Wednesday, 7 November 2012


I had the most unforgettable summer at Wimbledon as a Gamesmaker at the Olympic Games. I wrote the following article for our local magazine which I would like to share with you.

I will never forget the afternoon of Friday 13th July this year when my mobile phone rang and a softly-spoken Irishman called John asked me “would you like to help out at the Olympics this summer?” It wasn’t entirely out of the blue as I had applied to be a “Gamesmaker” 18 months before and then attended an interview in the spring of 2011, but when I received an email in early July to say there was no vacancy I was disappointed that I would not be able to make a contribution to the Games.

I asked John what it involved and he replied it was to help out with the press operations at Wimbledon. I would be working in Court No 1 and Centre Court. After a few milliseconds deliberation I of course said yes and then made plans to change my summer working arrangements. Time was short and I had to spend a day training, picking up accreditation and uniform. I had missed a lot of the training sessions prior to the games and I had to catch up very quickly.

My first shift was the first day of the games and I travelled down by train to Wimbledon on Saturday wearing my uniform, at first a little self-consciously (I had not worn a uniform since secondary school) but then realising that you were the centre of attention. Instead of being ignored by most people (how true it is that you become invisible after the age of 55)  I was approached by people of all ages. They wanted to know “Where are you working?” “Do you get the uniform free?” “How did you become a Gamesmaker?” And even “Can I buy your trainers?” Even people on the tube came up and talked to me. Was London changing into something different?

On arrival at Wimbledon the crowds were building and the excitement of the first day was apparent. I had never been to watch tennis at Wimbledon but I was sure it was never like this. First a flashmob of synchronised dancers on the famous Hill, then the Pet Shop Boys appeared on stage performing “Always on my mind.”  Was it sport or were we having a party? It proved to be a bit of both.

The shifts were long but the work was not onerous at first. The press were notable by their absence in the initial stages of the competition, there were far too many other sports to look at. But as the tournament came to a climax the press area became full of journalists from all over the world. Australian, American, Argentinian, Russian and many other countries. The overwhelming feeling was fun. London was having a party with some sporting events as entertainment and the whole world was invited.

I saw some incredible tennis matches. Murray looked majestic and Serena Williams demolished all in her path. The Bryan brothers –twins who played tennis as if they were one person with two bodies. There were also some tense moments such as during the first ever medal ceremony. As the Stars and Stripes was raised for Serena Williams, the women’s singles champion, the flag came fluttering to the ground as it was dislodged by the wind. Thankfully Serena saw the funny side and no big deal was made of it. .We cringed at the thought of another North Korean flag incident.

I met some wonderful people from every part of Britain and further afield in our team. All showed  great commitment to making the Games a special occasion for all. There were teachers, students, pensioners and people who worked in business. We were a very mixed crew but united by the belief that we wanted to show everybody that London can be more friendly and welcoming than anyone could believe..

I shall never forget my week in Wimbledon. The atmosphere was wonderful and the sense of history and uniqueness was very apparent. I may never see a Games again in this country but I have a tale to tell to the grandchildren.

Monday, 23 April 2012

National Numeracy (3)

So what about the largest group of people in this country who have low numeracy skills - adults. According to recent data there are over 17 million adults with low numeracy skills in this country. Well, so what if you can't add up there is always a calculator and who needs algebra anyway?

If only it were so simple. Low numeracy skills are reflected in lower salaries, poorer health, an increased likelihood of ending up in prison and an overall cost to the country of £10 billion. We have seen a rise in personal debt over the past few years and perhaps if better information on how high interest rates impact on the ability to pay back we may have fewer people in debt right now.

A few years ago we ran a learndirect centre in Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds. The courses were excellent but the strategy was statistics-led rather than trying to raise the numeracy skills of the people who most needed it. I always felt that we were not really addressing the problem of re-engaging the adult who was marked as a failure at school. As a consequence these people ended up in low-grade jobs and often felt trapped when redundancy loomed and they were unable to meet the requirements of the labour market. Add into that the age factor and the problem was exacerbated. The people who came into our centre were only the small minority often at the top end of the scale. We need to reach out to those people who find it very difficult to cross the threshol of an educational institute.

I reiterate my offer of free numeracy classes to any adult who wishes to improve their skills up to GCSE level. Don't be nervous call 01638 660044 or 01284 706070 and I will offer free advice.

Monday, 19 March 2012

National Numeracy (2)

So where do we start? To stop the tide of more and more adults with low numeracy skills we must start by helping children to succeed at maths in school. We have a lot of children who come to our centres in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket who have been left behind as the National Curriculum rolls inexorably onwards. They have been taught methods which may be current thinking but do not take into account the needs and learning styles of the child. (See my post on "Chunking")
Maths has become too abstract and not practical enough. We must not forget that maths is not just a way of helping you to understand why your credit card costs you a fortune to repay but it is in itself a way to enhance logical thought and problem solving.
There are too many teachers at primary level who are not confident in their own ability to teach maths and there are many at secondary level who have such a high level of maths they cannot relate to their students.
We need an approach which takes into account that we all learn maths in our own way. There is a difference between the way girls and boys view maths (which could be either cultural or in their make up). Only then can we stop the production of low numeracy attainment.

Monday, 5 March 2012

National Numeracy (1)

It's been the elephant in the room, we don't want to talk about it but it is now coming into the open. We as a nation are not very good at maths.

We are not ashamed to openly admit that we are "no good at maths" but are also comfortable to do nothing about it. I meet many people who have had a bad experience of maths at school and now find the mention of the words "algebra, long division or geometry" sends chills down the spine and brings back painful memories of classes where they understood nothing.

So what can we do? We need a two-pronged approach by working with children to ensure we are not producing even more adults with low maths skills and a fear of numbers and also working with adults to make sure we engage them and help them with the practicalities of maths in everyday life.

For further info visit National Numeracy

I will be writing further blogs about what we can do to raise our levels of numeracy as a nation.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Online vs face-to-face tutoring

The growth of online tutoring raises a lot of questions about quality of teaching and safeguarding. When deciding which is best for your child consider the following:

1.      Do you know anything about the quality of the teaching and in particular whether the teachers are qualified to deliver the content for the needs of your child?

2.      Are you able to monitor the interaction between your child and the teacher?

3.      Do you feel your child is safe with the tutor online, has the tutor a recent CRB check?

4.      Do you want your child to remain even longer in front of a computer screen in their bedroom instead of interacting with people face-to-face?

The benefits of face-to-face tutoring.

1.      The teacher can read the way children react to explanations in their facial expressions.

2.      Help is immediate.

3.      Lessons can be targeted to the child’s needs even when a last minute request is made to help with a particular topic.

4.      Teachers can motivate their learners more easily.

5.      In an educational centre the atmosphere is one of learning which does not have the distractions of the bedroom or the kitchen table.

For more information visit to see how we can help your child.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Science Workshop during Half Term

In collaboration with Zebra Science we will be running 2 science workshops at our Bury site during half term. The Chemistry Masterclasses will be on Tuesday 14th February starting at 10am and 2pm.

To book your place please go to

Friday, 13 January 2012

Maths Club for Parents

I am often asked about how maths is taught in school these days and how things have changed since parents went to school. I am offering free classes to parents so they can feel more confident in supporting their children. The first session will be about multiplication and division so we will discover all about bus shelters, chunking, grids and Napier's Bones!

Come along, I promise an informal learning session, no exams and lots of fun. I will even provide refreshments and cakes.
What's stopping you?
Sign up today by emailing me at Bury or Newmarket

Bury- Jan 20th 1.30pm-2.30pm
Newmarket- Jan 27th 1.30pm-2.30pm

Suffolk Children's University

We have joined Suffolk Children's University enabling our students to receive certificates acknowledging their academic achievements at Step Up Learning but also integrating their learning with other organisations across the county. Ask Carol or Kevin for details and how to enrol.