.

It’s long giraffe neck

Is like a bird ready to peck –

It zooms around really fast

and when seen it looks very vast.

It always listens to me

(Not buzzing like a bumble bee).

It keeps things nice and clean.

He is always mighty and always mean.

R.

Amazing use of personification, similes and metaphors!

 

 

The Sea

 

The calm sea with no people around.

The violent sea when the wind blows all around.

The beautiful sea when the sun comes out.

The sea crashes against the rocks just like

thunder and lightning at night.

The sea is very warm when I jump in,

just like a warm coat on a frosty night.

Today the sea is quiet with no one in sight.

The sun shines on the sea when it’s bright.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to the sea…

For it’s time to catch our flight!

Kayaan V.

What beautiful imagery of the sea, all built up through similes and metaphors!

 

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My Monster

 

We didn’t only write poetry in our lessons – some of our students also wanted to perform their poetry. Here is Ayman reading his monster poem on Halloween:

 

 

What do you think of the poems our Year 6s wrote? If you or your children have poems you’d like to share with us, we’d love to read them!

What are Mital’s Top Ten Tips for Success?

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Spark Academy’s founder Mital Thanki is obviously very successful. Otherwise Spark wouldn’t be doing so well! Earlier this year, Mital wrote an article for The Eastern Eye about her ‘Top Ten Tips for Success’. We thank the Eastern Eye for letting us use some of her ideas to share with you today!

 

1. Turn Big Dreams into Goals!

 

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All good businesses start with an idea. Then a lot of thought and planning is needed to turn your big dream into reality. This is only possible when you set goals for yourself and plan on how you are going to get there. By breaking your big dreams into small goals, you can structure your plan and help to form your strategy for the future.

 

2. Turn your Passion into Profession

 

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Don’t let money be your only driving factor. Confucius said

 

Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life

 

This is a motto I live by. If you are passionate about your work, you will continue to work at it even through the hard times. Eventually, your drive, passion and enthusiasm will be noticed. It’s people who recognise the importance of loving what you do who achieve the most success.

3. Believe in your Ideas and Go with your Gut

 

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It’s essential that you trust your instincts. This is how you will take your business from strength to strength. At Spark Academy, we shout out about all of our successes – big and small! It’s important to me that our parents and students know what our vision is and how close we are to achieving it.

 

4. Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

 

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Owning your own business, yet challenging. Successful people will sacrifice personal and social time to build their business. You might need to be prepared to sacrifice your financial stability, your work-life balance and your comfort. However, you should remember that after a few years your hard work will really start to pay off.

 

5. Learn from Failures and Never Give Up

 

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Making mistakes is an important lesson that gives you an opportunity to start again with more experience. Failing is just one step on the road to meeting your challenges head on. Don’t let struggles put you off your goals. Instead, think of it like a learning opportunity – it creates stepping stones on the way to greatness.

 

6. Be the Best in Your Field

 

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Dedicate a part of your working time to your own professional development. Take time out to network, study the competition, attend courses and conferences. If you talk about the hot topics in your field, you will enhance your credibility and get yourself noticed. Spark Academy is the proud winner of several local and national awards – this is an indication of how dedicate we are to being the best.

 

7. Look after Your Team

 

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Unless you are the only one working in your business, your team is the most important piece of your organisation. Have fun and develop a culture of compassion and love for one another. Celebrate small wins and encourage friendships. This helps to create a positive environment to work and thrive.

 

8. Maintain Discipline

 

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Planning your daily tasks is essential when trying to kick-start or grow a venture. You must invest time into this and make it work for you. Know yourself and work when you are most productive. Remain committed to a timetable and maintain your routine.

 

9. Listen to Your Body

 

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It’s important to know your signs of burn-out. When you are running on empty, feeling anxious or overwhelmed, remind yourself that you’re human. You’re not a machine! Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat well. Try meditating or keep a hobby to help recharge you after a difficult week.

 

10. Keep Your Vision Alive

 

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Your vision is what you will build all of your success around. Take time to write a clear vision statement. Create a vision board filled with pictures, quotes and key words that highlight your ideas. The work you do needs to reflect your vision. You can help yourself achieve this by surrounding yourself by people who contribute to your success. Never lose faith and just keep going!

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.