Ian McKellen Press Pic

Virtual field trip will mark 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and be broadcast to schools worldwide on 22 April

Schools around the world are being invited to tune in to a unique digital broadcast next week, as part of global celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

Discovery Education, one of the UK’s leading providers of digital content to schools, will host a virtual field trip from Stratford-upon-Avon on 22 April,  giving students worldwide the chance to explore the Bard’s birthplace, school, and other historic locations without leaving their classrooms. Presented by Diane Louise Jordan, ‘Shakespeare 400’ will provide a compelling insight into the life and legacy of the greatest writer in the English language.

The programme includes an interview with the actor Ian McKellen, one of the world’s leading performers of Shakespeare. He talks enthusiastically about his passion for pupils experiencing the power of Shakespeare through seeing his plays performed on stage as they were intended to be.

In the interview Ian McKellen said: “When Shakespeare was writing his plays – 37 of them – 400 years ago, he didn’t publish the scripts, they were for the actors.  He wanted you to come to hear the words spoken and see the play. Although the plays are 400 years old, they go on being more than relevant, they go on being entertaining, illuminating – and for me that’s what makes Shakespeare the best writer of them all.”

Aimed at pupils in Key Stages 2 and 3 and anchored from Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall at King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon, the programme will offer an exclusive glimpse of the classroom where the young Shakespeare spent his formative years, shaping his future as the world’s greatest English language playwright. Pupils watching will witness a re-enacted Tudor lesson, and be among the first to ‘step inside’ the newly renovated 600 year old building, described by historian Michael Wood as ‘one of the most atmospheric, magical and important in the whole of Britain.’

Moving to London, the virtual field trip will also explore Shakespeare’s life in the Tudor capital, with a tour of some of the city’s hidden Shakespeare locations, ending at the famous Globe Theatre. Meanwhile, pupils will see Macbeth brought to life in a fun and accessible way, through a pioneering project that immerses a whole school in a Shakespeare play for a term, and they’ll hear how the themes of Shakespeare’s work are still relevant today.

Scheduled for broadcast on the eve of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this free programme will be watched simultaneously by thousands of children around the world in a unique commemoration of his life and works.

Lewis Bronze MBE, Founder and Director of Content at Discovery Education said:

“The Shakespeare 400 broadcast gives pupils everywhere the opportunity to be involved in the global anniversary celebrations. The programme will shine a light on Shakespeare’s relevance in the 21st century, helping teachers to bring his writing and historical context to life in a way which will engage today’s learners.”

The Shakespeare 400 virtual field trip is freely available to all schools, and teachers are encouraged to register online here to access the 25 minute broadcast on 22 April: An on-demand version will be available on the Discovery Education website after the event. The site will also offer free, engaging teaching resources including lesson plans and cross-curricular digital content.


Leading educational resources and learning solutions provider EPSL Educational Printing has revitalised its branding and communications to provide greater support to schools and colleges.

The company has invested in a new e-commerce website with a range of features to help customers quickly and easily access its products and services.

An enhanced user-experience for placing orders and revisiting historic purchases has been introduced alongside practical and specialist advice for managing deliveries.

EPSL Educational Printing manufactures and supplies a range of standard and bespoke materials, including Exercise Books, Homework Diaries and Record Books, to schools and colleges throughout the UK and internationally.

The website also includes products from the company’s EPSL EPrint Publishing range of books, which are written by leading educational authors.

They include subject specific and cross curriculum titles that have been developed with KS1 and KS2 in mind.

Selected titles follow guidelines from the Dyslexic Association and are specifically written to appeal to Reluctant Readers.  

EPSL Educational Printing’s second generation Managing Director, David Pickering, whose father Fred, a former teacher, set up the business more than forty years ago, explained:

“Our new branding and communications strategy is the result of more than 12 months’ work and offers greater support to customers.

“Our products and services are now far easier to navigate and access, clearly demonstrating more than 40 years’ expertise in the educational printing industry.

“The new branding brings clarity to our range of quality products and services which benefit millions of pupils across the UK every day.”


Rushed reforms to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) have the potential to place disadvantaged students at significant risk if implemented, Randstad Student Support has warned.

New minimum requirements introduced through the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF), could leave vulnerable students without the necessary support as many support workers will be unable to register to work with new students after the 18th April 2016 deadline.


In some cases, two professional qualifications will be expected of workers – as opposed to one – which the majority of workers hold under the pre-existing requirements, in effect up until February 2016. This will leave 80% of current Specialist One-to-One Study Skills Support tutors outside of the new criteria, according to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Non-Medical Help Providers.


This will have a significant impact for vulnerable students due to a shortfall in workers which may result in students being unsupported. Existing support workers may find themselves pushed out of their current positions and without enough time to gain the additional required professional qualifications. The QAF completely disregards a worker’s past experience of supporting students. Instead some workers, that may have been supporting students in excess of 10 years, will now be required to obtain membership to a professional body – to enable them to support any new students. Obtaining professional body membership can be extremely difficult as they require professional qualifications which can take more than 2 years to complete.  According to the Association of Non-Medical Help Providers survey, 93% of Specialist Mentors assisting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder fail to meet the professional criteria, as well as 55% of specialist mentors who work alongside students with mental health conditions.


Randstad is calling upon The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to consider three courses of action. Firstly, to delay the introduction of the reforms, allowing workers sufficient time to adjust in order to ensure new students are not limited by staff and skill shortages. In addition, asking for more relevant minimum professional requirements for workers, which are tailored to support students’ needs. And finally, for new measures which recognise the valuable contribution of long-term sector specialist workers, ensuring their professional competencies are measured against support expectations.

These steps will help produce reasonable and measured reforms which can be adopted throughout the sector and collectively benefit both students and support providers.


Victoria Short, Managing Director of Randstad Student Support, comments: “Providing high quality support for disabled students should be the priority – and having the necessary staff numbers to do this is vital. Support workers are a valuable lifeline for many vulnerable students trying to achieve their academic potential – but students are being let down by a fundamental lack of understanding.


“Existing workers have amassed crucial experience and skills through their time within the sector – but the value of this has been completely overlooked. Prioritising additional professional qualifications prevents new students from working alongside some of the most talented and adept employees in the sector. For employees who have spent years dedicating their careers to helping young people achieve their goals, it will feel like a kick in the teeth. It’s a shake-up which the sector isn’t ready for – and the government need to realise that.


“Rushing through changes amounts to a reckless approach threatening the support system which students depend upon. These new requirements need to be postponed until the government can guarantee that students’ learning will not be adversely affected and that current support providers are given the professional respect their experience demands.”


Randstad Student Support – the UK’s leading provider of support to students with disabilities – operates across more than 160 universities and colleges, last year helping 28,000 students with disabilities and additional learning needs to achieve their academic aims.

70th Annual Co-operative Charity Festival comes to The Civic

The Civic hosts a special evening session on Wednesday 20 April to celebrate 70 years of the Co-operative Barnsley Youth Music & Drama Festival.


Taking place at Emmanuel Church from Monday 18 April to Friday 22 April, the week-long annual festival showcases the talents of hundreds of young drama and music enthusiasts from Barnsley and across Yorkshire, in an array of classes for individuals, duos, quartets and ensembles to larger groups of instrumentalists and choirs. The 70th Co-operative Youth Music & Drama Festival will conclude with ‘A Grand Finale Concert’ featuring all the Class Winners on the Friday evening at The Church, and a special evening session will be held The Civic on Wednesday 20 April.


Angela Dawson, Secretary from the Co-operative Barnsley Youth Music & Drama Festival said:

“We appreciate how difficult it is to bring the arts into schools, and the difficulties Music Services have in encouraging schools to be a part of this exciting and essential part of youth learning and discovery in the Arts. As part of our growing relationship with Barnsley Hub and Barnsley Music Services we have agreed to bring part of our festival into The Civic; with the goodwill of Alex Francis (Service Development Officer from Barnsley Music Service) and The Civic. We are really looking forward to an excellent evening of performances all adjudicated by a professional adjudicator who will give constructive feedback to support both performers and teachers alike.”


The Co-operative Barnsley Youth Music & Drama Festival at The Civic will include a performance by Barnsley Junior Band as part of the BBC Ten Piece Project. Angela explains “This year we have introduced special classes to incorporate the BBC Ten Pieces Project, as well as reviewing many of our individual and group classes to make Drama and Music accessible for all.” The BBC Ten Piece Project aims to open up the world of classical music to children and inspire them to develop their own creative responses to ten pieces of music through composition, dance or digital art.


Since its inception the Barnsley Youth Music and Drama Festival has been supported by the Co-operative movement and gained Charitable Status in 2006. The Festival has been independently organised by a voluntary Festival Committee since 2005 and is part of the Barnsley Music Education Hub.


Angela Dawson concludes:

“Our long-term expectations is to continue our relationship with the Barnsley Hub and encourage more young talent in the Barnsley schools to enter our festival.  This year we have an exceptionally high number of entries throughout the week, giving the people of Barnsley an excellent week of drama and music competitions from youngsters 3 – 20 years of age.”


Daily spectator tickets are available on the door from £2.50 – £5 each and children under 14 go free (if accompanied by an adult). For more information visit or contact Festival chairman, Mrs Margaret Venables on 01126 752576 /


Northern Ballet Challenges Barnsley Schools


Internationally renowned company Northern Ballet delivered free creative workshops at four Primary Schools in the Barnsley area, ahead of their new ballet for children at The Civic in April.


Earlier this year, The Civic contacted schools throughout Barnsley to offer a free half-day creative workshop based on Northern Ballet’s new production, Tortoise & The Hare. The response was overwhleming and four primary schools were selected by The Civic on a first-come-first-served basis. These were Hope House and Joseph Locke Primary School, and special education schools Greenacre and North Ridge Community.


The workshops aim to give pupils the chance to work with a professional ballet company and learn steps from the production. The sessions included a fun warm up, and explored the story and characters from the show, giving students the chance to try out some of the moves for themselves.


Mrs Denner Y3-6 teacher, from Hope House School said:

“Keisha from Northern Ballet visited our school to conduct a workshop about their production the Tortoise and the Hare which children will attend in April. The children saw pictures from the production and discussed the plot and themes and enjoyed dancing to music in partners, learning routines and expressing their own creativity. The children really enjoyed working with her”.


Debbie Lunn Personalised Communication Lead from Greenacre School said:

“The Greenacre pupils really enjoyed taking part in the Northern ballet workshop. The session was pitched well for our pupils, and the activities were adapted appropriately so that the needs of all our pupils were met. All pupils were fully engaged and on task from beginning to end, which is often quite a challenge for some of our learners!”


The workshops took place at the schools and were are delivered as part of Northern Ballet’s ‘Short Ballets for Small People’ initiative; to introduce children and their families to ballet and the theatre for the first time. The Civic is delighted to once again programme Northern Ballet’s latest production in the Company’s award-winning series of Short Ballets for Small People, following on from the successes of Ugly Duckling, Three Little Pigs and Elves & the Shoemaker.


Helen Ball Chief Executive at The Civic, Barnsley said:

“We’re always pleased to work with and progamme works by Northern Ballet at The Civic. Their free workshops allow us the invaluable opportunity to inspire children in our community with dance and theatre, directly in their school. And, their shows enable children and their families to enjoy wonderful live performances designed especially for them, in their local theatre.”


Tortoise & the Hare is a re-imagining of Aesop’s much-loved fable of a Tortoise who, tired of being teased for his slowness, challenges a speedy Hare to a race. Lasting approximately 40 minutes, Tortoise & The Hare is at The Civic on Tuesday 5 April at 12pm, 2pm & 4pm. Tickets are £6 full price and £5 concessions.


For more information and to book visit or call the Box Office on 01226 327000.


Midlands based charity Kids Run Free empowers children across the UK to run a marathon



As the London Marathon gets ready to celebrate its millionth finisher, UK charity Kids Run Free invites schools to get their pupils active and healthy with Kids’ Marathon.
UK primary schools now have the opportunity to join the next phase of Kids’ Marathon, the innovative programme that has been praised by the 40 schools currently participating as a sustainable, affordable and achievable sports programme.
Kids’ Marathon inspires children to be active on a regular basis and Kids Run Free has secured funding to offer the initiative to more schools for the 2016-2017 academic year. The charity created the programme in 2013 to tackle the increasing issue of inactivity facing schools and families.
The children are challenged to run a marathon but this is not as daunting as it sounds. Children can run as much or as little as they want. The main objective is to motivate children to be more active whatever the distance. Apart from the obvious impact on children’s physical health, this programme also has a positive impact on concentration levels in the classroom and is also used by schools as an aid to teaching other skills such as leadership, maths, and working with computer programs. The initiative is currently running in 40 schools, reaching more than 9,000 children, with an outstanding 97% participation rate.
“Children have been excited about running and taking part in physical exercise, not just the so called ‘sporty’ kids but a range of different children and abilities.” Pete Hawkins, St. Pauls C of E Primary School, Leamington Spa
“Children have exercised a lot more since the marathon has started. Some children, who don’t usually like to take part in different sports, and who don’t usually enjoy PE, have really taken to the Kids’ Marathon and since it has started it has become one of their main ways of exercise.” Roberto Flint, Hillstone Primary School, Birmingham
For statistical evidence of the positive impact of their Kids’ Marathon programme, Kids Run Free has engaged researchers from the renowned School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University to conduct independent research into the programme. The results will be published in July 2017.
London Marathon Events Ltd, the organisers of the Virgin Money London Marathon and other mass participation events, is financially supporting the second phase of the programme and assisting the charity in launching the initiative in 30 primary schools within London in conjunction with the 2016/17 launch across the rest of the UK.
Why should your school get involved?
The Kids’ Marathon concept fits in within the ethos of 2013’s OFSTED report “Beyond 2012: Outstanding physical education for all”. Furthermore taking part in Kids’ Marathon can contribute to OFSTED requirements on the effective use of PE and sport funding, outlined in OFSTED’s report “Inspecting primary school PE and school sport: new funding January 2014”.
Kids’ Marathon is a package that has been designed specifically for UK schools. When schools take the initiative on board they are getting a fully sustainable package that is implemented by the charity. The schools get an infrastructure and continuous support throughout the year, this includes all equipment and set up of the course, a launch event where teachers and children are trained to manage the programme, posters, stickers and other printable materials, monthly email communication from the charity and invitation to the Festival of Running culmination event where certificates and medals are awarded to the children.
Jason Henderson, Head Teacher at Provost Williams Primary School in Coventry which is running the programme for a third successive year, said: “It’s easy to organise and run, and it’s great to see the children’s enjoyment and the sense of achievement the children have at the end of the year.”
Anna Fairhurst, Head Teacher at Brize Norton Primary School in Oxfordshire that are taking part of the programme for the first time said:
“The support on getting started was excellent. The children still love going out and running round the playground 6 months in, and they love the instant feedback of the record-keeping spreadsheets. It’s great for everyone: the children who have spent hours clocking up extra kilometres at home and those who otherwise would do nothing at all.”
Efforts and achievements are rewarded with certificates and children that complete the marathon distance also receive a Kids’ Marathon medal.
The real cost of the Kids’ Marathon project is £3.70 per child but Kids Run Free has secured funding which means the programme is now available to schools for just £1.00 per child.

Kortext and Microsoft empowers students to take ownership of digital learning

Kortext, the UK’s leading digital textbooks platform, has unveiled the first phase of its integration with Microsoft which aims to give students much greater choice over their digital reading materials.


As part of the programme, Kortext has integrated its digital textbook software into the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based platforms, which have been adopted by over 100 universities nation-wide.


This phase of the programme will see Kortext integrate with Microsoft’s OneDrive in the IOS, Android and Windows apps, enabling users to access thousands more additional files. The integration with OneDrive enables students to import their own articles, lecture notes and study documents into the Kortext app straight from their OneDrive account.


Kortext will also fully integrate the online reader, iOS, Android and Windows app with Microsoft OneNote, allowing students and academics to export notes made against their course materials into a dedicated Kortext OneNote notebook, which can be accessed online, or through the OneNote app.


The updates will allow students to access all Office 365 applications in Kortext’s online reader and native apps with a single sign in for seamless navigation between platforms.


James Gray, CEO of Kortext, said: “We are delighted with how the work with Microsoft has progressed. We now have the opportunity to reach the 15 million UK education users that currently use the Office 365 platform. The second phase of Kortext’s integration with Office 365 will see the launch of a Windows 10 Universal app.


“Students are able to take complete ownership of their learning as they are no longer restricted to the literature provided by their universities. They now have the freedom to pick and choose their own reading materials from anywhere on the web, make notes, or write full papers themselves, and import them straight from their OneDrive account to their Kortext reader.”


For more information, please visit

Macmillan and Inmotion launch ‘Young Rushers’ obstacle race for children aged 14+

Macmillan Cancer Support and Inmotion Sport have announced the launch of ‘Young Rushers’ – part of their Adrenaline Rush series of urban obstacle races that children over the age of 14 will be able to take part in, when entering with a responsible adult. A 5k ‘Young Rushers’ race will take place in the afternoon at each of the eight Adrenaline Rush venues and will include a minimum of 20 obstacles, featuring everything from assault course favourites such as plank walks and rope mazes, to bespoke challenges including the giant slide Everest and Adrenaline Rush’s signature Leap Of Faith. Tickets start at £70, which covers the entrance of one adult (18+) and one child (14+), with 35% of all entrance fees going to Macmillan to help ensure that no family faces cancer alone.




21st May – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London

4th June – Senneleys Park, Birmingham

9th July – Pollok Park, Glasgow

16th July – Kempton Park, West London

30th July – Harewood House, Leeds

6th August – Heaton Park, Manchester

13th August – Blaise Castle, Bristol

20th August – Stanmer Park, Brighton



Further information on Adrenaline Rush


Urban obstacle race series Adrenaline Rush is back for a second year this summer, now with eight energy-packed events set to take place in city locations across the UK. With a minimum of 20 obstacles in each race, entrants are guaranteed to have their strength, stamina and mental resolve put to the test at every turn. Participants have the choice of either a 5k or a 10k course, as well as the opportunity to get their Rush on individually or as part of a team, meaning the event is suitable for all abilities. Places start at £40 but rise closer to the event and discounts are available for group entries. 35% of entrance fees go to Macmillan Cancer Support to help ensure that no one faces cancer alone. For more information or to sign-up visit



Over 80 per cent of schools claim they would be able to provide a better quality of education if they were given greater freedom over managing their budgets, new research has found.

A study by HCSS Education, a leading education finance specialist, has found that 82% of schools think that more independence to make financial decisions would help to raise teaching standards across the board and reduce the attainment gap.

As a result, 41% of schools are interested in converting to academy status because it will provide them with full financial responsibility so they are able to effectively manage procurement and spend their budget in the best way possible. Another 35% of schools also believed that more money would become available to them if they became an academy. This could also help contribute to a higher standard of education, as it could be spent on providing students with better facilities and teaching materials.

However not all schools think that academisation is the solution, with over half of maintained schools (59%) saying they did not want their schools to become an academy. These findings suggest that while they want greater freedom over managing the budget, they would prefer not to convert to an academy to achieve this.

As part of the survey, academies were also surveyed on the reasons why they decided to make the change and when asked what their main reasons for converting to academy status were, a significant 65 per cent cited greater control over finances as a key consideration.

The survey was conducted as part of HCSS Education’s Academy Futures report, which takes an insightful look into how the education landscape is changing and the impact academisationis having on both teachers and parents. It explores the barriers to conversion, the challenges schools may face when they first convert, and how these issues can be addressed.

Howard Jackson, head of education and founder of HCSS Education, said: “Our survey reveals that a very large proportion of maintained schools (82%) are calling out for much greater independence to manage their own budgets, as they believe that this will help to raise the standards across the board.

“As it stands, it is only schools that have converted to an academy that are given complete control over the budget, as maintained schools’ finances are still overseen by the local authority. For one reason or another, the academy model is not right for every individual school, but the problem lies in the fact that maintained schools are not given the same freedom that academy schools have, unless they decide to convert.

“With this in mind, it seems that schools would be wise to try to work towards a solution with the local authorities to gain more influence over their budgets, as it seems this is in the best interests of both the staff and students.”


For more information, please visit

Busy Bees response to Save the Children Report

Busy Bees ensures all childcare practitioners are highly skilled and fully trained by its own in-house training academy who provide an ongoing training programme of short courses to supplement the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum framework. Preparing children for school with learning enhancements outside of the curriculum and meaningful planned activities tailored to the individual needs and interests of every child in their care ensures all children are ready and prepared for the next stage in their development.

To further children’s language and communication skills, Busy Bees childcare team has developed an enhancement, Babble to Chatter, for their staff, designed to link theory to practice; the how and the why behind the development of language. The programme focuses upon the core building blocks of language development, which includes attention and listening, play and interaction, understanding language, expressive language and speech. It encourages staff and parents to seize every possible opportunity to support and encourage children by providing practical activities and measurements that can be weaved into day-to-day nursery life.

Every child in nursery is assigned a key person who enables a strong understanding of their individual needs and abilities. Staff also work in close partnerships with parents and, if needs be, outside agencies such as Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs), health visitors, speech and language therapists, and provide daily feedback.  At every opportunity parents are encouraged to provide home observations of their child involved in a special event or an activity ensuring the key person can build upon their key child’s interests from home and nursery, this gives the child the foundations of their care and education development plan.   Preparing children for school or their next milestone will ensure they have the confidence and self-esteem to meet any challenge. 

Lisa Snell, director of early years at Busy Bees, who has been instrumental in the development of Babble to Chatter, explains the driving force behind the launch:

“Effective communication skills are the foundations upon which all other learning rests so we want to make sure our children are given the tools they need to navigate their way through the rest of their lives successfully and happily.”

For more information, please visit: