5 reasons to incorporate play into your child’s development

Reading and writing are fundamental skills that we learn as children and carry through every stage of life. Passion for, and understanding of, language helps us learn how to articulate our feelings, and opens doors to imaginary and real worlds alike. For many children, learning to read can be a difficult process filled with apprehension and frustration; however, it doesn’t have to be a challenge. Daniel Senn, CEO and Founder of Poio (www.poio.co.uk), the newly-launched reading app that provides a compelling, gamified alternative to traditional learning methods, believes that education through play is the best way to encourage children to embrace, and enjoy, learning. Below, he shares the top five benefits of educating via play.

It helps your child practice critical thinking

Reading and playing engage the part of the brain that is responsible for attention, memory, control, and critical thinking. When you pair the two together by gamifying the reading process, your child learns to contextualise what they read and apply it to their immediate environment. This in turn helps your child learn to identify important information more efficiently, helping to ultimately challenge and develop their growing brain.

Interactive reading helps to develop social skills

As children start attending school, making friends can be intimidating for both shy and outgoing kids alike. Reading and playing can help your child feel more confident in their abilities, and many games will encourage them to practice their social skills. Often, stories aimed at children will feature characters facing challenges and experiencing a range of emotions. This can give your child the opportunity to imagine themselves in similar situations and develop traits such as empathy and consideration. By discussing these scenarios with your child you, as the parent, are able to teach them about different emotions and how to  relate to others, helping them understand the emotional responses and social skills they will need throughout their life.

Reading and play boosts creativity

Reading itself can be a creative outlet, but your child might not see this until they become confident readers themselves. By incorporating play into this process, you are allowing your child’s creativity to blossom – that’s how we created Poio the troll and the other characters in our game! My son came up with characters who he could help and relate to, while imagining himself into the story at the same time – making the entire learning process a lot more fun. In addition, using Poio as an example, we see children who have been hunting for letters and words in the game, starting to bring the same action into real life, trying to spell out the names of objects around them.

They learn to communicate

A recent study from the New York University School of Medicine found that reading aloud and pretend-play can offset disruptive behaviours, while improving children’s attention and focus. Any form of play, whether experienced independently, in groups, or guided, like Poio, encourages children to communicate, listen, and articulate thought. By learning to read through play, your child will speak the words they’ve learnt aloud, while voicing challenges they experience. Practicing communication while reading helps children expand their vocabulary and better convey their thoughts and opinions, helping them to better understand the world around them.

Children stay motivated

Children have endless energy that can sometimes be disruptive, especially when trying to learn a relatively quiet skill like reading. By encouraging your child to engage with characters and play out scenarios, you help them channel their energy into the task at hand, without becoming distracted.

When children feel they are being forced into learning or studying, it becomes compulsory and dull. However, gamifying the task can make them feel like choosing to learn and that it is their decision. This shifts your child’s thinking from ‘this is something I have to do’ to ‘this something fun that I want to do’. Not only does this shift make learning easier and more exciting for your child, but it also makes them feel empowered. By having the ability to choose an activity on their own, your child will automatically feel confident and determined to persevere through challenges, rather than forced or defeated.

Year 6 pupils from Enfield crowned ‘Ultimate PE Lesson’ winners

Joe Gomez Premier League Stars Filming at Space Studios Manchester, UK. 10th May 2017 Picture By Matthew Pover.

Three Year 6 pupils from Eversley Primary School in Enfield have been crowned the winners of the Premier League Primary Stars ‘Ultimate PE Lesson’ competition run with EA SPORTS.

Capitalising on the popularity of the motion capture PE resources created by EA SPORTS last season, the competition challenged pupils aged 8-11 (Key Stage 2) to create the ‘Ultimate PE lesson.’ The lesson had to be fun, demonstrate best practice for different movements, and identify key learning points for pupils and teachers.

Evie, Daisy and Sumpeng, from Eversley Primary School designed a netball-inspired lesson covering throwing, catching, marking and intercepting. The winning trio headed to Liverpool to film their lesson alongside Liverpool and England star Joe Gomez, using the same motion capture technology used to create the movements of players in games such as FIFA 19.

Year 6 teacher, Juliette Dougglas-Saul from Eversley Primary School said:

“Sport is really important in our school and it was such a brilliant opportunity for the girls to have this experience.”

Liverpool footballer Joe Gomez said:

Joe Gomez Premier League Stars Filming at Space Studios Manchester, UK. 10th May 2017 Picture By Matthew Pover.

“PE was my favourite lesson at school and if I wasn’t a footballer I would have liked to be a PE teacher, so to be involved in the programme is great. PE teaches so many important skills, not just physical, but also life lessons like teamwork. Demonstrating those skills using in-game FIFA characters is a great way of engaging young kids.”

Nick Perchard, Head of Community at the Premier League, said:

“The free online Premier League Primary Stars programme resources are created to inspire young people to have fun while they learn. Having EA SPORTS support some of the PE resource development using their innovative technology has meant we can enhance their learning in an exciting and engaging way.”

Joe Gomez Premier League Stars Filming at Space Studios Manchester, UK. 10th May 2017 Picture By Matthew Pover.

The new ‘Ultimate PE lesson’ resource is now available for teachers to access for free online via the Premier League Primary Stars website.  Premier League Primary Stars provides fun, free, and easy-to-use curriculum-linked teaching resources for primary schools across England and Wales with the goal of inspiring children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.

For more information on the new Premier League Primary Stars PE resources featuring Joe Gomez and EA SPORTS motion capture technology, head to www.PLPrimaryStars.com

Can’t find the matting you’re looking for? NBB can help source it!

The NBB Group was established in 1994 by owner Martyn Bright. Starting as a business specialising in cigarette litter disposal products, the company, with its innovative products and unique lifetime guarantee offering, saw record growth with the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007. This enabled Martyn to expand the organisation to offer a larger range of products and services. The NBB Group now has several websites, one of which is NBB Floor Matting, an online provider of interior and exterior matting suitable for a wide range of applications. The organisation is committed to ensuring the NBB product portfolio is continuously growing to meet the needs of its customers and welcomes ideas from its employees, that also feedback customer requests.

An example of this is the latest addition to the NBB Matting portfolio—Ringmat Honeycomb Mats. This introduction followed a request from a local nature reserve looking to install a safe and slip free surface to its outdoor play area.

Honeycomb matting is widely used for play areas due to its durability, anti-slip surface and long lifespan. It allows for grass to grow through the matting which keeps the naturistic look and feel, whilst offering the additional safety that is expected in areas that encourage children to play.

Acting immediately, NBB’s team of experienced buyers contacted their existing supplier network to source high-quality honeycomb matting products. After the company’s own quality assessment and research to ensure longevity and conformance to slip resistance standards. The Ringmat Honeycomb Mat was chosen and was live to purchase on the NBB Floor Matting website within just a few weeks. This matting has already shown popularity with outdoor venues and businesses who are installing the matting in play areas and outside building entrances.

Martyn Bright, owner of NBB, tells us: “Our business remains successful as we constantly evolve to meet demands of our customers. I have an excellent team of employees who have a clear passion and pride in the business. All customer suggestions are fed back to me directly for further investigation. Our customers know that if they can’t find what they are looking for, to tell us, as we can often find them a product that meet their requirements and suits their budget.”

To view the extensive range of matting solutions from NBB, visit www.nbbmatting.co.uk. If for any reason you are unable to find the specific matting you require, call the NBB team on 0800 1777 052 and they will endeavour to assist you. 

Liverpool-based Jade Parkinson-Hill wins £10,000 in the Cool Initiatives Education Challenge for innovative edtech programme Steam School!

Liverpool-based education consultant and former school leader Jade Parkinson-Hill is celebrating winning the first prize of £10,000 in the Cool Initiatives Education Challenge 2019 competition for her innovative education technology solution Steam School, a weekly broadcast designed to help students learn more about careers within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) sector. The awards aim to support and recognise original edtech ideas and businesses that will help schools operate more efficiently by providing no strings attached funding to the competition winner and four finalists.

Steam School was launched by founder Jade as a pilot programme in 2018 with the aim of enabling schools to establish connections with inspirational role models in the STEM sector. The Cool Initiatives judges were impressed by Steam School’s regular broadcasts which discuss tech trends and scientific breakthroughs as well as showcasing inspirational young innovators, including Japanese tech sport companies, Silicon Valley start ups, eco-celebrities and aspiring astronauts. At the end of each broadcast, students are invited to complete a mini challenge using their innate creativity and problem-solving skills in a real world context. Steam School is an excellent resource for inspiring pupils to pursue careers in science and technology and ensuring that STEM topics are covered across the curriculum.

Cool Initiatives, premier early stage investor in education, launched The Cool Initiatives Education Challenge 2019 in January, offering prize money/funding totalling £17,500 with no financial strings attached. The competition was open to teachers, school staff, students and early stage start-ups with a brilliant education technology idea to drive up educational outcomes by transforming teaching and learning in schools

The award ceremony took place on 21st June at The Cool Milk headquarters in Lincoln. During the competition, the judges were seeking an idea or service that was able to effectively solve one or more of the three challenges for technology, as identified by Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education:

  1. Teaching practices to support access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all;
  2. Assessment processes to become more effective and efficient;
  3. Administration processes to reduce the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks.

The top prize of £10,000 was awarded to the winner, £5,000 to the runner up, £500 to each of the four finalists and £500 to the winner of The People’s Choice category.

Jade Parkinson-Hill, founder of Steam School commented, “As I am a single mum based in Liverpool and lead a thriving edtech business, I struggle to enter technology competitions that require a significant amount of travel to participate. The fact that the Cool Initiatives process took place remotely via video made it easy to enter the competition. I applaud the Cool Initiatives team for supporting a more diverse range of edtech founders and am incredibly grateful to the judges for selecting Steam School as their 2019 winner – the funding and the award will help propel Steam School onto a global platform.”

Jon Thornes, founder of Cool Initiatives, philanthropist and finalist judge, said: “The Education Challenge competition was for very early stage start-ups designed to solve challenges within schools. Although the competition has now ended, we look to invest throughout the year – if you have recently started an education business, are a ‘teacherpreneur’ already or have an idea that needs development, do get in touch.”

For more information on Cool Initiatives and their available funding, please visit http://www.coolinitiatives.com/

Ensure your school is fully stocked with first aid this summer

A great British summer can be somewhat unpredictable when it comes to the weather. One day we are being bombarded with rain, whilst the next could see us basking in record breaking temperatures. With UK temperatures set to rise in the coming days and Europe in the grips of a heat wave, it is essential to ensure that your school’s stocks of ice packs and vomit bags are topped up, ready for active children who haven’t recognised the early signs of heat exhaustion.

Eureka! Direct has been specialising in providing schools with essential first aid supplies for nearly 20 years. Included within its extensive portfolio, the organisation offers a wide range of children’s instant ice packs and vomit bags specifically designed for safe and hygienic containment and disposal of vomit should a child be sick.

Hot and cold therapy from a brand you can trust

Undoubtedly one of the most popular brands of children’s ice packs is KoolPak. Considered the UK’s leading manufacturer of instant ice packs, the quality of KookPak products and their adherence to ISO quality standards and requirements of the European Directive on Medical Devices, makes them ideal for use in schools. Eureka! Direct stocks a range of sizes and designs suitable for children of all ages.

Easy and safe to use vomit bags

CareBag vomit bags, also available through Eureka! Direct, are supplied with an absorbent core which eliminates the risk of any splashing and leaking of liquid. The bags are easy to hold by children and will rapidly turn up to 450ml of bodily fluid into an easy to dispose of gel. A simple drawstring closure minimises the risk of staff contact with vomit and the design of the bag reduces nasty odours.

As well as offering high quality first aid supplies, Eureka! Direct also offers schools free next working day delivery to UK mainland addresses on orders placed before 4.30pm, and 30 days instant credit—enabling the acquisition of supplies with only a purchase order number. 

To find out more and place your order of essential summer supplies, visit www.eurekadirect.co.uk or call 0800 358 0085.

Global stars revealed as UK mindfulness charity’s first patrons

Today, marking the end of World Wellbeing Week, the national charity Mindfulness in Schools Project announces three internationally famous figures as its inaugural patrons.

Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn, environmental campaigner and politician Caroline Lucas MP and pioneering academic Jon Kabat-Zinn are known globally for outstanding work in their respective fields.  Now, they are offering their support to the charity, Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), which has been working in schools and other youth-related contexts for over 10 years and is widely recognised as the originator and leader in the field of mindfulness in education. 

Speaking at MiSP’s ‘A Million Minds Matter’ conference in April of this year, Jerome Flynn, who plays Bronn in the renowned HBO series, said “taking up meditation and practising mindfulness was probably the single most important thing I did in my life”. He described how mindfulness tools have supported him in his professional life and brought perspective to his experience of fame. “I can’t imagine how I would have managed at all to navigate healthily or happily through life if I hadn’t made that journey of reconnection through meditation and mindfulness”.

As a Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas believes that mindfulness can not only help young people to fully appreciate the beauty of our planet, but also equip them with the mental resilience and the practical tools needed to protect it: “It strikes me that in bringing about a greater appreciation of the natural world mindfulness not only has the potential to inspire us, but also to equip us with the strength to confront the true scale of the crisis we face”. Caroline has been one of over 670 parliamentarians and their staff who have received mindfulness training at the Houses of Parliament since 2013, and she support the charity’s aim to bring secular mindfulness to more children and more schools.

Finally, the appointment of academic Jon Kabat-Zinn, the ‘founder of secular mindfulness’, provides international scientific clout to this charity’s work. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering work at the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School set the wheels in motion for the scientific study of mindfulness by neuroscientists and clinical psychologists, now a well-established discipline. Jon said: There is nothing more important than awareness and we never got any schooling in it until recently with Mindfulness in Schools Project. Awareness has everything to do with what it means to be truly human. What is education about if it’s not committed to inspiring and igniting passion for what it means to be really human so that the kids can live their lives fully?”

MiSP are currently running a campaign to raise funds to ensure that cost is not a barrier to schools accessing their high-quality, research-based classroom lessons. Their ‘A Million Minds Matter’ appeal aims to reach a million young people over the next five years.  Nearly 5,000 teachers have already attended their life-changing training, and their curricula has been translated into 12 languages and is used worldwide.

MiSP CEO Chivonne Preston said: “We are so grateful to Jerome, Caroline and Jon for their commitment to our charity as our new Patrons.  We look forward to working with them to raise awareness of the benefits of mindfulness in schools, for children and young people, their teachers, and the whole school community.”

To find out more, visit mindfulnessinschools.org, email enquiries@mindfulnessinschools.org, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @dotbschools


There are clear links between physical activity and performance at school. But how do we inspire pupils to exercise more? As part of an equal health research project being run by Malmö University, Semcon has developed a mobile app that can get pupils to do their homework while also exercising outdoors.

“Our idea was to use a fun game to transform homework – which is often done while sitting still – into something pupils do while moving around. It gets people into healthy habits while also improving school results. Involving users in the entire process has allowed us to create an innovative concept,” says Mehdi Khayyami, User Experience Specialist at Semcon.

A prototype of the homework game has been tested by pupils and teachers in Lindängen, near Malmö, but also in other locations as part of the Hälsofrämjande innovation i samverkan project [Cooperation on innovation to promote health], which has now come to an end. Hopefully the game will be completed and go live as soon as possible.

“It has met with a really great response. We have been able to show the potential of smart technology when it comes to really making a difference. I hope somebody will pick this up and bring it all the way to market so that everyone can benefit from the game,” says Anna Funke, Team Manager Software & Architecture at Semcon.

Customised and inspiring

There are many opportunities offered by this homework game. Teachers can easily create customised and inspiring tests and monitor the development of every pupil. It also saves time on corrections. Pupils can learn vocabulary or mathematical equations while spending time outdoors. Step counters, GPS positioning and Augmented Reality (AR) also allow homework questions to be presented in a way that encourages play while the homework is being done – and pupils can work alone or with friends.

“As I see it, there are some major benefits to be had from this type of game, which combines repetitive tasks with movement. Children nowadays do not take enough exercise, and a game of this kind could help promote their health and improve their ability to concentrate. It gets pupils interested, and they learn more when they are playing a game that they enjoy,” says Maria Simbotin, teacher at Lindängenskolan in Malmö, where a prototype of the game has been tested by year three and four pupils.

About the Hälsofrämjande innovation i samverkan project

The gap between people enjoying good health and people with poor health in society is widening. This was why the Hälsofrämjande innovation i samverkan project was launched. Its aim is to help improve the health of citizens in the district of Lindängen in Malmö. An innovation platform has been built using the Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) model, which is based entirely on users themselves. People in Lindängen have played a part in all decisions so as to ensure that not only products and services are developed, but also their own empowerment, leading to greater integration.

This research project is being funded by Vinnova and is a partnership of fourteen different stakeholders in the ideas-based sector, the public sector, the business community and academia. The project began in 2016 and ended in May 2019. Hopefully a continuation project will be able to commence in the autumn.
Find out more about the project.

The Schools’ Energy Co-operative wins national business award

Barrow-based enterprise, The Schools’ Energy Co-operative Ltd, has scooped a prestigious national business accolade – taking home the prize for the Inspiring Co-op of the Year at the Co-operative of the Year Awards.

Members of the co-op were presented with their award at a gala dinner during Co-op Congress, the sector’s annual conference, which was celebrating its landmark 150th year.

Organised by sector body Co-operatives UK and supported by The Co-operative Bank, the annual awards are a celebration of excellence and achievement in the co-op sector.

The Schools’ Energy Co-op Ltd was launched in 2014 to provide community sourced funding for solar panel systems on schools. It has since installed panels on 48 schools all over the country, providing them with a sustainable solar-powered electricity supply and engaging both the local community and students in its projects.

Laura Moreno from The Schools’ Energy Co-operative, said: “We are thrilled to receive the award and the recognition of our work helping schools to tackle climate change by generating green energy on their roofs.”

The co-op scooped the prize after a public vote which saw numerous organisations and individuals shortlisted in six categories. A record 33,000 votes were cast, with nominations and votes coming from large and small businesses, members, customers and co-operators across the sector.  

The record year for the awards also saw the introduction of two new categories for individual co-operators: the Co-operator of the Year Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other winners were The Co-op Group, South Tyneside Council and Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Individual awards went to Leeds Bread Co-op’s Lorraine Power for Co-operator of the Year, and Daily Bread Co-op founder Roger Sawtell, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “The Co-op of the Year Awards is always a special occasion. And once again, worthy winners have taken home the coveted prizes. The Schools’ Energy Co-operative Ltd – and all our winners and nominees – are an outstanding example of how working co-operatively creates opportunity, prosperity and meaningful work, and brings social and economic benefits to communities and businesses throughout the country.”

Maria Cearns Managing Director, Current Accounts and Savings from sponsors The Co-operative Bank, said: “What a great evening celebrating the achievements of a number of co-op organisations over the last year. A huge well done to all the nominees – for doing valuable, essential work growing the UK’s co-operative economy and using the power of co-operation to enable businesses to flourish in a fair and equitable way. Congratulations to the winners who thoroughly deserved their awards.”

Chessington World of Adventures chooses eco-friendly furniture

Chessington World of Adventures in Greater London has chosen to equip its outdoor spaces with eco-friendly furniture made from 100% recycled plastic.

The Merlin Group theme park is constantly striving to reduce its global impact on the environment and as such looked at a more sustainable range of picnic benches for its guests. After researching options, the company decided upon NBB Recycled Furniture, a UK organisation that designs and manufactures stunning outdoor furniture made from 100% recycled high-density polyethylene.

Jamie Chestnutt, Sustainability Manager at Chessington states: “We looked at various options for our outdoor furniture and made the decision to go with NBB. The furniture they produce exactly matched our criteria of being attractive, hard-wearing, safe and environmentally friendly.

“It is our aim to ensure that all guests that visit our theme park feel comfortable, so we have purchased a variety of picnic benches to accommodate the diverse range of guests we have, including larger groups and wheelchair users. It is really pleasing to have found a supplier that can produce the furniture we require so our guests feel welcome as well as helping us to achieve our environmental goals.”

Having saved over 92,000 plastic milk bottles from entering landfill sites so far with its choice of outdoor furniture, the park is now working with NBB to replace its existing bins with 100% recycled plastic options.

To find out more about the range of outdoor furniture and accessories from NBB, visit www.recycledfurniture.co.uk, or call their friendly team on 0800 1777 052.


After months of judging and the highest number of entries in its 11 year history, the winners of the Tes School Awards have been revealed!

The most outstanding individuals and institutions that the education sector has to offer gathered together for a celebration at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London on Friday (21st June).

Schools and individuals from across the UK were recognised for incredible contribution to education.

Tes Editor, Ann Mroz said: “We had a record number of entries this year and the standard was incredibly high so all our winners should be extremely proud of their achievement.  The quality of entries was superb, and as always, our illustrious panel of judges deliberated long and hard to reach its final selections. 

“We’ve had the privilege of hearing about so many creative and inspiring initiatives that are improving outcomes and life chances of young people.  The spirit of great teaching really was at the heart of each and every entry and it’s been wonderful to see such amazing ideas and excellent practice emerging from our schools, especially considering the difficult circumstances that many schools operate under.”

The Tes awards have been running since 2009 and recognises the outstanding individuals and institutions that the education sector has to offer.  They were judged by a collection of the UK’s most illustrious education experts. 

Comedian, Harry Hill, who presented the awards said: “I felt quite emotional tonight giving out these awards – thanks so much for inviting me. What a night!”

The list of winners were:

  • Services to education award: Baroness Warnock
  • Lifetime achievement award: Teresa Roche, Derbyshire
  • Overall school of the year: Meadow View Farm School, Leicestershire
  • Primary school of the year: Grendon Church of England Primary School, Northampton
  • Secondary school of the year: Cathedral Academy, Wakefield
  • Alternative provision school of the year: Meadow View Farm School, Leicestershire
  • Early years setting of the year: Little Forest Folk Wimbledon, Wimbledon
  • Headteacher of the year: Naveed Idrees, Bradford
  • Healthy school of the year: Fairfield Primary School, Cumbria
  • Creative school of the year: Admiral Lord Nelson School, Portsmouth
  • Sustainable schools award: St Colm’s High School, Londonderry
  • International award: The Observatory School, Liverpool
  • New teacher of the year: Abed Ahmed, Birmingham
  • Classroom support assistant of the year: Aimee Durning, Cambridge
  • English teacher or team of the year: Joseph Cash Primary School, Coventry
  • Maths teacher or team of the year: The Totteridge Academy, North London
  • School business manager of the year: Mark Reed, Lancashire
  • Science, technology and engineering teacher or team of the year: Tapton School Academy Trust and Fields of Learning, Sheffield
  • Innovative use of technology to influence outcomes award: Oxfordshire Hospital School, Oxford
  • Community and collaboration award: Bradford Academy, Bradford