Parent Perspectives: ‘In-depth and thorough learning’

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At Spark, it is important to us that we hear the views of our parents. Ultimately, our parents make it possible for us to keep providing the level of education and service we love. We always want to check in to see what you think. Every so often it’s nice to celebrate the lovely things you have to say! We have been chatting to the parents of one of our Year 9s, Dhruv Mamnani, to find out what they think about Dhruv’s time at Spark.

Dhruv has been with Spark for English and Maths for nearly three years now. Last year he was finding that Year 8 was a step up from Year 7 and wanted the extra support Spark can provide. In particular, his parents told us they wanted

to enhance his foundations in subjects like English and Maths

 

We find this is a theme when it comes to asking parents why they looked for tuition, especially at Key Stage 3. The

jump from primary to secondary education can be sometimes be hard to bridge, which is why we work hard to cover the foundation content across all year groups. This can help our students approach GCSEs with more confidence, which is exactly how Dhruv’s parents feel too; they told us they hoped Spark could help Dhruv

so that he feels more and more confident as he progresses through

 

The Teaching

 

Dhruv originally attended lessons at our Belgrave site, and swapped to Oadby later in the year. This means he’s in a

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unique position of having seen our well lessons work at both of our sites! It’s wonderful to hear high praise from his parents about all of his teachers, as they told us

the standard and level of teaching is always at its best and the attention given to students by the tutors is highly admirable

 

It’s fantastic to hear that everything we work so hard to achieve during our lessons is paying off!

 

The Content

 

We also wanted to see if Dhruv’s parents felt that the content of his lessons was as worthy of praise as the teaching he had received. Their response didn’t disappoint:

 

The in-depth and thorough learning programme is well focused on the syllabus and is equally balanced between classroom teaching and homework

 

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Dhruv (left) and fellow student Aman before giving a political speech in a recent English lesson

Our teachers, particularly our heads of department, have all spent a long time thinking carefully about our schemes of work. As we only have one lesson a week with our students, it’s paramount that we plan our lessons and arrange the content we teach carefully to make sure we are able to cover everything. That means it’s wonderful to hear that our parents recognise how much we have worked to make our lessons as useful and effective as we can!

Knowing that our balance of homework and classwork works well for Dhruv is also very useful for us. We are keenly aware that our students attend tuition as extra support and that sometimes their workload from school can be quite high. We strive to ensure we strike the perfect balance when it comes to homework, and it looks like we might have achieved it!

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As parents, would you recommend us?

 

Spark’s reputation and ability to serve ever growing numbers of students really depends on one thing: do our parents value the work we do enough to recommend us to other parents and students in need?

Certainly

 

was the response from Dhruv’s parents!

We appreciate the support and hope Dhruv continues to find his time with us useful and enjoyable. Thank you for the kind words!

To find out more about the work Dhruv has been doing lately, have a look at our recent Teacher Talk post.

Has our parent perspective encouraged you to try us out? Find out more here and book in for your free trial today!

 

 

 

Teacher Talk: Numerous Uses for Numicon!

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Our primary specialist Vikz has introduced a fantastic new tool to Spark this year – Numicon. Already this amazing addition has had a profound affect on our lessons. Students, teachers and parents are finding that Numicon is a wonderful supporting tool in lesson time. But what is it really and how does it work?

Numicon: What is it?

 

The Oxford University Press describes Numicon as ‘a multi-sensory approach’ to maths. It is used both at home and at school. This means that using it at Spark has unlimited benefits for our students. Vikz teaches several of our Maths classes up until Year 7 and has found Numicon is a wonderful tool to use for all ages.

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These fabulous brightly pieces are useful for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They can also be set out next to each other or piled on top of each other. Even more, you can use any of the different sized blocks together – it all depends on what types of numeracy you’re learning that day!

 

How does it actually work?

 

Numicon works by giving students a visual and physical representation of the sums they are doing. Have a look at this picture:

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If you are working on addition, the pieces let children see different ways of making the same number. Students can literally fill in the gaps to make 20!

If you were looking at subtraction, you’d simply use the pieces in reverse. Ask a student to answer 20-10 using two 10-pieces, and they are able to lift away a 10-piece to help them work out the answer. For students who struggle with numeracy, this tool can make a huge difference.

 

How are you using Numicon at Spark?

 

Have a look for yourself!

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Understanding the four times table can be as easy as reaching for a new 4-piece. First the students get to grips with their times tables using Numicon… Then their overall understanding is improved from a ground level up. Vikz often has students compete against themselves in ‘speed runs’; how many correct times table answers they can write down

at the beginning of the lesson versus at the end of the lesson. Unsurprisingly, a little work with these amazingly colourful pieces and the second ‘speed run’ is always an improvement!

 

Here you can see one of our Year 3 students working hard at his 3 times table. In addition to Vikz’s teaching, Eshaan finds Numicon a great benefit in his lessons.

 

 

Here at Spark we are always looking for new ways to teach. We are passionate about helping our students. You can see already, in only October, how helpful Numicon can be for our classes. Of course, it is our brilliant Vikz who has been able to use this educational tool to such great effect. You’re doing amazing work there, Vikz, keep it up!

 

The Spark: Successful SATs Support

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Welcome to this week’s edition of The Spark. Tuesday is News-day and this week’s article ‘Sublime SATs Support’ showcases one primary school’s gratitude to Spark Academy…

Sublime SATs Support

Spark Tuition aids ‘amazing results’ in SATs Scores

 

This week Spark Academy has received an email from a primary school close to their hearts. Sacred Heart Primary School in Leicester contacted founder Mital Thanki to thank her for tuition support provided to their Year 6 students in the last academic year.

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The multiplication dice game is popular with all of our students, giving them the power to create and solve their own sums!

 

Sacred Heart contacted Mital last year to organise intervention support for some of their struggling students. The school was determined to help students achieve in their SATs in May. Spark Academy was part of their plan to support students as well as improve their results.

 

Bespoke Support

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Brutus the Roman helped Nic teach students about roman numerals

 

Over a period of five weeks Nic Hey went to the school to offer bespoke support to ten students. Our tutors designed each lesson to target areas of concern for those pupils. This meant that the students received tuition that was truly tailored to their needs.

Nic was able to work with the students on the topics of roman numerals, percentages, angles, long multiplication and division to offer individualised support to aid student’s understanding. In addition to useful support, Nic provided continuously enjoyable lessons using resources created alongside Chris Nelson. Sacred Heart viewed the support provided as ‘amazing’.

 

Fantastic Results

 

These 10 students sat their SATs along with all other Year 6s in the country in May of this year. Both the school and Spark Academy eagerly awaited the student’s results. Everyone wanted to see what effect the extra support provided had on the results.

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Starters were a fun way to test students’ basic numeracy skills

Sacred Heart told Mital: ‘We achieved National Average in Maths – we’ve never done that before’.

The incredible results achieved by these students are due to several factors. These were the hard work of the students, the dedication of Sacred Heart’s teachers and the ‘tutoring Nicola delivered added’ to this success. As a result, Sacred Heart is hoping to involve Spark Academy in supporting its students again this year.

Mital and the Spark team are looking forward to supporting Sacred Heart students. They are also celebrating these amazing results and excited to building on their good relationship with Sacred Heart.

 

 

 

Student Thought: ‘Challenging but fun’

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Student Thoughts is a new feature for us at Spark Ideas. At Spark, we always value what our students think of us and this seemed like a good place to let their opinions shine!

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This week we spoke to one of our Year 9 groups to see what they think of Spark. These are a group of English and Maths students from the Oadby site. They had a lot of nice things to say!

 

What do you enjoy about learning at Spark Academy?

 

 I enjoy working with the people I get along with.

Anaya

The work is challenging but fun and you easily get on with the other people in your group.

K*

Group work is a staple in a lot of our English lessons at Spark. It’s fantastic to hear that students are not just benefiting from this, but building friendships to enjoy working with their classmates.

 

That teachers give you extra help and are by your side to help you exceed your best. And you have more attention from teachers.

Rhea

 

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It’s brilliant to hear that our efforts aren’t going to waste – our small classes really do help the students succeed!

 

Did you look at other tuition services before Spark? If so, why did you pick Spark Academy?

 

Most of the students said they hadn’t looked anywhere else – for Aman and Rhea, Spark has been their first and only tuition provider. As Dhruv says:

This is really good!

 

I also found out lots of students have come to us through recommendations:

My cousins recommended this tuition and I had a free trial lesson which I loved. I have been coming here now for 3 years.

Rhea

 

My friend recommended it.

Aman

Those students who had tried elsewhere before Spark were definitely happy to be here now:

 

[I did go to another provider] but they weren’t as good because this [is] more modern and I really enjoy it.

K*

 

I didn’t learn anything at my other tuition.

Anaya

I think we’re all glad to hear you’re learning a lot more with us, Anaya!

 

Anything else to add?

 

Tuition has helped me massively and has made my grades higher, especially in Maths. Tuition has made me gain a lot of confidence.

Rhea

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It was wonderful to hear all of the lovely things our Year 9 class had to say, especially as many of the students have been with us for a few years now. We hope that you continue to enjoy and learn with us!

Want to know more about the work our students have been doing? Look here to find out!

Interested in experiencing Spark like our amazing Year 9s? Book your free trial today!

*preferred to be anonymous on-line

Teacher Talk: The Spark Elections 2017

At Spark, we think it’s important for the teachers to talk to you, as students and parents, about the work we’re doing in our lessons. Spark is about useful, honest and fun education. We’re always looking for ways to link our work to the real world. One day our students will be adults and we hope to give them the understanding and skills they’ll need when we get there. That’s why over the last couple of weeks in English we have held a Spark Election with our Year 9 students.

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Speeches

 

A lot of our students find the idea of writing and giving speeches terrifying. Not only is this a key skill students will have to demonstrate during their GCSEs, but many job interviews will ask students to give presentations. Talking in front of others confidently is something we all have to do at during our lives. This is what makes it such an important topic for us to cover at Spark.

We started by thinking about persuasive writing. Looking at speeches by others helped students understand how techniques like rhetorical questions and repetition can be used to get your point across. We compared speeches by Barrack Obama and James Corden (as his well-known character Smithy) to see how even comedy and political speeches use these techniques.

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Political Parties

 

Once the students were happy with how to use different persuasive techniques, it was time to start thinking about writing a political speech. As a class we talked about what political parties are and what they do in our country. It was important for us to understand fringe parties too. Our political parties wouldn’t be mainstream. We split our classes into groups and gave them a fictional political party.20171011 180456 e1507741676283 - Spark Academy

Splitting the classes into groups meant that they would have to work as a team – not just to write their speeches but to complete their manifesto and agree on policies for all of the important areas of politics. They were able to consider and explore different opinions on tax, education, health, immigration and crime among other ideas. It was fantastic to hear as students started to think about the wider implications of their ideas. Each group had long discussions on what public opinions on their ideas might be before they agreed on policies!

 

Campaign Speeches

 

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After the policy decisions had been made and the speeches written, it was finally time for groups to deliver their speeches. The nominated Party Leader from each group introduced the speeches and every member of the group needed to speak. The speeches were all very impressive. It was clear that not only had the groups worked hard to write an effective speech, but they’d deliberated over policy details to try and increase their chance of winning the election.

Voting and Results

 

After the speeches, it was time to vote. Every student received an ballot paper to cast their vote.

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After counting the ballots!

We wanted everything to be as close to a real election as possible. The votes were all anonymous and counted up to discover the winners. You can watch one of our winning speeches below!

So… why political speeches?

 

Over the course of the two lessons our Year 9 classes learnt how to write and present speeches effectively. They evaluated each other’s speeches and completed a self evaluation to help themselves when they next cover speech writing. Our students also had a crash course in how our democracy works. In fact, they participated in it! Spark is all about preparing our students for the future. Exploring politics at the same time as speeches gave our students a glimpse of real world issues.

In a time when so few young people take an interest in politics, hopefully our work will encourage future voters to take notice. One day they could even be putting their speech skills to working in politics themselves. I can’t think of a better outcome than that!

 

CSI Spark: Creative Science Investigations

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This week we have turned to our resident physicist and Head of Science, Nic, to learn all about CSI Spark. It might not be quite what you’re thinking – let’s dive in and see exactly what our Year 7s and 8s have been investigating.

What does CSI stand for?

 

Something exciting has been happening in the Science department here at Spark Academy.  Over the past 7 weeks, we have been doing science a little differently for Years 7 & 8.

As many of you may be familiar with, CSI – that is, Crime Scene Investigation – is a long-standing television show that shows us just how important science can be in fighting crime. CSI at Spark, however, stands for Creative Science Investigation. 

 

The Structure of the Earth

 

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In our first topic, students investigated how the Earth was formed, how earthquakes affect buildings, and how Earth has changed over time. Volcanic activities and tectonic plates have changed the very make up of the Earth, as well as its atmosphere. Students have modelled their own construction ideas by building structures from sweets and jelly. Their ‘buildings’ were tested to see if they could withstand earthquakes (simple shaking), which allowed our students to discuss the idea of stability and mobility of buildings in earthquake prone zones.

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Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010 at the Eyjafjallajökull volcano became the focus for two of our lessons. Students gathered information about the eruption, the issues it generated for the people of Iceland and the wider global impact on air travel and tourism. In true ‘Blue Peter’ style we made our very own model volcanoes – and erupted them. Students used a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar (along with colouring for effect). We discussed the premise of a preliminary investigation and the students investigated the quantities of substances to be used (to maximise effect) before erupting their own volcano.

When looking at the atmosphere students tried a simple electrolysis experiment. By passing a small potential difference and current through graphite pencils in a solution, they generated hydrogen and oxygen gas. We then used the gas test to see if the gases collected were indeed the ones we had suggested. Hydrogen gives a squeaky pop when a flame is held to it and oxygen will re-light a glowing splint.

 

What makes CSI different?

 

The students have really taken to the more practical element of their lessons and enjoy asking questions. They are always keen to find out what practical or investigation they may be doing next! Teaching theory hand in hand with practical demonstrations is making our CSI lessons both fun and educational.

 

Giving our students an edge…

 

The emphasis is on learning through the enjoyment of creativity and hands-on activities. The ability to write scientifically about any investigations they carry out is an essential part of the new Science GCSE. However, students will need the practical skills base to be able to write about their investigations successfully.

The UK is struggling to recruit the engineers of the future, and the wholly academic GCSEs may not provide important practical skills. We hope to build vital practical and investigative skills our students will need to give them to have a competitive edge in a highly skilled jobs market. CSI is science for the engineers, scientists and researchers of the future – and it all starts at Spark.

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Student Spotlight: Eren Mirza

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Spotlight On…

At Spark, our goal is not just to help our students with their immediate academic goals. Our aim is to help them develop and plan for their futures. We like to keep in touch with our Alumni so we can hear about all of their successes. We thought you might also be interested in hearing a little about what they have to say.

So, that’s why we thought we’d ask a few of our Alumni to be in our Spotlight. They’ve taken the time to answer a few questions about their time at Spark. This week we’ve been catching up with Eren Mirza…

Which subjects did you study and in what years?

 

I started Spark Academy midway through my GCSE’s to aid me in Science, and continued with tuition for Chemistry for my A-levels.

Why did you choose to study with Spark?

 

I chose to study with Spark mainly because the classes had a warm feel to them; light-hearted and fun, making it much easier to ask questions when I was confused about the more complex topics.

What was your favourite part of studying with us?

 

My favourite part about studying with Spark would have to be… Mital! That’s because having a teacher who is easily approachable and comfortable to talk to was essential for me. Needing a tutor in the first place was a sign that I found it difficult to get help in school when I needed it. A friendly tutor really made the classes more enjoyable.

What are you doing now?

 

I’m currently studying Chemistry at the University of York and have just finished my first year there.

Do you feel like Spark helped you to achieve what you wanted to achieve?

 

Definitely! I’ve always wanted to pursue a degree in science but Spark Academy certainly gave me a push for Chemistry, it was especially helpful to have feedback on my personal statement during application times.

What advice would you give students currently at Spark?

 

My advice to current students would be to make your notes interesting! Whether it be in school or when you’re being tutored, ultimately the work will be as entertaining as you want it to be. Whether it be sketches, posters or songs try and vary it up a little and you’ll find even Half Cell Redox Equations have a fun side to them.

 

Check out Eren’s cool video on macromolecules which is suitable for A-level chemistry here:

To find out how Spark could help you, visit the rest of our site and book in for your free trial today!

What is Class Dojo?

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This week we’ve turned to our Primary and E-learning specialist Vikz to learn more about Class Dojo. We’re finding Class Dojo is fantastic during our lessons – hopefully you’ll all be just as impressed!class dojo - Spark Academy

What is Class Dojo?

 

Class Dojo is a fun interactive way for you to earn points while enjoying your lessons at Spark. Class Dojo is an innovative way for teachers, pupils and parents to connect with each other over behaviour management while you go about your normal day to day learning.

 

How does it work?

 

At Spark you can earn many points many ways. The points that you collect and earn go into your class points and these can earn you Spark Goodies. Soon there will also be an elusive spot available as Student of the Month for those whose hard work can be seen from the points they’ve earned!

Every time you do something great at Spark you will be rewarded with either team points or individual points.

All the points at the end of the academic year will help to calculate awards and prizes for each year group and subject. When our amazing awards evening comes back around in July, students and parents will be able to reap the rewards of the fantastic contributions and hard work put in all year round.

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Some of our classes have already made a fantastic start on their Dojo points!

How can I earn points?

 

There are lots of ways you can earn Dojo points in all of your subjects.

Some points apply across all subjects, such as being on task or working as a team. There are also subject specific points: in English you can earn 2 Dojo points for getting all your spellings correct every week, in Maths 2 Dojo points can be earned for explaining an answer during lesson time; and being safe in a science practical can also earn you 2 points. The more classes you take with us, the more points you can earn.class dojo 5 - Spark Academy

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A surefire to earn Dojo points is to always bring your homework in and try your best every week. Furthermore,one of the wonderful things about Class Dojo is that it allows teachers to reward everyone for their own individual contributions and hard work.

 

What can I earn with all my points?

 

Dojo points will be tallied up at the end of the year and you will unlock rewards. We will be announcing the rewards in the near future, so make sure you stay tuned to Spark Ideas to find out!

 

What is an Avatar?

 

An Avatar is a little creature that represents you in the world of Class Dojo. This creature can be any creature that available at the time. You will soon have over 70 characters to choose from and there are more being added all of the time!

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Happy ‘Dojo-ing’!

Welcome Back to Spark

Now we’re a few weeks into our Autumn term, I think it’s time for an official welcome…

Welcome back to Spark Academy and to the exciting launch of our brand-new blog! Run by me, Rebecca, Spark Ideas is your weekly look into our inner workings. Moreover, it’s a chance for you to pick up useful tips, learn more about what’s happening at Spark every week and get to know our whole team. Everyone will have chance to take their turn behind the wheel.

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What can you expect from Spark this year?

 

Well, things are starting to look a little different here, with our new website and blog and the fantastic renovations underway at our Belgrave branch. Underneath the shiny new surface we’re still working just as hard to provide you with the best tuition service possible.

Since we came back from summer, our team has been bunkered down at Manor High School each day. It’s fantastic to build more on our relationship with Manor. In fact, you can even find us this week at Manor’s open evening on Thursday 21st.

Has the team changed at all?

 

Yes – our team has been getting bigger! We’ve been enjoying getting to know our new members of staff and introducing them to all things Spark. Gemma, Charlotte, Katherine and Vikz have all brought their own unique styles, skills and personality to Spark. They’re also working to further enrich our lessons, captivate our classes and develop our students to their full potential. By now all of our new teachers are settling in well and are enjoying teaching classes at Spark!

Have a look at our staff page to learn more about our fantastic team: https://spark-academy.co.uk/our-team/

Our growing team will also mean we can work on more exciting projects and build on the already strong relationships we have developed with schools in Leicester. This year is all about growing: growing Spark, growing the team and growing you! We’re diving straight in to what we enjoy most – providing interactive, individualised lessons for our classes, in both existing and new subjects.

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In English Charlotte and I are making strides to plan new and interactive lessons for both our primary and secondary Sparkies. We want to share our passion and to show the impact of literacy in the ‘real world’. Nic is welcoming the addition of A-level Physics and new Creative Science Investigations for Year 7 and 8. CSI promises a fun and practical approach to ‘outside of the box’ science in real life. The Maths Department is growing rapidly to welcome more staff and more classes; Chris is thrilled to be providing tuition in Mechanics and Statistics alongside his Core A-Level Maths lessons.

The best part is – this is only the beginning! This year Spark is going to be bigger and better than ever before. Importantly for you, at Spark Ideas I’ll make sure that you’re with us every step of the way.