The trend toward making everything gender neutral (unisex in old money) is gaining momentum.

Canada is introducing gender-neutral passports. Citizens will have the option of M, F or X on their passports.

John Lewis has announced that all its children’s clothing range will be ‘gender neutral’ from now on. This means that instead of the label reading boy or girl, it will now read ‘boy and girl.’

When I heard this, my first thought was, is there a third category that I am not aware of? Are we heading towards every child being called it, rather than he or she in order to not offend anyone? Does it mean that boys will have the option of wearing skirts to school, or that girls will no longer have the option to wear skirts? Now that would be true equality, I thought!

It seems some schools are also following suit. The TES reported that Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex has banned girls from wearing skirts to make their uniform gender neutral. It reports the reason is ‘to make the uniform gender neutral for transgender pupils and to deal with complaints about the decency of short skirts.’

Bishop of Llandaff Church-in-Wales High School in Cardiff has introduced unisex toilets. It is reported these toilets have cost the school up to £20,000.00. (Many would argue that money would be better spent on classroom resources). The school has said these toilets have been installed as a practical solution and it is not about gender.

For me, this raises more questions than it answers. For example:

  1. How will this neutrality transfer into job equality?
  2. What difference will it make to your job prospects if you wore a skirt or trousers to school?
  3. Does that mean that girls will be objectified less and be treated as serious prospects for top jobs?
  4. Most of all (being a cynic), what is the reason behind this new trend.

The answer lies in economics. We are now, more than ever competing on a global scale, so our workforce is compared to the global workforce and in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Goals (17 of them to ‘transform our world’) with a target of achieving them by 2030. Gender equality is goal number 5.

In the UK, equal pay was only made statutory 37 years ago, yet currently, according to Prowess only 17% of UK company owners are women, whilst in 2015 a survey found that 5.5% of company CEO’s were female. In 2011 there were more than 20 boards of FTSE 100 companies, that were all male. Today there are none.

On average, men still earn 16 to 18% more per hour than women.

Academically, girls consistently outperform boys, but when it comes to the workplace, women consistently fail to keep up. However, on closer inspection, it is much more complex.

65% of boys compared with only 43% of girls take up Maths at A Level out of those that have achieved grade A’s in their GCSE Maths. Only 29% of all students are female Further Maths students; a crucial subject if you wish to study a STEM subject at degree level.

More than likely is the role of family responsibilities, which are not shared equally. Women are much more likely to take career breaks and often will not go back to a full-time job. But as women begin to gain financial parity, will this become less relevant?

Surely, rather than worrying about skirts and trousers, the focus should be more on hidden gender biases in the curriculum. For example, look at the historical stereotypes of men and women, or the tokenisation and objectification of women in our class resources.

If the underlying structures are reorganised to create and promote gender equality, this will surely have a much greater impact than what style of uniform is being worn to school.
It is clearly a mammoth task, but one that I feel cannot be avoided if true gender equality is to be achieved.
Rupa Radia



GCSEs: The importance of awareness and organisation

…After speaking to the student and after I had flicked through his disorganised folder, it became all the more evident that the student hadn’t the faintest idea what material he needed to know in order to pass the exam. He looked down at the table and rotated his pencil slowly between his fingers. Exams were barely two months away…

This is an issue I have actually encountered a few times working with children working towards their GCSEs late into the exam cycle. Although exam success is by no means guaranteed, quite a few children do not give themselves the best chance to succeed.

At school, I know that I was especially bad at organisation and was frequently chastised by teachers for my poor level of organisation (especially in A level Philosophy). The reasons I managed to succeed in exams was that I always remembered things well at school and I was always aware of what I needed to know. However, perhaps with better organisation at school, I could have made exam success easier to attain.  

GCSEs are particularly a difficult challenge for children to go through. Teenagers are themselves going through biological developments and mentally changing too. Although some of the major bodily changes have already taken place between the ages of 11 and 15, from 15-16, teenagers have more concerns about the future and are even more likely to be depressed.

Children of the GCSE age-group start to develop their working habits. They start learning about how they learn best, what they want to learn about, how they want to organise their work, how they can use their knowledge in the future and so on. The Government have tried to tackle these issues by introducing students to study skills as an extracurricular add-on. Study skills should not be regarded in this way, but should be pushed early in a child’s development and enforced by those around the child (parents, teachers, tutors etc). Of course, different people have different ways of organising and this uniqueness should be celebrated too, but there are always general ideas that should be consistently enforced and reinforced.  
Although I did not enjoy being lectured weekly about the state of my folders, I have to admit that teachers certainly left an impression on me and I did start to pay more attention. Looking back, I wish those around me had started teaching me earlier about the value of organisation and thinking about what they need to learn. How aware is your child? Does he/she know how to approach studying? How organised are your child’s notes? Under which exam board is your child taking an exam? Does your child know what skills and knowledge is needed? These are just a few of the questions that parents can consider leading up to exams.

Jonathan Strange

Lifelong learning and the web

“Lifelong learning” at the moment is particularly in vogue. The concept is based around the idea that learning continues into adulthood, past our compulsory and formal education to further life skills and aid our professional development. The term originated in higher education circles; in the academic life, lifelong learning is necessary in order to stay relevant. Governments have also started to see lifelong learning as one of the answers to skill shortages in our economy.

The web has huge potential to bring education to both the educated and the less educated. For instance, Khan Academy started as YouTube hosted videos created by Sal Khan for his cousin and has flourished into a fully-fledged education platform. Children and adults alike can use internet content to gain a better understanding of subjects and topics. In the classroom, teachers are also utilising the huge store of available online content. Of course, these vast stores of knowledge are a powerful resource, however, the fact that they exist does not necessarily lead to a true education revolution: 7.2 billion people live on this earth yet 4 million still lack internet access.
It often seems to be the story that the rich are getting richer and the poor are staying poor.  The story is the same in education; the educationally rich seek greater enrichment, and the educationally poor tend to stagnate. These social trends are called the Matthew effects.

An example of this in education are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are free for anyone who wants to take part, but they have mainly attracted those who already hold degrees; there are still many barriers to access for the poorer educated. My advice is to start young when it comes to educating yourself. If you want to learn a skill for tomorrow, start today. Whether you utilise online content or read a book or learn by doing, just begin now.

By Jonathan Strange

The Power of Practice.


We have all heard the saying ’practice makes perfect’.

Well, that saying is not exactly true- it needs some further insight and explanation.

Take for example, writing your name.

How do you know that what you have written is correct?

When you first learned to write, you had to be told that in English, we write from left to right. You had to be told what the letters were and you were taught to make the connections between those letters to make sounds and eventually create words.

Now imagine that you had only ever written your name once in your entire life. Would you remember how to do it so many years later? You would be able to write your name but would have to think about it. It would not be instinctive, automatic and natural.

The same is true of most things, whether it is mental agility or physical exercise. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised in the same way that you would exercise your body.

Practice Makes Perfect

by PookyH

Nothing is easy

Unless you know how,
What was not easy then,
Might seem quite easy now.
What is hard when you’re three
Isn’t hard when you’re four,
By the time that you’re five,
You will know even more.

It’s not practice, but deep practice that makes perfect. So what is deep practice?

Deep practice is effectively breaking down the components of practising anything, whether it is learning to play tennis or your times tables.

The first step is to break it down into small, manageable pieces.

The next step is to focus ONLY on those small pieces and repeat the practice of them.

The final step is to review what your mistakes were when practising and correcting those until the process ‘feels’ natural.

Rupa Harji

RTG Tuition

GCSE English Essay writing success: 7 tips for a better essay

These are the seven key technical tips that will help you write a better English essay for your GCSEs.

  1. Planning

Many students seem to have little idea about how to plan. Plans need to be logical, structured and indicate the purpose of each paragraph. There are different methods of planning. However, a good plan will keep you disciplined. An essay is supposed to be an ordered piece of writing. Working out timing (how long will you take to write paragraphs) is also a key aspect of planning (you can usually do this before the exam).

  1. Acknowledging Reader/audience/viewer response

Often students fail to mention how a poem/play/film will affect somebody. When I was taking exams as a student, I remember being egocentric; I would talk about how the language was affecting me, but I would sometimes fail to mention how it could affect a “third person”. Many students forget this. Students have spent many years thinking in terms of themselves. They thus will often use “I” in essays and focus on how something is affecting them. Remaining objective is the key.

  1. Addressing and explaining the evidence

Students, by the time they take GCSEs, usually know that they need to include evidence. However, they often want to include many examples rather than talk in depth about a single example. They are thus failing to receive marks for deep analysis.

  1. Context

Background knowledge is often the key to understanding why a poem, novel etc has been written in a certain way. For instance, Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney cannot be understood fully unless a student understands the political background behind the poem. A student cannot achieve a top mark without proper consideration of the background.

  1. Linking

This is probably one of the more difficult of the skills. Linking involves taking evidence from one part of a poem/novel/play etc and explaining the relationship between it and another part of a poem/novel/play. In a comparison essay, a part of one poem can often be linked to a part of another poem.

  1. Discourse markers

Discourse markers are words and phrases that maintain the flow of a text. Most children use “because, so, however”, as they have built up the habit over the course of their school life. Key Stage 3 and GCSE children should be using them more frequently and with greater variation.

  1. Consistency

To achieve the top marks, do all of the above consistently. The top achievers not only do all of the above, they constantly do it.

By Jonathan Strange

How to you help your child achieve

Studying is a skill in itself. How to study is a very important skill that very few schools teach. Apart from things like note taking and colour coding, setting small achievable targets is the best way to create that route to your end target.

Setting goals for studying, when done consistently will pay massive dividends. Start this process early with your child so it becomes second nature.

Use this simple 5 step method to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey:

Step 1- Dedicate

Have a dedicated space within your home.

Clear all clutter and distractions from the area. Set it up with all the relevant items needed (writing/rough paper, pencils, highlighters, dictionary etc.). Make the area pleasant so there is no angst about working there.

Step 2- Keep it real

 Plan (be realistic!). Become best friends with your schedule.

Work out whether you are a lark or an owl and put together your schedule accordingly. If you work better first thing in the morning, then set your routine for that time. Studying when you are at your best will allow you to power through the mundane and boring stuff that you will otherwise put off, and later regret doing so.

Step 3- Consistency is key

Focus, focus, focus!

Break down to individual components (topics or areas of learning and sub-area within that).

Set each piece of work to last no more that 45 minutes, then take a break and resume. Constantly look at your tasks and whether you are meeting your targets. Evaluate and readjust if you need to.

I know I always underestimate how long I need so I double the time I think I need.

Step 4- What, why, how?

Allow time for creativity.

Make sure you allow down time. Relaxation is an important part of the cognitive function. It gives the brain a chance to process and assimilate information. It also means you are recharged to go again.

Ticking off completed items as a visual chart will prove to give great satisfaction and will also help motivate. Use a rewards system to help motivation, whether it is that second chocolate or a new top.

Step 5- Rinse and repeat

Evaluate – Be honest.

Learn from your past mistakes (the best way to do this is to keep a journal as part of the end of day routine).

What do I want/need to achieve? How will I do it? What are the component parts that make up how I do this? How long do I need for each component?

If you need to go over something that you were not completely sure about, reallocate some time to it, but this time look at where you fell down rather than the whole item again- break it down into smaller parts to isolate what the problem is.

Cramming is not Learning

Working through test paper after test paper is not learning.

If you had asked me at the age of 9 or 10 what goals I had set, I would have probably told you that you were crazy, but as an adult, I can now appreciate how important it is to set goals.

Why should you set goals?

The easiest explanation is the analogy of the boat drifting at sea, letting the currents take it where they may. There is no planned route.

When do you set goals?

It is never too late to set goals. It does not matter if they are changed or even not met. The important thing is there is an end goal in mind so that you are working towards a target. This helps create focus and direction.

How do you set goals?

There is no one right way to set goals, but I would suggest you think about isolating particular areas or topics and then thinking about where you want to end up. For example, if it is maths, think about what you currently know and what knowledge level you want to achieve. Then look at the time frame in which you want to do this.

In my experience, the most successful method is the whole-parts-whole method:

Look at it as a whole, break down into bite size pieces and then piece the whole thing together at the end.

For example the CEM 11 Plus Exam:

Think of it as the exam, break down each topic area and the components within that. Then once the learning and revision have taken place, at that point practice the exam. In my opinion, there is no point in doing test after test if the subject knowledge is not cemented in.

Based on that can you answer the following questions?

  • Where do you (or your child) need to get to/what do you want to achieve?
  • Where are you currently on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What steps do you need to take to achieve 10? (This will probably consist of several different things).
  • What are the component parts that will help you get there?
  • How much time do you have to achieve this?
  • Is it manageable in this time frame?

Look out for our next blog post which will provide a 5 step method on how to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey.

If you would like further information, then feel free to email me and I will gladly respond.

Rupa Harji


Grammar Schools of the Future

Selective schools have been a prominent feature of our system for a long period of time. Many would be correct in considering them to be particularly competitive, as the demand for places is huge. Depending on the area, children need to achieve on average between 75% and 80% to be in with a chance of gaining a place.  7  out of 8 parents would fail the Eleven Plus Exam. I suspect that with the added time pressure in the exam, the pass rate amongst parents would be even lower.

It is no secret that Teresa May, our current Prime Minister is lauding the grammar schools. She herself is a product of that very system. Therefore, it is worth considering the possible changes that could eventually take place in UK Education. These changes will probably happen over a relatively large period of time or be shelved by the next government. Interestingly enough, there have been discussions between some key ministers and the Grammar School Head’s Association (GSHA), which have shed some light on the future of selective education.

From the discussions, it appears that there is particular enthusiasm for, as The Times have dubbed it, “Super-selective grammars“. In a nutshell, the “brightest 10%” of the general population will be selected for places at these grammar schools and selective testing will be integrated into our school system. Of course, these are merely preliminary discussions, however, they illustrate how we have increasingly turned to the East for educational inspiration (standardised selective testing is the norm in the Orient).

Jonathan Strange

RTG’s New line of Reasoning Books

Check out RTG’s new line of Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning books, including CEM style books for 3D spacial reasoning and Cloze questions.

A comprehensive guide on how to answer each question type, from explaining the very basic elements that make up any question, to full test papers.

Track your child’s progress using our progress charts.

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