September 06, 2023
By Dr Cassie Rhodes
Over the past two weeks, I have been out and about giving talks in Northern Ireland and England to teachers and school staff as part of INSET days; days where staff come together to prepare themselves for the arrival of pupils into the new school year.
It was quite something to bump into people who enjoyed reading Wednesday Wisdom (yes even on the plane!). This has happened several times now, even in foreign airports, and it always stops me in my tracks. It is hard to believe that when you write something, others actually read it and may even feel inspired by it.
As a researcher, the real gems are when parents write to say they have tried one of the tips contained within a Wednesday Wisdom piece and that it has worked or enhanced family life. We sometimes receive little notes and emails from appreciative readers which are truly motivating. When we consider altering Wednesday Wisdom, shortening or changing it, these emails remind us that the existing format seems to work well for most people.
We did a check on stats recently and were astonished to discover that somehow Wednesday Wisdom has morphed into a weekly feature perused by over 10,000 readers, who rely on it for research and parenting insights. Crazy! However, as the new school year dawns, we want to practise what we preach and remain open to improvement and feedback.
This short form gives you an opportunity to tell us whether you enjoy Wednesday Wisdom and why, give us some feedback on how it may have impacted on your parenting and let us know how it could work better for you. Would you like to hear from guest writers from time to time? Would you prefer a shorter version with a different emphasis? Is a weekly Wednesday Wisdom too much? Would you prefer a monthly version? Over the past few years, we have written on every conceivable topic that we can think of (all of which are available for you to read at leisure on the Tooled Up website), but what subject do you wish we could cover and haven’t yet? Tell us! We promise to share what we discover from our vast readership in another edition soon. Thank you.
I want to spend this week’s edition telling you more about the work that we do ‘behind the scenes’ at Tooled Up Education, a digital landscape that has taken seven years to build. I want to tell you more about why I started it and what its mission is. I want you to know something that I mention in every launch talk for every Tooled Up Education School or organisation: there is a manual for parenting and that is the research evidence.
At Tooled Up, we firmly believe that the available evidence can guide us all towards what is optimal when bringing up children. We look to that research and engage with academics all over the world to locate the golden nuggets that busy, loving, aspirational parents like you can ‘try and apply’ in your own family life. It’s our mission to empower mums, dads and carers, so that the parenting journey becomes easier and more rewarding.
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Well, for all of our nearly 20,000 Tooled Up subscribers in schools and businesses across the world (a number which is growing every day), we are that village. Behind the online platform is a research team that is passionate about helping and supporting you and your family.
The Tooled Up team scours the latest studies and papers, liaises with experts in numerous disciplines and transforms their knowledge into high quality and accessible resources, which live in our library, ready for our community to access and use. We update resources as evidence emerges, host conferences to showcase new insights, run numerous live webinars with experts, and highlight a ‘Researcher of the Month’ to our global audience, providing a pipeline for the dissemination of peer-reviewed research.
I’m incredibly proud that we welcome and answer questions from our community on any aspect of parenting and education, so our library is shaped by the things that you need. In fact, over the last year or so, we’ve answered parents’ questions on topics as diverse as listening, fussy eating, Snapchat, the impact of eating disorders on siblings, bereavement, stress management, hair positivity, diabetes, dental anxiety, holiday packing tips, talking to younger children about sex and relationships, female sporting role models, dyslexia, ADHD and TikTok. This only skims the surface – I could go on! Our library is growing constantly and I can’t quite believe that it now contains almost 700 resources (podcasts, webinars, articles, activities, videos and tips to try), all created to positively affect the lives of parents and the teaching professionals working with our children.
We address issues holistically. We understand, for example, how mental health can be intricately connected to children’s learning or digital diets, or how family life and relationships can affect children’s learning. It’s our aim to help parents and carers feel better supported, promote family resilience and improve children’s chances of thriving socially, emotionally and academically as they become psychologically ‘tooled up’ for early adulthood and beyond. For many mums, dads and carers, Tooled Up has become a ‘one-stop shop’ for advice, ideas or simply a bit of reassurance that they are doing the right thing.
It’s not only parents who benefit from being ‘Tooled Up’. For educators, having access to the library is akin to having a new research department within their school. Our Tooled Up teachers can write to us with any request and, believe me, many do! As just a taster, over the last year, we’ve helped English teachers with revision resources on Macbeth, French teachers with material on the value of language learning, and PE teachers with various interviews with sporting stars (from the worlds of rowing, rugby and lacrosse) along with resources designed to inspire and encourage participation in sport.
We champion neurodiversity, are there for pastoral staff and provide innovative solutions to teaching PSHE topics. In fact, earlier this year, we created a module about digital literacy, citizenship and safety entitled: ‘Becoming a Digital Detective’, created after a piloting process with 200 pupils. Any interested teachers should keep an eye out, as this fun and engaging programme for 11-13 year olds will be in the library very soon. Last year, we also partnered with The OLLIE Foundation, a leading suicide prevention charity, to co-produce a 90 page guide for school senior leadership teams needing to coordinate an appropriate and safe response following a suicide or sudden death. It’s available to any educational setting to download free of charge. Currently, we are working on an innovative collaboration with universities to reduce suicide risk at the point of transition.
I firmly believe that the future for pastoral care, teacher CPD and effective parenting lies in an innovative system like Tooled Up – accessible 24/7, all-year, evidence-led, brimming with actionable tips and cost-effective for schools. Whilst we now support almost 100 schools and businesses, the words of the headteacher of the first ever Tooled Up school still make me smile when I read them: “We are proud to be the first school in the country to become ‘Tooled Up’ and to invest in a resource that builds parental capacity, enriches home-school collaboration and saves staff time. Parents value being able to access the highest quality information as and when they need it. Staff value how responsive the Tooled Up team is to their questions, queries and requests. Together with Tooled Up, we feel that we are holistically supporting our parents and doing everything we can to future-proof our pupils.”
For me, the next couple of weeks are packed full of talks as we welcome 19 more schools and businesses to Tooled Up. It’s an exciting time for the whole team and I am delighted to have the opportunity to tell so many new parents and teachers about the benefits.
If you are new to our community and want to know how to get started with using the library or find out more about what we offer, I’d like to invite you to an introductory talk for members on 13th September at 8pm BST. It will focus on how Tooled Up parents like you can make the most of your subscription. You might also like to check out some of the key benefits for parents and teachers in these simple leaflets.
If you are joining a ‘Tooled Up School’ for the first time, you will hopefully have received a transition leaflet detailing specific resources to help you support your child through this next stage of their educational journey. Don’t forget that it lists many resources available in the Tooled Up library to support all of our children, from young preschoolers, right through to teens heading into sixth form. Anyone wanting some snappy introductions to just a few of the subjects covered in Tooled Up should browse through our ‘quick guides’ (several of which have been written in partnership with fantastic drugs education charity, the DSM Foundation).
If you aren’t currently a Tooled Up subscriber but would like a taster of our resources, I invite you to take a look at our exciting new Parent Power Toolkit, created in partnership with the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) and available soon on the ISEB online shop. Over the summer, we’ve been working hard to create a whole package of holistic resources to help younger children (and their carers) feel prepared for school entrance exams. When the toolkits launch, you’ll be able to view snappy videos, try out innovative activities – for both parents and children – and will discover plenty of evidence-based tips to try.
To find out more about how to embrace your parent power, join me and ISEB Chief Executive, Julia Martin, for a free webinar on Thursday 14th September at 6pm BST. It’s ideal for any parent, guardian or teacher supporting children at the start of their admissions journey to senior schools in the UK, those with children entering Years 5, 6, 7 or 8, or anyone looking to build their awareness and understanding of stress, the impact it can have on children and healthy management techniques.
Finally, for current Tooled Up members, we are upgrading our website to make it easier and more intuitive to use and you should notice some changes over the next week. You’ll still be able to access the site as normal whilst we work behind the scenes, so please keep browsing and requesting new resources.
Are you a Tooled Up member?
Tempted to join us? Well, we’re switching things up this week. Normally, this section is solely for Tooled Up subscribers, but this week, it’s for any school or business who’d like to join us!
Becoming Tooled Up is simple. Once your school or organisation has a subscription to Tooled Up, every member of your community will have access to our digital hub and can benefit from the wealth of knowledge and actionable tips contained within it. We’ll also provide you with up to date, detailed analytics, outlining what topics your community is especially interested in and how your library is being used.
If you are interested in joining us, or simply want to find out more about how Tooled Up could help you, please get in touch.