6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

Children cooking

Don’t let lockdown prevent your family from having fun this festive season – see 6 fun activities to try!            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We consider lockdown- friendly ways to keep the whole family entertained this festive season.

6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

The festive season is finally upon us! For some families, that could mean up to 10 days holiday this year, but with the coronavirus pandemic still causing real devastation across the country, many of the activities families share together are going to look a little different from how we would have preferred them to be.

Coming together while staying apart

All is not lost, however. There is a variety of things you can do at home (and even outside) with your kids that will keep them entertained as well as keep them safe.

 Before we jump straight into the list, these activities will be suitable to do with your family when there isn’t a global pandemic happening, but with a few tweaks, they will be perfectly COVID secure.

To keep your fun safe this festive season, remember to:

With that in mind, here’s our list of six family-friendly activities you can do with your crew over the festive period.

1. Family talent show

Who doesn’t love a talent show? Kids love to show off, especially with relatives they may not have seen for a while. With this activity, you can keep it small and have a talent show in your little household, or you could organise an even bigger show by utilising video chat with your extended family.

 It might take a bit of planning, but let the kids know they will be “on TV” and organise with the adults that each household will be on video chat to watch each other’s performances.

 If you haven’t got time to organise something with lots of you together, why not try to make sure at least the grandparents can make it by setting up a video chat? Software like Zoom is free to use for up to 40 minutes, or there is Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout. If you’re on a mobile device, you can have video chats using WhatsApp too.

How about making some fun puppet fish for the show?

2. Scavenger hunt outside

The weather over most of the UK this year isn’t looking too bad, and in all tiers, you and your family are allowed to leave your house for some exercise, which is a great way to burn off energy with active kids!

Take a scavenger hunt printout with you and get them involved in ticking off things that they see. This is an excellent opportunity to teach kids about nature, even in the midst of winter. Just be sure not to pick anything up and stay 2m away from any other families you may see on your walk.

map for a treasure hunt
Hunting for treasure can provide lots of family fun!

3. Make A Time Capsule

You may be thinking that you don’t want to remember 2020 at all, but if you’re a history fan, you will know that a year such as 2020 will be a year that historians will refer back to time and time again.

For this reason, building a time capsule for your family could be a lovely and quiet activity to wind down with. Fill it with things like a diary of what you did over Christmas, things you remember from 2020, handprints, paintings, and even photos if you can print them out.

 You don’t have to bury a time capsule; you can leave it in your loft or under a bed if that’s easier.

4. Online games with relatives

Did you know there are many free online versions of classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble you can play with relatives who are not in your household?

Of course, there are game consoles that let you play with others, but other games like chess.com are simple and very family-friendly, and they’re a great way to connect with friends and family across the country without needing to be in the same room.

Mother and son with online learning
Connecting with grandparents through an online game is great family fun!

5. Family filming time

Another great activity to play with kids is to set up a family film. This doesn’t mean hunkering down in front of the TV with a movie. This means getting the camera out and starring in your own movie!

This is an exciting activity for kids as it gets their creative minds flowing with ideas for characters and scenes, and even older children can get involved with shooting and editing the film (almost everyone has a smartphone that can shoot video these days).

There are plenty of free apps that will help you edit your film together. Once you’re done, you can upload it to YouTube (unlisted if you are concerned about privacy issues) to share the link with your extended family and give them a good laugh this holiday season!

6. Get creative in the kitchen

Our last activity suggestion is a bit more traditional – getting kids back in the kitchen and enjoying cooking over the festive season.

Teaching children (and teenagers) how to cook is one of the most valuable lessons you can pass onto them as a parent, and it’s great fun, too.

Take this opportunity to try out some more challenging recipes, like bread or cake decorating, and use it as a trial run. Once they get better at the recipes and the pandemic has subsided, they’ll be able to cook for relatives or make sweet treats for family and friends when we’re allowed to celebrate together again. 

Children cooking
Cooking with the family can be loads of fun!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

While these activities are likely to provide a welcome distraction and a little light relief, it’s important to keep talking to your kids and keep them in the loop with an age-appropriate conversation about what’s happening.

What has been your experience as a parent keeping your children entertained during lockdown? 

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page.


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5 ways to ease anxiety in your child in 2020

Mother and son with online learning

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.                                     

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.

5 ways to help ease anxiety in your child in 2020

It’s no secret that this year has raised anxiety levels for parents and children alike. The uncertainty around schooling under COVID-19 has been challenging. This has meant different methods of learning
as well as social behaviour. For children with special educational needs, change can be especially hard to navigate. We explore five different ways to ease or reduce anxiety for your child.

1. Talk about it (and keep talking about it)

If your child is prone to anxiety or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, try to talk to them about it.  Remind them that the ‘new normal’ is not the way things will be forever. Discuss fun memories they’ve had socialising at school before COVID-19 and share little stories you have of them and their friends. This can ignite pleasant memories and remind your child of how fun it can be to interact with others. Older children will have different needs but communication with them is still vital.

2. Alert the teacher

You may also consider contacting your child’s teacher and letting them know that your child is experiencing anxiety. This helps provide context for any unusual behaviour your child may present in the school setting. The teacher will also be better able to offer additional support and understanding to your child.  

3. Involve their friends

Additionally, encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends over video calls. When they’re little, think about setting up an online game for them to play together. That way they’ll be playing with their friends even if they aren’t in the same room. This goes a long way to making the transition from social distancing to physical socialising (and the resulting anxiety) less daunting.

Mother and son with online learning
Maintaining social contact when at home is much easier these days

4. Be mindful to stick to a predictable routine

Reinforcing stability is crucial to helping your child feel less overwhelmed. Routine can be useful in creating predictability and a sense of calm for them. Stick to regular hours for bedtime, recreation and other routine activities such as homework or study and meal times. Focus on healthy eating free from excess sugar or other stimulants.

5. Keep things positive

A positive mindset is powerful. Talk about the good things at school and within their friendship circles and how they’re taking the first small steps towards getting back to the life we all once enjoyed.  Sometimes there is unhelpful talk in the media which can affect children’s anxiety levels. For younger children, possibly consider turning off the TV when such conversations are taking place. Remind your child that home and family are a constant source of support and safety. Allow them to feel safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on you for stability and encouragement.

Help is available

Remind your child that trusted friends and other role models, such as teachers and tutors are also there for them to lean on.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help. Our tutors are aware of the effects of anxiety and how it can influence learning. We offer an obligation-free consultation which will assist in guiding you towards the ideal tutor for your child in terms of personality and educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with anxiety? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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Lessons learned during lockdown

parental support and presence

We look at how lockdown has impacted our lives and the important lessons learned during this time.            

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Bright Heart

How many of these lessons learned under lockdown can you relate to?

Lessons learned under lockdown

As parents, our hearts’ desire is to see our children reach their potential and perform at their best. This could be on the sports field, in artistic pursuits or in the classroom.

Lockdown added extra stress to many of our lives by placing the burden of our children’s education squarely on our shoulders via homeschooling. For some, that meant tears, tantrums and unforeseen pressure.

In this blog, we highlight 5 key lessons learned during lockdown.

1. Emotional well-being before academic performance

One of the main lessons learned during lockdown was the importance of supporting our children emotionally. This meant putting an emphasis on their well-being before fretting over their academic progress.  Sometimes a hug and a few words of reassurance at the right time can spare tears over a looming assignment and keep things running smoothly. 

Don’t be shy to step back for a moment and take a break with your child. This creates room for connection before returning to school-related tasks.

Physical and emotional reassurance may be the best academic support you can give your child

2. The power of routine

It may have been challenging for you to manage work responsibilities, household chores and the needs of your family and children. Especially when still finding time for essential exercise. We heard the collective cries of ‘What day is it?’ on more than one occasion.

Whilst in the throes of chaos, there is a lot to be said for creating and maintaining routine. Daily meals at regular times, regular bed times, daily exercise and daily work / schoolwork during set times help to keep the family ship on a steady course.

Reinforce stability through the power of maintaining routine

3. There is no shame in asking for help

Lockdown has been a source of stress. It has negatively impacted on the mental health of adults and children in the UK and globally. Some reports have cited up to 65 per cent of children struggling with boredom and feelings of isolation during lockdown .

For you and your children, looking after your mental health is imperative. There is no shame in asking for help. A number of not-for-profit organisations have made their services and additional COVID-19 resources available (see our blog post on Your child’s mental health during times of stress).

parental support and presence
Don't hesitate to get help for yourself or child should you feel it's needed

4. Managing disappointment

Whether we have had to cancel travel plans, or had exciting events such as birthday parties, weddings or concerts postponed or shifted online, we have all needed to come to terms with disappointment. This can be especially challenging for children and teenagers. Parents can intervene, however, to help them handle disappointment in a positive manner.

Teach them that there are almost always alternatives available, if they are only prepared to look for them with an open mind.  Also, a postponed holiday or event is something that can be looked forward to.

Dealing with disappointment can be a catalyst for developing resilience

5. Being present is enough

Parents are the most important people in a child’s life. No matter what the circumstances, as long as a parent is nearby, a child feels safe.  A child doesn’t really need you to play with her / him all the time. Instead, they value you being around for them to feel secure.

Our children don’t really need lots of toys to be happy. Simpler activities are still entertaining. For example, try gardening, hopscotch or skipping with a rope, board games, cooking or other household chores. Remember, your presence is what your children crave and need most.

Give your child your undivided attention and even mundane chores have value for them.

Any advice or tips you could offer others to learn from? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions.


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Your child’s mental health during times of stress

boy with anxiety

We bring attention to some warning signs relating to mental health. This is particular important at this time.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In time of stress, mental health is increasingly important. We consider some warning signs.

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

According to The Guardian, fewer young people are receiving help with mental health issues. This is despite levels of anxiety and depression having risen sharply in the under 18 age group. 

Reasons include mental health services being suspended or restricted and a lack of in-person engagement. The closure of schools – a first point of referral for distressed children – has certainly not helped.  

an unhappy girl doing homework
Learning and engagement is strongly affected by one's mental and emotional state.

Lockdowns have negatively impacted many children

Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65 per cent of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.”  

Reliefweb International, 7 May 2020

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home.”

Emma Thomas of YoungMinds, a leading UK not-for-profit championing mental health for young people

boy with anxiety
We all have times when we need to talk to someone. This is especially true for children.

The impact of COVID-19 on children's mental health

While it has been a challenging time for parents, children have felt the effects of social distancing and isolation with far-reaching effects. The British Psychological Society, together with more than thirty other organisations, have written an open letter to the Government. This letter was urging them to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

What should parents consider for their child's mental health?

Previously, we covered the importance of planning an active day in our homeschooling tips for parents and the importance of physical activity. Eating regular meals, getting sufficient sleep and limiting screen time go together with this.

Good mental health is a much-needed foundation for learning.

However, you may find your children require additional support.  

Some warning signs to be aware of in your child’s behaviour that could indicate impaired mental health can be remembered by using the acronym MASK:

M – Mood

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.

A – Actions

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, over- or under-eating or self-harm.

S – Social

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or loss of interest and motivation with schoolwork are common warning signs.

K - Keep talking

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

Please note that these symptoms are by no means diagnostic in nature. Professional advice is always preferable, especially if you have any doubt as to what may be causing the change in your child’s behaviour.

Attention and active listening go a long way in making sure your child does not slip under the radar.

Where can I get extra help for my child's mental health?

Fortunately, there is plenty of help at hand and we recommend reaching out to the team at YoungMinds where you will find many resources and professional support available.

Other sources of support include:

The NSPCC and the Mental Health Foundation.

We are also here to help with any learning issues relating to anxiety and social and emotional mental health. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experienced directors to discuss your needs. We offer a free consultation and a free trial lesson to help build rapport.


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The importance of physical activity during lockdown

boy gardening with his father

Keeping moving is important at this time, for children and parents, for mind and body. Several activities are suggested.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Exercise is important during this time. Here we look at some helpful activities for children and families

Physical activities for children during lockdown

The day-to-day realities of living in lockdown with your family are not easy. For many parents, the homeschooling, the constant entertaining and attempts at keeping the peace while you are also working from home can leave you feeling frustrated; this “new normal” can be challenging for the child and the parent.

It is therefore imperative to find activities to keep the whole family active and healthy.

Physical activity is paramount; at present we are all too aware of our health and maintaining or improving our physical well-being as a means of strengthening immunity. You only have to watch TV, look online or talk to someone to see the importance of being active – for example, Joe Wicks’ daily workouts , Captain Tom’s gallant walking triumph or even the government’s daily exercise guidance .

Here are some suggestions to help you and your children get more active, creative and fitter:

5 activities to keep the family moving

  1. A family that downward dogs together, stays together

Yoga is the perfect activity for everyone. With a plethora of online kids’ yoga and live Zoom classes to join, you and your children can strengthen your bodies and practice mindfulness together. The blend of flowing sequences and meditative, breathing exercises provides your child with skills to enhance their coordination and balance. It improves core strength and helps connect with their emotions through each backbend, sun salutation and twist.

Have a look here for some online kids’ yoga.

yoga with your children
Yoga is a form of exercise that integrates mind and body.
  1. Dance, baby dance!

Bust through the boredom with a dance party. The blessing of being locked down in 2020 is the wonderful technology at our fingertips. From FaceTime to Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp, there are plenty of available online organised dance parties for children of all ages, perfect for a little social interaction with other children, while listening to music and dancing around the living room; high energy for the kids and low effort for the parents! If a dance party with strangers is not your thing, why not arrange a virtual dance party for the kids with their cousins, friends or relatives so you can catch up while they attempt The Floss.

Children dancing for exercise
Dancing will always bring smiles to children, while keeping them moving.
  1. Treasure hunts

This is a great one for those parents that want to get creative and get the kids running around the garden or house. This can be as easy or complicated as you like and can last as long as you choose, meaning the kids are staying active and alert while being fully engaged. Hide anywhere from 10 – 20 gifts, clues or items around the house and watch their inner Miss Marple solve away. This one is great for a physical and mental workout.

map for a treasure hunt
Create your own map and let your children find the treasure!
  1. The Joe Wicks effect

Getting the kids involved in national or global events like daily aerobic classes can be hugely inclusive and great for them to discuss with friends who are also participating. The skilfully choreographed moves are designed to be a perfect PE alternative during this period, which can be enjoyed as a family or just for the children while you do a bit of work from home yourself.

Joe Wicks PE classes for children
Morning PE for kids has proved popular in the UK (Source: thebodycoach.com)
  1. Gardening

Few activities are as rewarding and active as gardening. Don’t worry about how big the garden is, as there are many ways gardening can work for you, from window boxes or small patches to larger areas. For children and adults, sowing seeds, watering, digging and planting are perfect for keeping them active and getting them interested in nature and the environment. In fact, while they are at it, why not get the gloves on them and get some weeding done too? Before you know it, the garden will be looking beautiful, the kids will be exhausted and you may even get some delicious fresh vegetables for dinner.

boy gardening with his father
Gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding physical activity.

Whatever activities you decide to do as a family, you don’t want to squander away this time at home.

Before the lockdown is over and we start living our new version of post-pandemic life, it is crucial to ask ourselves, “what did I/we do during this unprecedented time?”

The answer, “we survived, we grew, we became stronger, fitter and more connected”.

What has been your experience of exercise during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read more about the positive effects of exercise in a guest blog by one of our tutors: learning through sport. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you also may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

FB Live with John Salmon, Bright Heart director

Bright Heart director John Salmon, M.Ed., answers pertinent questions live on Facebook about homeschooling during lockdown.        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, addressed parent’s typical homeschooling concerns due to lockdown.

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

We recently held a Facebook Live Q & A to address parent’s questions about homeschooling during lockdown.  This was hosted by Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, our social media manager, with questions answered by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A about homeschooling.

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read about the experiences of a Bright Heart student, parent and tutor in a recent blog here.

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Personal stories of homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown

Online teaching during lockdown

Unique educational perspectives are shared from a student, parent and tutor during the current lockdown.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this next instalment we look at some of the personal experiences of homeschooling from those affected by lockdown.

Personal stories about homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown

In light of these challenging circumstances, we reached out to the Bright Heart community for their perspectives on homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown. Thank you for all your insightful comments and questions.

Special thanks to Tom (student), Steven (parent) and Angela (tutor) for sharing their experiences with us and agreeing to have them published.

Tom (student, aged 10)

Let’s start with one of our most enthusiastic and brilliant young minds, Tom. He has fully embraced online tutoring during the last month and a half.  It has been such a pleasure to see how much Tom has progressed during the last year. It has been especially rewarding to know that he has been able to keep the good work up during lockdown, despite all the added challenges.

I have been having lessons with John for about a year now.  I have a lot of ideas, but sometimes I have trouble organising them. John really helps me with planning my writing and putting it down on paper. I was a bit nervous about having a tutor at the beginning, but I have not regretted it since, as it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience! 

The transition from face to face sessions to online has been very smooth and I feel like I am learning just as much as before. I still look forward to every session and it is one of the highlights of my week. I would definitely recommend Bright Heart Tutors.

Online teaching during lockdown
Online learning has been an enjoyable experience for some students during lockdown

Steven (parent of a Y7 boy)

One of our Bright Heart parents, Steven, wrote to us to share some of his family’s experiences with homeschooling. In his detailed account, he talks about the inadequate use of technology by the school and the anxiety that the mounting workloads and lack of in-person instruction has caused his son during lockdown. It is worth noting that teachers also feel overwhelmed and unprepared these days, despite having technological tools at their disposal, as no one could foresee the scale and complexities of the current situation. Steven decided to use our online tutoring service to help his son overcome his anxiety and guide him with his work on a daily basis.

My son’s school has decided to use Microsoft Teams as its remote learning platform. There were a few technical issues, which are understandable, but I’m not impressed with the way the school has organised these lessons, as the school has decided to host lessons to all or nearly all students at once per subject.

My child is in year 7, so we’re talking multiple classes in the same year group, or basically 100+ children per subject. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue in older year groups such as GCSE or A Levels since the myriad subject choices students could choose at this level means that each subject naturally would contain less children, but this presents a problem for younger ones. To keep things in some semblance of order, children are asked to mute their audio and keep their video off. Their only outlet for questions is via the text chat function. This results in either too many questions at once, overwhelming the teacher’s ability to teach and answer them at the same time, or where the teacher is presenting and not looking at the chat completely, a torrent of irrelevant chat and GIFs; hardly surprising since the children are only 12 years old and there’s potentially 100 of them in the same lesson.

In terms of presentation, a Maths lesson I observed had the teacher talking and demonstrating by using a camera pointed down at a desk whiteboard. This hints at teachers not being provided with the right equipment. A tablet computer or separate tablet device (with or without screen) is what they should be using. Perhaps this is part of the teething issues and will be resolved at a later date as the school gains more experience from this approach to learning.

Recently I also saw a pre-recorded lesson. It looked more professional, as the teacher had clearly taken the time to create the presentation deck and voice over during the lesson. However, this is not ideal as it wasn’t live.

The biggest issues I see with the above approach that need to be considered and rectified by the school are:

My child’s school remote learning implementation is not the greatest. Large class sizes, almost no ability for interaction or questions, no record of the class post lesson, results in an inferior learning experience. I think the school should lower class sizes by having more teachers present, thus allowing more interaction. It should make recordings available to the students afterward, provide more training and better equipment to teachers.  

Hopefully as the school gains experience and more teachers become available to teach, some of these issues will start to diminish or even disappear. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later. But from my observation, remote learning as implemented by my child’s school is little better than my child teaching himself. Only the fact that the classes are at set times and timetabled give any sort of advantage to this approach.

My son has learning difficulties and he was feeling overwhelmed and anxious with the technical issues, impossible workloads and lack of communication with his teachers.  He is in constant need of support and encouragement and I therefore sought the help of Bright Heart to increase the number of tutoring sessions through their online platform. Having that 1:1 support proved to be invaluable for my son, who is now successfully coping with all the challenges which seemed insurmountable to him not too long ago.”    

Online tutoring
Learning online has presented unique challenges for students, teachers, parents and tutors during lockdown

Angela (Bright Heart tutor)

Finally, one of our tutors, Angela, who made the transition from in-person to online tutoring relates her experience below, which has been educational for both her and her students.

Working as an online tutor during lockdown has generally been very positive. 

I am currently 9 months pregnant so it has been a great way to continue supporting the students while not having to navigate the tube at rush hour! Overall, it has been remarkable to see how some of the children have adapted to and have enjoyed using the technology. I have seen them engage in novel ways with the material and some have demonstrated more agency in their learning. Having a screen in front of them, at a set time has also, somewhat surprisingly, been a good medium for those students who struggle to focus. 

My students have benefitted from the consistency of maintaining weekly tuition and it has definitely given them confidence in using new skills. It has also brought about new skills for me, for example, forcing me to be more concise in my instruction and explanation. Overall, I believe that going forward, it is an excellent option for students and tutors alike.”

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to see how we can help. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor.

We also held a Facebook Live Q & A where we answered some common questions from parents at this time.

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


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Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

student learning online with tutor

In part 3 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors discusses online tutoring and provides some tips.                

John Salmon director

In part 3, I provide some details on online tuition and provide tips for using an online tutor

Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

In this third blog in a 3-part series to help parents during lockdown, I discuss online tutoring. Online tuition has experienced a massive surge in popularity due to lockdown.

With the growth of technology and the desire for education in the home, online tutoring had already been experiencing increasing adoption before coronavirus (COVID-19).     

Online tutoring platforms have been improving, as they allow for interactive teaching and learning, as well as effective evaluation, in real time. Online tutoring also presents opportunities for students who live in areas that are hard to access, where there are not many tutors. For tutors, online tutoring is much more efficient than navigating the city’s public transport or driving at rush hour.

While in-person tuition is often the preferred option for parents, there are some students who find in-person social interaction awkward and who may feel more comfortable online. There are also many students who enjoy technology and find this method of learning exciting. However, for some students with special educational needs (SEN) who require kinaesthetic learning, meeting their needs online will not be as attainable. Building rapport, which is an important part of tutoring, is a bit more challenging online. Some parents are also happier once they’ve met the tutor in person before online lessons commence.

Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of online tutoring and some general tips for parents.

student learning online with tutor
Online tuition has certain strengths and weaknesses

What are some advantages of online tutoring?

What are some disadvantages of online tutoring?

Parents should take precautions to make sure they are happy with the online tutor for their child.

6 tips for parents using a private online tutor

  1. Use an agency that follows strict protocols when screening and interviewing tutors and conducting background checks (Enhanced DBS) and reference checks. Although the tutor is not physically present in the home, using a carefully vetted tutor that the agency knows personally is very important.
  1. Check that the tutoring agency or tutor is using a suitable platform for tuition. This would be one that allows video, audio, file sharing and online whiteboard options. The latter is important when evaluating written content in real time. The ability to share pictures related to the topic (e.g. volcanoes for Geography) is also helpful to maintain interest.
  1. Preferably meet them in person beforehand; however, if this is not possible, set up an online mini interview before the lesson to get a sense of their approach, personality and experience.
  1. Prior to the first lesson, allow some time to set up the technology and to gain some familiarity with it. Children are naturals with technology, but some applications are more intuitive than others.
  1. Make sure the topic is chosen prior to the lesson. Extra preparation is needed for online tuition and this will be much appreciated by the tutor.
  1. Carefully review the first online lesson to make sure that you are comfortable with the tutor and that your child and the tutor have established the necessary rapport. A good tutoring agency will also provide a lesson report following the session and some agencies, such as Bright Heart, even offer a free trial to make sure you are completely satisfied before continuing.   
Gardening during lockdown has shown a large increase in popularity

What can we do to help you during lockdown?

This lockdown period will be a challenge for everyone. But with every challenge there is an opportunity – with a little thought and planning this period can be productive and a time of family connection and reflection. We hope that you keep healthy with your family and make the most of the next months. We also hope you have found this 3-part blog series helpful – see Part 1 and Part 2.

My fellow Bright Heart directors and I are here to help at this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether it is simply to ask a question about the blog series or to discuss how one of our experienced, caring tutors could be the right choice to help your child, we are always happy to hear from parents.

Please share our blogs with other parents if you think they could be helpful. We would also love you to share your own experiences and tips with us through our Facebook page.


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Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown

GCSE and A Level exams cancelled

In part 2 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors provides answers to some common questions.    

John Salmon director

In part 2 of this blog series I address common questions students and parents have at this time.

Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown

The unprecedented actions of the government have left parents with many unanswered questions. In this, the second blog in a 3-part series, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK.

We attempt to provide guidance on some of these questions below and seek to address concerns where possible. This is based on current government guidance about lockdown / COVID-19, although it should be noted that things may change at short notice. If anything is unclear, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors.

Can I still get tutoring for my child when the UK is effectively in lockdown?

Lockdown does not mean that schools have ceased to provide education to our children, as assignments are still pouring in and deadlines have to be met. Students no longer have the benefit of direct contact with teachers or peers, however.  Thus, many parents are seeking tutoring to help their families with the added pressure while still respecting the government orders of social distancing.  

Parents have a right to get some help for their children, with many tuition agencies now offering online tutoring. Some tuition agencies are still able to offer in-person tuition in limited circumstances.  Face-to-face lessons are approved by the government for students who are considered vulnerable, in situations where online tuition is not a viable option.

In this regard, the Department for Education classify the following children as vulnerable:

“Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Children who have a social worker include children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority. We will work with schools, early years, FE providers and local authorities to help identify the children who most need support at this time.”

Read more information about vulnerable children here.

Read more information about the closure of schools here.

How do I keep my child busy and still manage to work from home during lockdown?

We are sensitive to the challenges that are being faced by many parents who are trying to juggle work at home and helping children learn at the same time. To help you cope with these challenges, we have gathered a number of recommended activities and resources that address both the academic and emotional/social needs of your children, including our own top 10 recommendations, found in the first blog of this series. We have also written earlier about some fun activities for children here.

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an over-controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

Taking some time for a break in Nature can do much to alleviate stress.

Should I give my child an extended break, now that their GCSE or A level exams have been cancelled?

This period of lockdown and school closures will have a substantial impact on children’s education, as stated by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Chris Whitty. While many children will celebrate this break from school and welcome respite from the anxiety of preparing for exams, the required levels of education needed for Key Stages 1 to 5 and university (Further Education), will not be changing. Parents therefore need to carefully consider the impact this 3-month period (potentially 6 months until September) will have on their children’s education.

Results will be given by the end of July, based on prior attainment such as mock exams, non-exam assessments and other criteria.  However, if students deem their grades unsatisfactory or not a true reflection of their proficiency, they may appeal and take an exam during the next academic year.  

The lockdown period may lead to a highly detrimental period of inactivity.  Keeping your children busy is crucial if they wish to retain their competitive advantage when they go back to school.

We encourage students to use this time wisely, for example, by focussing on core subjects such as Maths and English, as well as areas of improvement that are important for their future studies and / or career paths.

GCSE and A Level exams cancelled
Students and teachers will need to consider what will be the most effective path with exams being cancelled

Will a GCSE student struggle at A level in the same subject?

Most schools are in revision mode for their GCSE syllabi by the time they reach February. This means students should have covered the required material; however, the level of testing of their knowledge will only be based on internal tests and mock exams. Students and teachers use the latter to get an indication of their readiness and to see where further revision is required. This means the usually intense revision and focus, as well as the opportunity to iron out any conceptual gaps, will be left out for this cohort of students. To miss this period will put students at a disadvantage and it remains to be seen how this is accommodated at the start of A levels.

What does it mean for Y10 GCSE students?

Year 10 students cover important material from February to June (or July) so there will be a substantial impact on their education. It is likely that schools and teachers will consider this in September (Year 11) to help them catch up. However, doing no schoolwork for possibly 6 months will affect retention and practice of concepts. Work potentially provided by schools for homeschooling over this period will also need oversight by parents and / or a tutor. We would recommend that parents take a proactive approach during this time to ensure their children maintain their level of education – see our blog covering 7 homeschooling tips. Another avenue of support is through online tuition  – see more about this in part 3 of our blog series.

It is important to maintain learning and revision during the lockdown period
It is important to maintain learning and revision during the lockdown period

What will happen regarding GCSE and A level exam marks?

GCSE, A level and AS level students will be awarded a grade by Ofqual which reflects their current school performance. There will be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who are not happy with this awarded grade. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

To effect this, teachers will consider a range of evidence and data, including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessments – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.

The plan is to provide these calculated grades to students by the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be no different from those provided in other years. The distribution of grades will follow a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face an inherent disadvantage due to the current circumstances.

For some students, producing extra course material and assignments will be better than facing the anxiety of exams. However, some schools have already started planning for a mock exam in the summer term (should schools reopen) to provide further evidence of their students’ grades. Click here for more details about grading policies.

What will happen with International Baccalaureate exams?

IB exams will be cancelled for the first time in their history. Assessment scores will be considered, using predictive analytics tools and engaging the 15,000 examiners. The IB intends to release results as planned on 5 July. All student coursework and associated predicted grades will need to be uploaded by 20 April, if not sooner, in order to guarantee delivery of results by 5 July.

For further details regarding International Baccalaureate exams please click here.

International Baccalaureate

My child is not interested in doing Maths or Science for A levels – is there still a need to get to grips with the rest of the GCSE curriculum, now that a guaranteed grade is being offered?

Most schools would have covered the GCSE curriculum, so they should not be covering any new content by February of this academic year. However, students who know already that they would like to do a numerical or scientific related discipline at university should take stock of any concepts that they did find tricky. This may mean doing some revision during the lockdown period. For many students who did not enjoy these subjects, this will be a welcome relief. 

exam revision
Students will need to take stock of possible gaps and how this could affect their education journey.

Is there any news from universities?

University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education. In general, the government’s stance is to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.

However, we do advise those students who have chosen their university course to examine the module requirements if they did not complete their A level syllabus in the associated discipline.

Cambridge University
Cambridge University is working to better understand the effects of exam cancellations on new applicants.

Should I still be sending my child with an EHC Plan to school during this period?

Children with education, health and care (EHC) plans, along with those who have a social worker, are classed as vulnerable (up to the age of 25).

Those with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with the local authority (LA) and parents. This is to determine whether they need to continue to be offered a school or college place to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home.

Where parents are concerned about the risk of their child contracting COVID-19, the school or social worker should talk through these anxieties with the parent, following the advice set out by Public Health England.

Local authorities will work with trusts and education settings to ensure that settings are kept open, but in some cases this will not be possible. Local authorities and education settings will make the most appropriate arrangements and talk to parents about this. It may not always be possible for children to attend their usual setting in order to ensure that children and staff are kept safe.

How many hours a day should my child devote to academic activities until he or she goes back to school?

We are the first to recognise that each child has a unique learning style and will therefore devote a different number of hours to any given task.  There are, however, some general guidelines that can be followed, based on my own experience and various other experts:  

2-3 hours a day for EYFS and Key Stage 1

3-4 hours a day for Key Stages 2 and 3

5-8 hours a day for Key Stages 4 and 5

homeschooled boy
Homeschooling can be more effective than school contact time with the right support.

When do schools go back?

The short answer is that no clear date has been set and predicting one would be pure speculation on my part.

There was speculation in the Sunday Times (19 April) that senior ministers had drawn up a three-phase plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown that would see schools reopen as early as May 11. It was suggested that the first pupils invited back would include primary school children and those in years 10 and 12 who are due to sit GCSEs and A levels next year. However, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, issued a statement shortly thereafter that he could not give a date for when schools will reopen.

The Department for Education (DfE) published a blog on 21 April addressing the question, entitled Schools reopening conditions. It explains that the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), sent a letter to the Secretary of State setting out five conditions to be met before schools should reopen – including social distancing guidelines, access to PPE /  employment protections for teachers and a recognition of the “depleted” teacher workforce.

The DfE has also reiterated its position in the blog about the matter:

“Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has not set a date for schools reopening.

They will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children until the scientific advice changes, and we have met the five tests set out by Government to beat this virus.

We will work in close consultation with the sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right so that parents, teachers and children have sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”

With regards to the five tests that need to be passed in order to avoid a second peak of COVID-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has summarised them in the following manner: ‘First, that the NHS can continue to cope, second, that the operational challenges can be met, third, that the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently, fourth, that the rate of infection is decreasing, and most importantly, that there is no risk of a second peak.’

Thus, reopening schools will be a slow and challenging process for all parties involved, under the principle that safety must come first.

What is Bright Heart doing to help during lockdown?

At Bright Heart, we have been closely monitoring developments with respect to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to keep our tutors, clients and students safe and well informed.

Our policy since early March has been to encourage the adoption of online tuition to ensure that our student’s one-to-one tuition is not disrupted during this period. We took the decision before Boris Johnson announced lockdown to require tutors to provide online tuition where possible and supported this adoption by offering clients a 10% discount for online tuition. The government does still permit in-person tuition where a student is described as vulnerable, for example, when a student has an EHC plan, but this is still only possible where the tutor is able to travel safely to the student’s home, and nobody in either the tutor’s or student’s household has any COVID-19 symptoms.

For those who are less familiar with online tuition, part 3 of this blog series discusses some of the pros and cons of online tuition and tips for parents using an online tutor.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

mother homeschooling her daughter

One of our directors, an experienced former head teacher, provides some homeschooling tips to help families during lockdown.                 

John Salmon director

In part 1 of this blog series I provide some helpful tips for parents to support their children learning at home

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson made a bombshell announcement in response to increasing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by placing the UK in lockdown on 23 March.

This followed the government’s earlier decision to close schools to most students and cancel GCSEs and A level exams. This has understandably created significant uncertainty for parents and children alike. Children are feeling pressure due to the uncertainty and parents are trying their best to help with all the schoolwork, while also trying to devise fun activities and still have time for their own working requirements.

With schools having been due to resume this week after Easter, we appreciate that many parents could do with some helpful tips and advice at this difficult time. As an experienced teacher, former head teacher, tutor and father, I have used my significant expertise to put together a 3-part blog series to help.

In this first blog, I provide tips and suggested activities and strategies for parents to support their children learning at home. I also provide a list of top resources (both academic and non-academic) that can be used during these difficult times.

In part 2, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK and explain how Bright Heart Education is helping in the circumstances.

In part 3, I outline the benefits of using online tuition to support students at this difficult time.

7 homeschooling tips for parents during lockdown

While parents cannot be expected to substitute trained teachers, they can offer support to their children learning at home by following some tips below. Parents should be careful not to put all the emphasis on academics.  As a matter of fact, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has pointed out that this is a good opportunity to spend quality time with your children: “Don’t put too much pressure on doing academic work.  Parents and carers aren’t teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.”

1. Plan your day

While providing extra attention for your children at home can be challenging, a little planning will go a long way. Each night, ensure your child has a plan for the following day. This should involve aiming to get up at roughly the same time every day, eating well, exercising and getting some much-needed fresh air. Creating a routine that is exactly like the one at school would be impractical, but it is possible to follow a similar structure, in the sense that you have one subject followed by another, with breaks in between.  This may be done through work provided by the school, your own supervision or by using a private tutor for online lessons (preferably) or face-to-face lessons (where possible) for students with special learning needs who are unable to concentrate online.   

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an overly controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

2. Maintain education

Maintaining learning during this period is important to keep concepts fresh and create a sense of satisfaction for children. This will also help their confidence when adjusting to the next year of education once they go back to school. A tutor can aid with any online schoolwork set by teachers and help bring it to life (virtual classrooms are unlikely to offer much 2-way interaction). Maintaining engagement is important and is a challenge when homeschooling.  For parents, online tutoring sessions can also be a period of time when their children are being kept busy and not seeking continuous entertainment.

Creating a dedicated workspace can help to avoid distractions and enhance children’s concentration.

mother homeschooling her daughter
A dedicated space for working in the home is best.

3. Keep them entertained

Aside from academics, it is important not to underestimate the power of play.  Infusing children’s life with play not only helps them to relax, but also ensures their well-being and healthy development. Research has highlighted its numerous benefits. These include increasing self-confidence associated with acquiring new skills, improving or maintaining physical and mental health, and stimulating imagination and creativity. Click on the link below to read about all benefits of child’s play:

-> Why play is important

Additionally, keeping your family entertained will help to keep everyone happy and allow parents the chance to focus on some of their own needs – whether work or some downtime.

For more ideas on how to keep your children entertained, please have a look at our blog 9 Nifty Activities for Children during Lockdown.

Moreover, engaging in games as an entire family is a perfect way to create fun, long-lasting memories and to promote family bonding. See the link below to discover some great board games to try:

-> The top ten board games of all time

Monopoly can entertain the family for hours and help keep children's Maths sharp!

4. Keep them active

Although it is undeniable that having to stay at home has led to a significant reduction of our daily activity, it is essential to maintain physical health for children and adults alike. According to Dr Sarahjane Belton, adults should aim to spend 30 minutes of “moderate to vigorous exercises” on a daily basis, whereas children need twice that time. In order to stay healthy and at the same time help your children expel their accumulated energy, use the allowed one form of exercise a day to go outside for a walk, jog or other type of physical activity, whilst still adhering to the social distancing measures. 

To find out more about how to keep children active during lockdown, read the article written by Dr Belton below: 

–> How to keep yourself and your kids active during the lockdown

Alternatively, stay active even indoors by dancing, skipping, doing exercises found on YouTube or other resources like GoNoodle (designed specifically for children), or stretching your muscles in a good old classic game of Twister. 

A daily walk in Nature does much to calm the mind and body.

5. Help them socialise

Whilst the lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties, it is paramount for children’s social development that they remain in touch with their peers. Try to organise a video call with your child’s friends or classmates by making use of numerous available platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp of Google Hangouts. However, even though it is likely that children and teenagers might spend increasingly more time using technology, certain rules regarding their screen time should nevertheless be applied. 

6. Make use of free resources on the internet to help

There is no shortage of resources available online. In fact, there are so many resources available that it can be hard to know where to start. To help parents, we have picked our own top 10 list of online resources (see further below). They will assist you in keeping your children engaged whilst they learn, including a couple of resources outlining creative and entertaining non-academic activities at the end of the list. 

7. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice when you need it

Homeschooling your children is not easy. Even experienced qualified teachers find it difficult to homeschool their own children. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For further insight into homeschooling, visit the biggest organisation of its kind in England, Education Otherwise.

Find more strategies and tips from the British Psychological Society below:

-> Coronavirus and UK schools closures:  support and advice for schools and parents/carers 

Alternatively, please get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors – whether you are looking for a homeschooling tutor or just need some friendly advice, we are more than happy to help.

Top 10 online resources for children learning at home

Twinkl teaching resources
Gojimo app for KS3 11+ 13+ GCSE A Levels
  1. BBC Bitesize started providing daily lessons for children of all ages on April 20.  They also have a dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts and educational videos.
  1. Seneca is a wonderful website for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A levels. 
  1. Gojimo is a mobile app for revision of GCSEs, A levels, IB, iGCSEs, Common Entrance and several international qualifications. 
  1. The National Literacy Trust provides an online zone for parents who are looking for a variety of activities for their children during school closures.
  1. Khan Academy is a free resource for parents, as well as young and older students, that offers free lessons in a wide range of subjects. Although it is US-based, there is plenty of content that overlaps with UK education.
  1. Twinkl offers thousands of worksheets and activities in Maths, English and Science to teachers, parents, and learners.
  1. Coolmath4kids.com is a great way to keep education entertaining. The website features lessons, quizzes and numerous games to teach children basic Maths.
  1. Hamilton Trust is a UK charity that provides an array of planning and learning resources in English, Maths, and Science for children up to Year 6.
  1. This article highlights 50 creative ideas to have fun with your children and make sure that they will never get bored during the lockdown.
  1. Another helpful article with 59 activities to do at the home to keep children entertained.

For even more help, the Department for Education has a wealth of online resources for home education.

Please see our Part 2 of this blog series: Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown where we provide answers to common queries.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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