The Philosophy of Memory Part 2; Mindset

Creativity, Education, Exams, Memory, Mindset, Motivation, Revision, Study Skills, Teaching and Learning

Henry Ford’s, “If you think you can or you think can’t, you’re right,” is the lifeblood running through all our programmes for young people. So much so, it’s part 2 of our Philosophy of Memory!

Strategies for Success AI

Mindset and self – belief is vital. Memory techniques is a big part of this as they demonstrate the brain’s plasticity – it can develop and grow. Intelligence is not fixed.

Often during our workshops students are amazed at just how much they can recall when they use a technique. Their mindset is transformed from “There’s no way I can remember all that,” to “I can do it!”

Getting rid of that little fixed voice that whispers, “you can’t do this,” is one step towards conquering all those obstacles that stop pupils achieving.

You got this.



Memory Matters.

Creativity, Education, Exams, Learning, Mindfulness, Revision, Stress, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

The national curriculum and exam changes are transforming the way our children have to learn. They have to retain and recall huge amounts of information when it matters most, in the exam.

It is a big demand on our young people. We can meet this demand head on with *wait for it* creativity and imagination. Yes, that’s right. By unleashing the power of creativity and imagination we can empower students to learn independently with effective memory techniques, learn to learn and study skills.

Over the next five weeks we will be sharing our 5 Point Philosophy of Memory as part of our #memorymatters campaign.

The first step in our Philosophy is RELAX. 

Strategies for Success AI


The brain reacts to physical stress (think hungry lion chasing you down the street) exactly the same as emotional stress (think exams). It automatically goes into flight or fight mode. Stress hormones like adrenaline, run rings around you. When stressed your body is in a high state of alert – trouble sleeping, change in appetite, fast or shallow breathing, struggling to make decisions, lacking focus – are just a few signs of stress.

It is incredibly difficult to learn, retain and recall information when your stressed so it is important to know how to relax. Here are our Top 3 Relaxation Tips that you can do even during an exam!

  1. Mindful Breathing. 

Breathe through your nose for the count of 5, then out through your mouth for the count of 5. Really focus on your breathing. This will help calm your thoughts and soon your brain will realise you’re not going to get eaten by lion (unless you are, then run.)

It’s a great, simply, subtle technique. No one needs to know you are breathing mindfully and it takes just a minute.

2. Mindful Listening. 

Close your eyes for 30 seconds and concentrate on all the sounds you can hear – a ticking clock, tapping of a pencil, a car passing, your own breathing. This will help to clear your mind, to slow down and to focus. Open your eyes and the world will be a little bit clearer.

3. The Ten Second Count

This is a variation of Tip 1 but rather than focusing on your breath, close your eyes and focus your attention on slowly counting to ten. If your concentration wanders start back at number one!

For more information about Memory Matters click here and don’t forget to check back this time next week for Step 2…!

GCSE Results-Recognise Achievement


GCSE results day brings along a great deal of mixed emotions- a huge amount of nervousness, but I’m sure also a lot of happiness and excitement! It is a day where parents, teacher and students reflect on the positives and negatives. The educational changes that have already and continue to come in to place, affect schools differently. Those differences are proven by the results that have been achieved this year and we will continue to see the impact and improvement that further changes bring in the years to follow.

It is fantastic to hear that the amount of GCSE passes has risen this year again, especially in students receiving at least a grade C in English. Last year it was a concern that this figure had dropped by the largest amount since GCSE’s began, this increase is therefore very much welcomed. Performance in maths has also improved in comparison to last year- such positive news!

GCSEs are the first important set of exam results that students collect, so it is not surprising the worry that comes with that. The pressure that is put upon schools and teachers to achieve is another reason why this day is undoubtedly one of the most stressful of the year. It’s the end to the first big stage in student’s education, but it definitely doesn’t end there for teachers.

Today, success or failure will be the result students and teachers throughout the country receive. The feeling of success or failure however is personal to each individual. In relation to students, it is not necessarily to do with what grades that they have received, but if they are pleased with them. I think it is important to help young students put things in to perspective. Students beat themselves up if they didn’t get those straight A’s that they were hoping for, but it isn’t the end of the world- they must realise this! Many students receive results that are good enough to lead them on to their next step, however they are still left feeling dissatisfied with their achievement.

The futures of students collecting their GCSE results today are not determined merely by what results they see written in front of them. That fact however will not have stopped the nerves, disappointment and concern associated with receiving grades lower than anticipated.

It is very clear that not everything suits everyone. There are therefore cases where further education is not necessarily the correct next step. That may be because a student doesn’t currently hold the grades they need or because another route may be more beneficial for them.

Whatever the case is, I believe enjoying what you do is ultimately what leads you to success. The key is to help guide students today into their next step in life. To ensure that they make the right decision based on them as an individual, not on what they think is expected. Young people have to make big decisions so early in life- providing the support that they need today is essential.

Despite much criticism over exams, they are there to monitor achievement as well as progress. Without exams what is there for students and teachers to work towards? Exams and results aren’t everything, but without them we would live in a very different country, i believe one that would lack mind set and motivation.

I regularly question whether results are to do with intelligence or hard work. The two undoubtedly are linked in a huge way, however intelligence and hard work are each successes in their own right. Recognising and encouraging hard work irrespective of intelligence proven by results is so essential. I believe that this should very much be remembered on a day like today. For those students that missed out on that C grade and for that student who completely failed- it isn’t the end. Unfortunately we aren’t all gifted with natural academic intelligence. We do all however have the ability to work very hard. All achievement should be recognised!

Holly Chandler

Presenter Coordinator

A level Results Day!



The day that the majority of A level students throughout the country have been anticipating has arrived. For many this will be the first time that they have been able to relax in months, and for others the time has come for them to pull their heads back out from under the sand.

It isn’t however just students that face the undeniable pressure and apprehension that this day brings- results day is equally as daunting of a day for teachers and parents! That fact is widely forgotten.

For most students, the moment of finding out their results is life changing in some way. That small bit of paper holds possible answers to their future, answers to their next step in life and potentially to the next path that they will take. Speaking from previous experience, this moment is overwhelmingly nerve-racking. How can this one moment, based on one set of exams, mean so much? That complete desire for something that you want so much. Something that relies solely on the information that one bit of paper holds.

It is not only the insane amount of pressure that students put on themselves that creates that feeling of utter disappointment if they do not get the results they were aiming for so difficult to accept, but also that overcoming concern of ‘what will my parents think?’

Those very apparent doubts and ‘what if’ thoughts that fill the heads of those students that open that envelope and haven’t got what they wanted, often despite trying their very hardest, are such a struggle to deal with. We all want to feel proud of ourselves but also make others proud of us!

woman-cryingparents a level results

From students that just miss out on that ‘A’ they needed to get in to the university of their choice to those that completely messed up an exam and haven’t got in to university at all- does everything really happen for a reason? How can getting in to university be so black and white? Students must be proud of what they did achieve and realise that this isn’t the end. I hope that today support and reassurance is being provided all over the country to help manage that indescribable disappointment which is so difficult to know how to deal with.

Hard work should be recognised whether they got that result they were looking for or not. These exams ARE important, but students shouldn’t be made to feel like this is the end. Opportunity is still there! Lets make students feel proud. Let’s provide them with the support that they need today. Never underestimate what can be achieved through sheer encouragement to keep going! They must remember that results alone cannot determine a future and there is so much further success that is yet to be achieved.

Those who haven’t got in to the university of their choice- the process of clearing is another stress to add to this pressure filled day. Along with disappointment, the rush of ‘where else can I go’ takes over. The opportunity of clearing creates many happy endings, but actually in a lot of cases can increase apprehension. It often means being accepted somewhere they haven’t had the chance to visit or somewhere that is maybe so far from home but yet they haven’t began considering leaving their family. This means the step from college/sixth form to university is even more dramatic than perhaps anticipated.

right decision sign

Even for those A level students that are filled instantly with sheer relief when finding out their results, it doesn’t end there! Today the pressure and apprehension is not only on those who failed to reach their target, but also those who succeeded to. It is time for these students to consider how to prepare for the unknown. Some will be ready and some will not be.

This day is truly life changing but i believe that positivity should be taken whatever the outcome. It is important to spot the signs of students who are struggling; those who need extra support on this very significant day. The ones most in need of your help aren’t always the most obvious. That struggle may vary from accepting that they missed out on a grade to dealing with the idea of moving away.

The point is, it isn’t just about what results they get, it is about providing encouragement, motivation and mind-set for that next step – whatever that may be!

For now, make the most of the summer and I wish you all a fantastic start to the new academic year!


Holly Chandler

Presenter Coordinator

77 days…Are you ready?



Welcome back from half – term break! From today there are just 77 days to the first GCSE exam!

Don’t panic. Now is the perfect time to hold one of our interactive and practical revision and exam preparation workshops for your students facing exams this summer.

Demand is incredibly high and I would hate for your students to miss out, so contact me today on 01903 872849, email or click on the clock to book your workshop.

Did you know we have workshops designed for different ability groups? Check them out:

Get Rid of Revision!


What do you think your students would say if you were to tell them they never, ever had to revise again?

“Are you joking?” is likely to be the most common answer.

Well, it’s quite true. Our “Review Philosophy” is based on scientific evidence on how the brain retains information. This means revising an entire subject taught months ago during the Easter Holidays (or the night before the exam) just won’t work.

Reviewing a subject in small chunks, several times in short bursts, in the same amount of time it takes to brush their teeth has a far greater impact. We call it, surfing the waves of memory.


By reviewing little and often, the connections between neurons become stronger. This means information frequently reviewed is easily retained and recalled when they need it the most, in the exam.

Once students have taken their notes, made an A – Map and so on we recommend the following:

Review When How long
First Review 10 minutes later 10 minutes
Second Review 1 day later 5 minutes
Third Review 1 week later 2 – 5 minutes
Fourth Review 1 month later 2 – 5 minutes

The Review Philosophy was recently supported by a scientific study on game players behaviour and performance. The analysis showed that people who leave gaps between practice attempts go on to score higher.

The difference is huge: people who leave more than 24 hours between their first five attempts at the game and their second five attempts score as highly, on average, as people who have practiced 50% more than them.

This confirms lots of other research: studying effectively means pupils can spend less time revising and yet, remember more.

That is the key to the Review Philosophy: work smarter, not harder.

This inevitably leads to the question, “How do I revise effectively?” which is a loaded question and deserves a whole other article, but I do find the universal loathing of revision fascinating. Revision is the one and only thing students have complete control over during their school life. Students should love it.

Student mindset is a huge obstacle to overcome. Who can blame them? The word itself, “revision”, still sends shivers down my spine, even though my school days are far behind me.

The Review Philosophy can help engage pupils by giving them power and ownership over their learning and time. Revision doesn’t have to be hours of torture. It can be creative, colourful, and imaginative, even, fun.

The other part of the gaming study, which I adored, was how sleep or a brief rest after learning something can help you remember it a week later. Even napping can help consolidate memories, and maybe even make you more creative.

That’s that then. I’m off for a nap. See you later!

You can download our free handy guide to creating a revision timetable for your students here.

Forget Paxman – The Real University Challenge

Education, Exams, Learning, Motivation, Politics

More young people than ever are applying to university, with 495,600 getting a place in higher education in 2013.  That’s a lot of teenagers applying for the same courses.  I found out recently that the most popular of these can have up to 18 applicants per available place – what?!

I know what you’re thinking.  Not another student complaining how hard their life is, how difficult applying to university is, bla bla bla.  But give me a chance – I promise I won’t moan too much…actually don’t hold me to that one!

A lot of changes concerning higher education have happened during my time at secondary school, notably the rise in tuition fees.  The pantomime villain responsible for this, according to most students, is Nick Clegg.  After Clegg (boo hiss) promised the National Union of Students that he would oppose any rise in fees, the coalition government proceeded to increase the cap on the amount to be charged to £9000 a year.  Hmmm.

My main memories from this time are of the student marches in London and the auto-tuned YouTube parody of Nick Clegg’s apology (if you haven’t already seen it you’re missing out).  However, now that it’s time for me to start the university application process myself, I’m realising how much of an impact changes such as this are going to have on the choices I make.

It could be argued that the rise in tuition fees has had some positive effects.   After a dip in applications in 2012, numbers have continued to rise.  The difference is that teenagers have to think much more carefully about university – it’s no longer an option if you aren’t sure about any aspect of university life, or your course.  Interestingly, despite the increasing price of attending university, the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education have never been larger – the reasons for this welcomed change are not yet clear.

Since higher fees have encouraged teenagers to look into other ways of gaining further education, it could be argued that this has prevented many young people from making the wrong decision.  Unfortunately, I know of a few students who have taken up a course and realised that it wasn’t what they wanted a few years in.  Now that tuition is so high, dropping out or switching courses is a huge decision to make; £9000 is a lot of money to ‘waste’.  As a result, it seems to some students that once you begin at university, there really is no going back.

The main thing that I have noticed since starting to consider higher education is the increased pressure to guarantee employment after your course ends.  Again, this is largely down to the amount of money you are investing – it makes sense to want to get something back!  The continued popularity of medicine, education and law courses support this idea, but what about those of us who don’t want this sort of job?

It seems to me that more and more people are choosing a subject because of its employability levels rather than how passionate they are about it.  Three years is a long time to study something you hate, even if you do get a ridiculously well paid job out of it.  This is one of the main issues with increasing the price of going to university; I’d like to think we should at least partly be motivated by doing something that we love.  Maybe that’s a little naïve.  Perhaps the opportunity to study for pleasure is one only available to a privileged few, with everyone else having to think in more practical terms.

I’ve faced issues frequently since deciding that I want to study English at undergraduate level.  Even though I love the subject, many people seem to see it as a waste of time.  When I tell people about my plans, a common reaction is a kind of strained smile followed by: “So do you want to be a teacher then?”  As well intentioned as this comment is, I often feel like screaming: ‘NO.  NO I DO NOT WANT TO BE A TEACHER’ (don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate teachers – I just don’t fancy it as a career).  The other frequent reaction is a look of surprise and a comment about me being ‘a clever girl’ – why don’t I want to study law or ‘something sciencey’ instead?

The answer?  I love literature and I always have done.  I’m not put off by the very small amount of contact hours for arts degrees and I want to do something that I’m good at.  I’ll confess:  I don’t yet know exactly what career path I want to take upon the completion of my degree (shock horror).  I’m sorry if at the age of 17 I don’t know how I want to spend my entire future – I’m certainly not the only one.

My last year of A-levels is going to be packed with decisions and applications.  The most pressing concern upon my return to college is writing my personal statement, something which seems to involve a whole military style procession of checks, redrafts, more checks and rewording.  Who would have thought that 4000 characters could be so intimidating!  The fact is that competition for courses at some universities is so fierce that a good personal statement is more valuable to a student than an iPhone.  Well, I say that…

But what about those who might not have had as much help with their personal statement?  There is still a heated debate over whether success depends primarily on preparation or natural talent.  Many people are complaining that a system which favours pupils who have been ‘trained’ during their A- levels reflects unfairly on those who attend less affluent schools or colleges.  Are university applications still affected by issues of class?

Essentially the UCAS application process seems to me like one big competition (I’m thinking a Crufts style arena and everything) where only the students with the best grades, the best work experience and the best interview technique  get to go where they really want.  No pressure then.

I know that there are options other than university, some of which are absolutely brilliant.  But for me personally, I feel this is the right choice – unfortunately this means A LOT of work for me over the next twelve months, as well as for the other estimated 500,000 – 600,000 people applying through UCAS this year.  Despite this I’m still excited about (hopefully) starting university in 2015.   I’m telling you, it had better be worth it!

By Gove he’s gone!

Education, Exams, Politics

Michael Gove got stuck in a toilet. Yes, you heard me right. Cue maniacal laughter from teachers all over the country who can’t quite believe their luck.  This incident capped what must have been a satisfying week for the majority of the teaching population. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Gove is not a very popular man.

As Gove leaves his position as Secretary of State for Education (accompanied, as I imagine, by sinister Darth Vader style music and a gleefully waving Nick Clegg), now seems a good time to reflect on his time in office.

As an A level student, I haven’t been subjected to many of the coalition government’s changes to the exam system as most of them are only now starting to take effect. I was one of the last years to take the ‘easier’ exams with more class based ‘controlled assessments’.  I sat those exams – easy is not the word I would use.

I have however, experienced a few reforms, such as the axing of the opportunity to take AS and A2 exams in January.   I appreciate that this is intended to make the exams harder, but Mr Gove, or more likely the minions he sends out to deal with this sort of thing, have not thought this policy through very well.

It now seems that all the arts and humanities subjects are examined together, as are maths and the sciences. This is all very well until you put it into practice and people like me end up taking 70% of their exams (all essay based) in one week. I could really have done with that January sitting. Just saying.

I’m not saying that Michael Gove is all bad (I didn’t say he was all good either mind you). Amongst some of his deeply unpopular proposals, there are elements of genuinely good ideas. A good example is the reform of the English GCSE. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly disagreed with most of Gove’s opinions on this subject. But, he did want to encourage children to start reading more pre-1900 literature.

While it could be reasonably argued that a move like this would be more suited to A level students, there is a real point to be made here. In both my English Literature GCSE and A level, I haven’t studied any author other than Shakespeare who is pre-Victorian. However, when (hopefully) I study English at university, I will be expected to have a working understanding of texts dating at least from the middle ages. There is definitely a knowledge gap here; I’ll at least give Mr Gove that.

Despite this, I feel Gove has been extremely misguided when it comes to English. As a graduate of the subject himself, I would expect him to show a love for a wide range of literature. But no. Many American authors are now ‘discouraged’ on the most popular exam boards, apparently down in part to Gove’s personal dislike of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’.

Having studied ‘Of Mice and Men’ at GCSE, I can see why it is such a popular text. Its short length makes it easily accessible to the majority of students, but it also has layers of symbolism and multiple themes which make it hugely interesting to analyse. What Steinbeck ever did to Michael Gove is a mystery.

On a more positive note, after it disappeared from the reformed English syllabus, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ shot up to number nine on Amazon’s bestseller list. Suck on that Govey.

Ignoring (temporarily) some of Gove’s more…questionable policies, I think it’s pretty clear what his biggest problem was. I know a lot of teachers, both through family and my sixth form, and none of them has ever had a good word to say about him. In fact, one of my teachers hates him with such a passion that I briefly considered buying her a Gove shaped piñata as an end of year present.

Something about the man just drove people crazy, and whole articles have been written on exactly what exactly it is about him that caused this. When it came down to it, he was just a man doing his job. However, it seems to me that teachers specifically hate HOW he did it.

Most teachers saw Gove as a man who not only had no firsthand experience of teaching, but who refused to listen to people that did. Of course, being constantly in denial about just how disliked he was didn’t help much. All I can say for sure is that Gove alienated the majority of teachers, and therefore also the students that they are teaching. Not the smartest move for an Education Secretary.

So what next? Until last week, I have to admit, I had never heard of Nicky Morgan. She is a largely unknown figure who has a pretty tricky job ahead of her in attempting to win back the teaching population of Britain. Although portrayed in some parts of the media as a superman-esque figure here to rescue teachers from The Monstrous Gove ( I picture him as some sort of reptilian villain wearing glasses), I have my reservations.

Nicky Morgan desperately needs to provide some sort of stability within the examination system and give children a break from the relentless reforms that have been taking place over the last few years. Whether the urge to make immediate changes will prove too much is yet to be seen.

For many teachers and students (including myself) the attitude at the moment seems to be one of relief mixed with a sort of smug triumph. The conclusion for now seems to be: ‘Anyone is better than Gove’.


Be More Awesome.

Education, Teacher Resources, Uncategorized

A recent Guardian article on the latest research from the London School of Economics highlighted “confidence is key to success at schools.” Erm…I could have told them that without a survey or expensive research but I’m pleased that it has been picked up by a national paper.

Confidence is essential, not just for school but for life. You need confidence to make friends, to ace that exam, to apply for that job, to become someone you admire. All that takes confidence.

Sadly, young people today are filled with self – doubt. I often hear,  “I can’t do it, Miss” “It’s too hard,” or worst of all, “What’s the point? I will never be able to do it anyway.”

This lack of confidence and self belief in their own ability to succeed is epidemic. What or who is responsible I don’t know. But I do know that as teachers we have a responsibility to help our students develop into confident and motivated young adults.

As a motivational and confidence boosting activity I have students write where they want to be in sixth months time, then a year, then in two years, three, five and so on. Before I do this, I stress that goals are not immovable objects. Goals are there to guide you, to keep moving you forward. Life after all, is about being flexible and adjusting to whatever it throws at you.

Goals are great but they are nothing without realistic action plans. I make students literally list out every single action that needs to be taken. For example, Kim received a D in her mock English GCSE.

Goal: Get a B in my GCSE exam

Action Plan:

  1. Talk to teacher about possible exam topics
  2. Create a realistic revision timetable
  3. Research topics by using the internet, library and personal notes
  4. Create mind maps or helpful memory strategies and stick them all over my bedroom/study wall
  5. Form a study group with friends
  6. Practise past exam papers
  7. Review my revision notes for 10 minutes every day
  8. Go to the exam hall to make a memory palace
  9. Relax before the night of the exam. Visualise being successful in the exam.
  10. Rock the exam!

This may be simplistic but creating a step – by – step action plan makes a seemingly impossible goal become attainable. Suddenly, students faces light up as it dawns on them that they can do it, they can achieve.

You can see the difference when there is no action plan.

  • Jim’s goal is to get a C in his Math exam so he must revise.

Revise what?! What is Jim’s strength and weaknesses? Is there a particular unit of maths he needs to improve? When will he revise?! How will he revise? Who will help him revise?!

I can feel poor Jim’s panic rising, the bewilderment of where to start or what to do next, as he stares blankly at his math’s text book, feeling stupid and frustrated. So he thinks “What’s the point?” gives up and walks away. His math’s exam becomes another thing he fails at bringing his confidence to an all time low.

Having a clear, simple and structured action plan makes a world of difference. This doesn’t just apply to short – term goals or exams. Take Jenny’s lead; she is in her final year at sixth form.

Goal: To become a paediatric nurse

Action plan:

  1. Find out what the entry requirements are to become a nurse (2 or 3 A – Levels)
  2. Ask friends and family if they know any nurses to get firsthand advice
  3. Apply for work experience with children, preferably local hospitals.
  4. Visit universities offering nursing courses – pick top three!
  5. Begin application process
  6. Write first draft of personal statement then ask for advice from teachers and parents
  7. Re-write statement until happy!
  8. Submit application
  9. Be accepted onto a course
  10. Complete the course
  11. Qualify!

Each action point can be broken down even further as and when they come up. Simple yet effective!

I suggest to students they should keep their goals and action plans somewhere safe – their wallet, diary, favourite coat pocket, or bedroom wall – so if it all gets too much or they just need to remind themselves of their aims, its there within reaching distance just like their dreams.

With confidence, you have won before you have started. – Marcus Garvey

Failing all that, check out my ‘Be More Awesome. Be You’ roadshow