How to Improve Engagement in Science through Competition and the Gamification of Learning

Science is still regarded as one of the hardest subjects.  The OECD still report a significant STEM skills deficit in the UK – and unfortunately students know X Factor can be won without either.

But for over a decade, more than 98% of participating students – of all ability ranges, in all types of schools, from Australia to the UK – have raved about a particular approach that has changed their perception of not only science but of learning.  As a result, every host school has recommended it since 2001.

The secret has been to combine intriguing contexts and gamification strategies with curriculum content, all wrapped within a competition format.   It ensures activities, from redox reactions to electronics, are made relevant to each individual and generates huge amounts of engagement and enthusiasm.

In the ‘game’ it is a matter of life and death.  In reality, pupils truly respond.  And so do staff, particularly when they form a team to challenge the pupils.

Once you have the formula, you can positively change attitudes and improve performance levels.

The Real STEM Competition is designed to challenge up to 72 pupils in a day and demonstrate the approach to staff.  It runs until science week 2019 but could well be a valuable addition to your upcoming activity weeks and transition days, especially as there is a £1000 prize available for the winners, runner-up prizes and free activities for all host schools.  Furthermore, discounts are available if you host the workshop in July.

This year’s competition is called ‘Space Pioneers’ – reinforcing and expanding upon KS3 & KS4 curriculum content within a thrilling scenario about the colonisation of Mars.  With NASA, MarsOne and SpaceX all in a real-life race to Mars, the context has never been more relevant.

The workshop is delivered on the school site – so there is no travel required.  Up to six teams of six pupils can compete in a 2-2.5 hour session that is repeated for a different group after a short break.  The competition runs within the normal timings of your day to minimalise disruption to your timetable.  It can allow the school to really challenge the high achievers in one session and motivate those that need a gentle push in another as each session is carefully facilitated for the ability of the group.

To help with funding, you can receive a £100 discount if you host an event in July and quote the promotional code RSSP18 when booking.  It brings the cost down to less than £10 per pupil.

To find out more about the competition, logistics and prizes you can visit the website.

Alternatively, you can email or call 01603 520866 for further details.

Thinkers in Education also offer a range of CSI themed workshops in the same format, and whilst these are not part of the Real STEM Competition you can still benefit from the £100 discount by using the code RSSP18 for July events.  Plus, the discount applies to these workshops in September too – so it is a great way to motivate pupils at the start of the school year.

Take an idea and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it

Scroll down to get your FREE pdf download of Take an idea and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it from the popular resource, ‘Able Writers in Your School

It is not unlikely that your school has a sports team so that pupils’ who excel at sports can continue to practice and refine their sporting talents. But what for those who are talented at writing?

Brilliant Publications has developed Able Writers in Your School – a resource that will enable pupils who excel at writing to continue to practice and refine their writing talents, past the curriculum’s requirements.

Able Writers in Your School challenges children to raise the standard of their writing and turn their ideas into masterpieces through:

  • encouraging pupils to:
    • show rather than tell
    • stretch their ideas
    • use similes, metaphors and personification
    • utilise the power of simplicity – less is more
  • teaching pupils how to:
    • create a character and setting
    • develop plot and dialogue
    • add conflict and suspense
    • avoid clichés
    • improve descriptive writing

You can order Able Writers in Your School on our website for £14.50 as a printed book, £9.99 as an e-book, or both for a discounted price of £17.50.

Free UK delivery for all orders placed in April 

Alternatively, you can place an order:

  • over the phone on 01449 766629
  • by email to
  • by fax on 01449 767122
  • or by post to Brilliant Publications, Mendlesham Industrial Estate, Norwich Road, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5ND

What’s the simple and cost effective way to help maths lessons be more productive,  both for teachers and students…….? 

Every now and again I get to chat with  teachers and one of the topics that often crops up is why many students don’t  bring a pen, pencil, ruler etc to their lessons.  They tell me that this leads to wasted time and a measure of disruption,  even before teaching has begun.

In an attempt to solve this problem there’s  now a  product called the “Value Maths set ” which, as the name suggests, contains all the basics that students need for their  maths lessons.

Consisting of  two quality black ink ballpens, a full length HB pencil, eraser, 15 cm ruler, 180 degree protractor, metal compass and half pencil,  and a sharpener, all packed in an  A5 size, clear PVC “exam friendly” wallet with a zip slider.

From just £ 1.25 each (ex vat) the “Value Maths set”  is a convenient and cost effective solution to the problem of students who haven’t brought the correct kit to their maths lessons.  Ideal to give or sell  to students at the start of lessons or at the start of a school day………  also very useful for exams.

Full details of the “Value Maths set”   can be found on the website: 

You can order

Signpost Educational Ltd.,   PO Box 999   London   E14 6SH

Imagination has made us different from the rest of the animal kingdom. But is digital technology changing children’s minds?

One has to be careful of course, because wolf has been cried so many times. The TV age, digital games, mobile phones, apps… each has been blamed for a change in the way children see the world, and a decline in their imaginative powers.

The counterbalance to this decline is of course the creative arts, wherein children become involved in, and witness a professional performance right in front of them.  It is the prime way in which the spirit of imagination can be rekindled.

Which is also where crying wolf comes in, for Aesop’s tale—which was created 2500 years ago—is as vibrant and stimulating for children now, as it was then.

And that is why our team of three professional actors visit schools across the country and over the course of a day work with individual classes. The children assist with the creative preparation for a show which grows from Aesop’s tales, creating elements of the set, writing their own short stories, etc.

Once the team has spent approximately half an hour with each class, all classes come together to experience Aesop’s Fab Fables. Performed by the actors, this is a 45 minute show suitable for both KS1 and KS2 children based on three of the classic stories.

The approach works as a great introduction to live theatre as it breaks down the barriers between performers and audience, stimulates creativity, and rewards the pupils who will see the fruits of their labour employed in the show.

Aesop’s Fab Fables is available for in-school performances throughout the summer term of 2018.

To find out more, simply e-mail Helen in our office,, or call us on 01789 777612. We’ll collect a few details from you and respond with potential dates and a quote.

I look forward to hearing from you, and I welcome any feedback you may have on this production or any of the work we do here at Fred Theatre.

Robert Ball
Artistic Director


SoundRanger – a portable PA system, perfect for School Sports Days & Summer Fayres.

Have you got an outdoor event coming up this summer? Will everyone hear everything that is being said?

With an easy to use SoundRanger portable PA system – everyone across the school field, children, parents, helpers and staff will hear everything easily and clearly.

Your special event will take on a really professional atmosphere as everyone will hear all of your results, information and announcements.

Built-in rechargeable batteries give you all the power you need, without mains leads trailing across the playground or field.

When you are not speaking, you can play music from your phone, that’s easy too!

Karen from Aldershot said … “Sports Day with a megaphone days are GONE! It was used today for the PTA Summer Fayre …………… oh my wow, the difference is amazing!!’

But don’t take Karen’s word for it – try the system for yourself with no charge.

Simply tell us about your event and we will put together the best SoundRanger system for you and arrange for you to try it on a 30 day Free Trial.

Set up takes just 15 minutes and then you can use it straight away.  After your event, you can of course use the SoundRanger system in your school hall as well!

There is more information about the SoundRanger systems on our website here:

To hear what Karen heard and arrange a free 30 day trial simply call or email and leave the rest to us!

The SoundRanger Compact 4 is so reliable and robust, it has been used by the British Army to play battlefield sound effects to their recruits on assault courses!

Please reply quickly as these systems are understandably very popular during the summer!

What is the most effective way of teaching computer science to a mixed ability class?

Both teachers and students love the idea of using robots in their lessons.  As human beings we have always been fascinated with robots – the beings that have arms and legs and look somewhat like humans, but clearly are not.  Literature and films find a rich vein of stories involving robots too, which many of us have grown up with.

Being so deeply ingrained in our psyche it is no surprise that pupils and students are always fascinated by lessons that allow them to build their own robots.

To make it easier and more affordable to bring robots into your classroom we have designed a range of hands on robotics workshops. We bring all of the equipment to you and have a range of fun themes to choose from: including robot wars, robot farming and maze solving.

Students are encouraged to learn by doing and trying out their own ideas. They are given plenty of guidance when needed, but at the same time we tend not to “teach from the front”. We like to give students the opportunity to be creative and make their own mistakes.

We are currently offering an extra hour free for a half day booking, which is £300.

Or a free Arduino board with a full day booking for £400.

(Please note some travel expenses may apply depending on which area you are in, please get in touch for details.)

If you are interested, please hurry as we can only run this offer until the end of May 2018. We are nearly fully booked for the summer and are now also taking bookings for the new academic year.

For more information and to book contact me directly on 07703 294 942, email: or visit the website:

Can you solve this brainteaser?

Mr Steven George stepped off the train in France and met a friend he had not seen in years. Beside his friend was a little girl. ‘Steven!’ shouted the friend. ‘How delightful to see you! Did you know that I’m married? This is my daughter.’ ‘Hello,’ said Steven to the little girl, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Same as my mother’s,’ replied the little girl. ‘So you must be Catherine,’ said Steven. How did he know?


Brilliant Activities for Stretching Gifted and Talented Children contains a wealth of brainteasers just like this one, as well as other refreshing, motivating activities, based on the latest theories and research, to stretch your pupils’ analytical, creative and evaluative skills.

Activities range from quick warm-ups, brainteasers and maths focussed activities to entertaining, open-ended exercises for pupils to complete independently. With over 100 activities, Brilliant Activities for Stretching Gifted and Talented Children will be able to keep stretching your pupils for many years to come.

You can order Brilliant Activities for Stretching Gifted and Talented Children on our website for £18.50 as a printed book, £12.99 as an e-book or both for a discounted price of £22.40.

Free UK delivery for all orders placed in April.

  • over the phone on 01449 766629
  • by email to
  • by fax on 01449 767122
  • or by post to Brilliant Publications, Mendlesham Industrial Estate, Norwich Road, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5ND


It’s a combination of things. 

Children are typically very good at acting, not least because it is pivotal to make-believe play. Thus, combining drama with other subject areas, such as literacy, naturally leads to improved engagement and subsequent attainment.

 It is for this reason that we have developed the resource:

Teaching Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling through Drama

The 70 plus ready-to-use activities in the resource offer a new approach to teaching literacy and cover each of the rules that children are expected to know and use in the Year 6 SATs.

Through acting out parts of speech, letter strings, and punctuation children will internalise the language and absorb ideas, skills and understanding. They will be able to draw on this knowledge when they are being tested, but, more importantly, use it in their own writing.

What’s more, the combination of visual, aural, and kinaesthetic approaches means that the activities suit all types of learner and can be used with both large and small groups of mixed ages and abilities.

In addition to literacy understanding, pupils will also develop skills in problem solving, teamwork, and social confidence.

You can order Teaching Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling through Drama on our website for £18.50 as a printed book, £12.99 as an e-book, or both for a discounted price of £22.40.

An (almost) Free Play Therapy Service

If you are not already using a Play Therapist on a register accredited by the Professional Standards Authority you could use our placement service for 100 hours to find out how well play therapy will work in your school.

Play therapy not only helps pupils with emotional, behaviour and mental health issues, it reduces stress on teaching staff caused by disruptive or ‘difficult’ pupils.  It also improves their learning capabilities: better listening, better concentration, etc.

About 1700 primary schools are already using Play Therapy UK therapists to support pupils with emotional, behaviour and mental health issues.  Between 75% and 84% show a positive change.

Is there a snag?  It’s not money – all you need to do is provide a suitably equipped room, usually costing about £200.  The only other problem is availability.  We have about 300 trainees from 13 training centres in all parts of the UK this year.  So it depends upon one being available in your area.  But it’s worth applying – you’ve nothing to lose.

As an alternative, a good investment would be to fund a member of your staff to train as a Registered Certified Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills. You’ll recover the cost very quickly.

Email me personally at  for details of both opportunities.

More information on play therapy at:


Classic English literature texts in modern covers, with free delivery, no minimum order, and just £1.88 each 

From Shakespeare to Dickens, from Jane Austen to the Brontës, Wordsworth Editions has over 400 titles in print, covering more than 200 of the greatest works of classic literature, and over 50 popular children’s books.

Indeed not only does each volume have the full text, but with all of our classics there is also a set of exclusive introductions and notes.

We are also adding new titles to our range regularly – with the most well-known works of HG Wells being the most recent to be included on our list.

If you would like to see a list of around 50 of the most popular titles which are available direct to schools at the special price of £1.88 that is available here.

Then if you want to see the full list of our titles in print along with a ready to use order form, should you need it, then we have a page with those details as well.

And here’s one final offer of a free book.  Just in case the notion of books at £1.88 each with free delivery seems just too good to be true, we’d like to assure you of the quality of our publications and the speed of our service.

So, to receive a free sample of one of our classics just email with your name and the school address, and we’ll put it in the post to you with our compliments.

Booking is now open (with early-bird discount) for: A Christmas Carol, Jekyll and Hyde, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet

As the summer term gets under way, here at Fred Theatre we’re already planning for 2018-19. We’re looking forward to another great year of touring schools with our popular productions of GCSE texts. And, I am delighted to announce that we’re responding to requests by adding Romeo and Juliet to the menu.

Reserve your dates by the end of May to qualify for your discount.


Feedback from this year’s autumn tour included many great comments from students and staff, such as the following:

“The performance was phenomenal!  All of the pupils were extremely complimentary and positive about the performance.  The actors were truly brilliant.  The ‘faithfulness’ to the text has left the pupils engaged and ready for their English Literature studies.”

A Christmas Carol is available for in-school performances from 8 October to 14 December 2018.


Our highly popular production of Shakespeare’s classic tale of ambition will be touring for the third time next year. Here’s feedback from one school:

“It was fantastic! So professional and carefully engineered to give the students what they need. The actors were really impressive—they held the audience for the entire performance; no mean feat when dealing with 210+ sleepy teenagers!”

Macbeth is available for in-school performances from 21 January to 15 March 2019.


We’re always happy to hear from teachers who have suggestions for other shows we might tour with. Just recently we’ve had several requests for Romeo and Juliet. Therefore I’m delighted to announce that we’re adding this Shakespeare classic to the menu for 2018-19.

Romeo and Juliet is available for in-school performances from 18 February through to Easter.


Finally, I’m pleased to report that great progress is being made on our new adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde. This is being written for us by Jonathan Lloyd and Abigail Walton, the team who also adapted A Christmas Carol.

Jekyll and Hyde is available for in-school performances from 22 October 2018 to 15 March 2019.

All of our in-school shows are 90 minute adaptations, fresh and exciting re-tellings of the familiar and much-loved stories. Each features a cast of six professional actors. We concentrate on the text and producing a faithful representation of the original—just a little shorter!

All we need to perform at your school is a space approximately 5m x 5m with room (of course) for the audience.

So, why not give your students the advantage of a live performance and book with Fred Theatre today? There’s no need to pay right away, and anyone reserving a date for the new academic year before the end of May will receive a 10% discount.

To find out more, simply e-mail Helen in our office,, or call us on 01789 777612. We’ll collect a few details from you and respond with potential dates and a quote.

How can assistive technology support a student’s education?

Whilst there are many different types of disability in the UK, ‘people with disabilities’ are often referred to as a single population. In the UK, that ‘single population’ is approximately 3.5 million – 1.5 million people living in the UK with a learning disability, and almost 2 million people living with a visual impairment. However, of those figures, there are around 25,000 children living with sight loss, and 286,000 children who have a learning disability. With those figures in mind, students learning with a disability often require adaptive or assistive technology to support their education.

Technology has either been developed or is in development to support people who suffer with a disability – in particular children who have previously been unable to get the most out of their education. When students with a learning disability have the opportunity to use their strengths to overcome their challenges, it often results in a successful education. Assistive technology (AT) is just one approach that allows students to work around their disabilities.

Offering support through AT

You’ll be surprised at how many different types of AT is available to enhance a child’s education – with technology able to address a child’s learning difficulties and make the education experience better for the student, and teacher. AT has tools which can be used to assist those with disabilities that struggle with listening, reading, writing, math and organisation. Whether the student is visually impaired, dyslexic or any other disabilities that cause skill deficits, AT can be implemented into the education processes to help. In fact, research has proved that AT can improve certain skill deficits, such as reading and spelling.

AT tools can be used to support a disabled child so that they can experience an education as close to the same as other children as possible. The use of assistive technology in schools does not give disabled students an unfair advantage but instead give them the opportunity, in some cases, to learn alongside their fellow students by giving them the independence to learn in an environment that allows them to use their strengths to overcome their challenges, whether they are learning in a public school, a special needs institution or a blind school. Adaptive devices help to increase participation, achievement and independence of the student, by improving their access to the same general curriculum as other pupils without a disability via an assistive tool that breaks down the barriers of their disability.

Which AT tools are available?

With so many different tools available, many can be used to address certain disabilities so that students can effectively work around their peers. Around 20% of young people with a visual impairment, have additional special education needs or disabilities, with a further 30% having complex needs within the education system. Assistive technology offers support. Generally, the term assistive technology is applied to technology that is used to support children with learning difficulties – most commonly, electronic devices, computer hardware and digital tools that are available on the internet.

Visual impairment is common among children, with over 2.5 million children suffering from some degree of sight loss. For this, AT provides students with access to educational assets in a larger format, both in print and digital. For many visually impaired students, digital technology is a way for them to learn in mainstream schools – this is because text can be enlarged, and other senses can be used to aid the learning process, such as touch and sound. Around 60% of visually impaired students are educated in mainstream schools, and AT supports their learning needs, and allows students to learn at their own rate. A qualified teacher of the visually impaired is likely to support to pupil further.

Quite often, the barriers which children face because of their disability can cause a lack in enthusiasm – however, alternative keyboards have overlays which customise the appearance of the keyboard to encourage production and engagement. Not only students with visual impairment who might need braille, or larger keys, these customisable keyboard overlays can add graphics and colours to help students who struggle to type. And it doesn’t stop there – from electronic math work sheets and talking calculators to talking spell checkers, electronic dictionaries and braille technology, AT makes school a comfortable environment for students with a disability to learn in.

No two students are the same

No two disabilities are the same, meaning the needs of every disabled student are unique and individual to them. Assistive technology allows the student to take control of their learning journey and gain some independence in their education – but finding which assistive technology is right for the student can be difficult, as one student’s need may be very different to another. To find the right tool to support their education, establish which tools best address the child’s specific needs and challenges – which tool will help overcome the barriers? The AT tool must be used to the student’s strengths, be easy to use, reliable and preferably portable.

Every child’s abilities differ as well. So, you must also make sure that your student is capable and willing to use the tool – and be aware that while a tool can be used by one student, it doesn’t necessarily mean that another student can use it too. Disabilities are different for each person, and whilst two pupils might both have a visual impairment, their requirements could differ significantly.



Your students’ communication skills distinguish your school and are critical to their future.

But what is the most effective way to teach them?

Whether your students are positioning for university, corresponding, meeting with potential employers, speaking or debating… how good an impression they make will depend primarily on their communication skills. Their good impression also reflects favorably on your school.

Which raises the question, how can you help your students become superior communicators?

To stand out in today’s world, your students will need not just knowledge but also a broader vocabulary than most, an ability to express themselves clearly with just the right words, and the capability readily to explore relevant topics while focusing on the most salient points.

Following this understanding, over the past several years, we have been developing a solution which allows and indeed encourages students to expand both their vocabulary and the way in which they use the language.

As a result these students become better communicators and make a more positive impression on everyone with whom they come into contact.

And what’s more they can to do this not just in English but in 30 languages as well – all of which are available through the same web portal.

Students can thus find words they may otherwise not think of, and they don’t need to know a word or its spelling to find it.  Also they can find words on any subject of interest, they can search for words by sound (ideal for finding rhymes), search for words according to the character of the words… and so on.

You can try Wordipedia yourself for free by simply joining with a trial membership on our JOIN page as well as clicking this link to see more details of the Benefits for students and teachers.

Also, we provide low-cost access for school libraries.

What is the one thing more than anything else that makes children sit up and take notice in an Assembly?

The great disadvantage of the daily school assembly is that it is… daily.   Which means it can easily become familiar, which in turn means that attention is reduced.

Which in turn means that the moment that one does something completely different in an Assembly, one has complete attention.

And this quite simply is why my colleagues and I started to create the Assembly Box – to find the most interesting and thought-provoking assemblies for primary school children.

Assemblies that would not just gain immediate attention and be remembered but would also meet the social and emotional needs of the children who attended them.

We decided to place at the centre of these assemblies, stories that would encourage a whole school focus on the values we wished to present.

In fact, what we produced, and what we have been developing ever since, is a set of over 350 assemblies which are instantly available, and fully scripted, with new assemblies being added every month.

These assemblies are divided into 12 categories along with an index which allows you to choose your assembly by topics as diverse as community, citizenship, saints’ days, black history, social and emotional stories, and so on with each assembly having its own supporting presentation material and a set of ready-to-use key word cards.

You can read a full example of one of our assemblies by following this link

Additionally you can see the complete list of the 12 main categories and from there you can go into each category and see the details of all the assemblies on offer.

All the details are available at where you can also order online.  The complete set of all of our assemblies costs £149 (+ VAT). If you have any questions please email