Blog - Kip McGrath Education Centres
christmas toys

10 Educational Christmas toys

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We all know that Christmas is the time of giving and some toys give more than others. The gifts mentioned below have educational and problem solving benefits that to encourage your child’s learning whilst having fun with their new toys.

A child’s problem solving skills are put to the test when it comes to puzzles. You will see improvements in their fine motor development, hand and eye coordination and self esteem with every successful completion.

Stimulate your child’s imagination and increase their knowledge with books. It is well documented children who are read to everyday experience benefits to their vocabulary, focus, memory, concentration and literacy.

Card games (eg Snap)
Card games help children develop fine motor skills, increased social interaction and challenge children with increasingly complex strategies and levels of difficulty.

Board games (eg Snakes and Ladders)
Socially and mathematically board games are a winner. With number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting, letter recognition and reading as well as teaching patience, managing frustration and fair play.

Wooden blocks
We’ve all had them and with good reason. Timeless and indestructible (almost) wooden blocks encourage creativity and imagination , promote hand eye coordination and will grow with your child.

Science kits
Learning by experiment is essential for children and Science kits provide hands-on entertainment. Science kits can explain, in ways that kids will understand, a lot of the technology, gadgets and machinery that exists in modern life.

Construction set (eg Lego)
Aside from being ridiculously fun, Lego and more generally construction toys have additional development benefits for your child from problem solving to teaching kids to think three dimensionally and boosting motor development.

Painting set
From stress relief to fun and self esteem children who learn to paint are learning to think with an open mind . The benefits extend to self expression and critical thinking and making their own decisions about what to paint and what colours to use.

Lacing beads
There are many benefits to lacing beads including Fine Motor Skills , Visual Perceptual Skills and Cognitive Skills.

Magnetic letters and numbers
From the sensory stimulation, to sorting , word construction and teaching the alphabet (not to mention amused kids while you are cooking in the kitchen) Magnetic letters are a great stocking filler that will entertain and educate

GCSE Changes 2015 – What Parents Need to Know

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GCSE Changes 2015 – Why This is Happening

In September 2014 the government introduced the new National Curriculum in England and Wales. This has increased the difficulty of the curriculum and requires some skills which are to be introduced earlier in a child’s education. This is intended to increase the standards of education in the UK, resulting in more rigorous exams and is intended to assist our students to be more prepared for Higher Education and to improve the UKs PISA ranking.

PISA ( The Programme for International Student Assessment) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.  Currently the UK ranks 23rd on the World stage according to the PISA rankings published in 2013.  You can view the worldwide rankings here

What Will Change from September 2015 in the Teaching of GCSE English and Maths?

The government are keen to improve our PISA word rankings and have introduced a new curriculum to be taught from September 2015.

A72D6C Secondary Exams

GCSE Exam Students

Students who have already been introduced to the new curriculum are finding it a challenge to learn the extra skills they are required to learn, particularly in Maths.

Children in Year 3-5 and Years 7-9 have already been introduced to the new curriculum in Maths, English and Science. In September 2015 this will be extended to Year 2 and 6 children who will sit their end of Key Stage SATs under the new curriculum.

The National Curriculum Levels (1-8) have now been scrapped; it was felt by the government that these levels were not useful to parents or students. Schools are now required to develop their own tracking system which will consist of key objectives that should be achieved. Parents are likely to find reporting changed to below expected, at expected and above expected. This has already been implemented by schools and many end of Year reports will have been reported in this way.

Key Stage Two SATs Changes

In 2015 the Key Stage Two SATs will be reported for the first time as a standardised score rather than a level.
In September 2015 Year 10 students will study the new GCSE curriculum in Maths and English; Science will be revised for first teaching in September 2016.

There are a number of changes parents and students need to be aware of which can be read in full at  The video is very informative.  However, put simply:

It is expected that a Level 4 will be the equivalent of a low grade C and a Level 5 will be the equivalent of a high grade C or Low grade B.

  • Firstly the current grading system (A* to G) will be replaced with a new grading system (1-9).
  • Initially it will only be the Maths and English which will change so students sitting their GCSE exams in 2017 will receive grades using both systems

Further Changes

The tiered system will no longer be in place for English exams and the controlled assessment element will be abolished, meaning that students will gain their grade from 100% examinations. There will be changes in the texts the students are required to study with the introduction of 19th Century texts, the removal of media texts and the requirement for all students to study both Literature and Language exams. Speaking and Listening will be assessed separately.

In Maths there will be more focus on calculation and problem solving, the tiering system will remain.

What Parents Can Do To Prepare

GCSE Exam Student

Please ensure that your child is prepared for the changes. Many students do not engage in a sufficient amount or read texts of a high enough level, this will be even more important to ensure that students develop the analysis and vocabulary that they will need to succeed in the new exams. Maths skills need to be consolidated to ensure that the foundations are secure in order to ensure that the problem solving and functional skills questions can be tackled confidently.

If you are concerned please speak to your child’s class teacher, Head of year or seek further professional advice.

How Kip McGrath Education Centres Can Help

At our 200+ Kip McGrath Education Centres throughout the UK, our qualified teachers work with each student based on their individual strengths and weaknesses in the core subjects of English and maths and help them to achieve the best academic results possible.  Book a FREE, no obligation assessment with a teacher at your local Kip McGrath centre and find out how we can help your child succeed.


Thank you to Clare Powell who is a qualified teacher, dyslexia specialist and runs the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Scunthorpe tutoring Year 1 – 12 students.  You can contact Clare by visiting her website at or by calling 01724 853935

Southend tutors

Tuition in Southend – Spotlight on Kip McGrath Southend Education Centres

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Kip McGrath Southend Tutors – Who Are We?

I am Nicole O’Shea and I own two Kip McGrath Education Centres in Southend. The Southend East Tuition Centre is located at 217-219 Hamstel Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS2 4LB and my colleague, Jacky Kadur, manages the Southend West Tuition Centre which is located at 333 London Rd, Hadleigh, Essex SS7 2BT.

I am a qualified teacher, as are all my tutors at Kip McGrath Southend, giving parents peace of mind that your children will be taught by a suitably qualified, experienced and security checked tutor.

I have been part of Kip McGrath for 9 years and both centres have continued to grow as our reputation has spread. We now tutor over 300 students per week and were delighted to receive a platinum award at the recent Kip McGrath conference following our success.


Nicole with Kip McGrath himself!

A portion of these children are part of the Alternative Education Programme (secondary) from local schools. These students have been placed with us to study for their G.C.S.E’s in English, English Literature, Maths, Science, Geography and Psychology and are with us every day. Additionally, we support local primary schools with their pupil premium programme for Maths.

In the evening we operate as a regular Kip McGrath Centre offering tutoring for students aged between 4-16 years. We have also recently started face to face Online tutoring for students who are unable to attend the centre in person. Our most recent venture starting this summer is to work alongside our Virtual Head for Southend on Sea Borough Council. In addition, throughout the year we provide English and Maths workshops, Summer Schools and Mock 11+ Selection Tests… which are very popular in this part of the country as we still have Grammar Schools.

Kip McGrath Southend Gives Back

It’s not just all about taking, we like to give as well. At Kip McGrath Southend West we hold an annual Timed Table Competition, where Year 6 students from Hadleigh Junior School compete to see how many correct tables they can answer in one minute. As a prize each child is presented with a medal and the top two scores with a trophy each. We also donate prizes for their Summer Fair and sponsor one of their awards for perseverance. In both centres, students receive medals for achievement every term; bronze medal for 500-999 kip points, a silver for 1000-1999 kip points and a much revered gold medal for 2000+ kip points.

Overall here in Southend Kip McGrath is becoming the only brand for supplementary education as students can only benefit when they are taught by fully-qualified teachers using professional materials.

“Thank you for helping Leslie reach his full potential.  The staff at KMEC Southend East put the smiles back on children’s faces! With your help you have put the excitement back into their education.  With your help you didn’t just boost their education, you changed their lives.  Thank you all.”  Mrs A.

Contact Us

If you would like to book a FREE educational assessment or ask us a question, please contact Nicole on 01702 615838 or email or

You can also connect with Kip McGrath Southend on Facebook here.


How To Teach Halving Shapes and Numbers to Children

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Before teaching a child to halve a number, make sure that they can halve a shape. Most children find it easy to halve a shape and don’t realise that halving means the same as splitting into 2 equal parts. So before teaching your child how to halve a number, please make sure that they have understood the following common misconceptions:

1. When you half a shape, you must make sure that it is split in the middle. This teaches the child that halving must be fair and that both halves must look the same.
2. There is more than one way to half a shape. Ask your child to halve a rectangle or square in as many ways as possible. This should include diagonally as well.
3. Draw and inaccurately half some shapes so that some are split unequally, some are split into three or more pieces. then ask your child to find out if they have been halved.


There are many ways to explain the term of “half of”; sharing equally between 2 people, counting in 2’s, dividing by 2, opposite of doubling and splitting down the middle.

How to teach halves to children

Therefore, there are a variety of ways of teaching halving. Choose a method that your child finds easy, and stick to it. Once they are confident with that method, try to teach a different way of halving.

I always start off teaching a child how to share equally. I usually use counters and draw 2 smiley faces on a whiteboard or piece of paper representing me and the child. The child has to share the counters between the smiley faces. Sometimes you have to teach a child “one for you, one for me” and once they have learnt this they find it quite easy. Make sure that once all the counters have been shared between the 2 smiley faces, that they have been shared equally. the child needs to check every time. “How many do you have and how many do I have” seems to work well. What if the counters have not been shared equally? The child can repeat again or if they have caught on, they will be able to move some counters around to make the distribution fair. I use this method for up to 24 counters.

For numbers larger than 24, using counters can be time-consuming and often ends up with the child miscounting. By now the child should know half of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 without working them out. So I break down larger numbers into manageable chunks, and then ask the child to share equally between 2 smiley faces.
Example 1: Draw 2 smiley faces. Half of 30 = 10+10+10 Draw three 10’s in circles at the side as in diagram below.


Then share as in the diagram below, the smiley faces will get 10 each and then, there will be 10 left which will have to be split into 5’s. So each person gets 15.


The same method can be used for bigger numbers and it’s easy and simple.
half of 34 = 10+10+10+4
half of 50 = 10+10+10+10+10
Do try this with your children and let me know if it works.

About the Author of this Article

Dr. Samina Rashid owns and has run the Kip McGrath Luton South Education Centre  since 2004 and has kindly given us permission to share her article which was previously published on her own blogsite

Samina has been a qualified teacher for 20 years and is well known in the Luton area as being a specialist in teaching and education.  She also runs her own weekly radio show relating to education.

Learner Enrichment Centres in South Africa

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Kip McGrath Learner Enrichment Centres South AfricaKip McGrath – Improving Literacy and Numeracy in South Africa

Kip McGrath Education Centres are delighted to share our video highlighting the difference that the Kip McGrath Learner Enrichment Centres are making to the education of local children in the Gauteng Province in South Africa. There are currently 73 Kip McGrath Education Centres and 10 Learner Enrichment Centres operating in South Africa.

We are very proud of this new initiative of working in partnership with the full service schools. Our aim is to improve literacy and numeracy in the hope of helping to break the poverty cycle, improve the lives of the students to give them life choices and employment opportunities in the future!

The Learner Enrichment Centres have been enthusiastically received by both Teachers and Students. It is amazing to see the positive influence that we have made resulting in previously long-term academic barriers to be broken down, as well as significantly improved relationship outcomes between the Teacher and Student.

Kip McGrath has provided training and resources to the Teachers. They now have the ability to provide each and every student with an individual learning programme to suit the learning style of the student. This builds the learner’s self-esteem and confidence so that every student has the potential to succeed with Kip McGrath in partnership with the Learner Enrichment Centres.