The Power Of Confidence

My time working as a mentor for Oppidan has taught me a lot of things but none so much as the power of confidence. In teaching maths and mentoring I have become aware that confidence is the real key to progress and achievement. There is nothing out there (counter arguments welcome) that you can’t get better at if you practice. No one is asking you to become poet laureate or play football for England; you don’t have to be the best, but you can always get better. This knowledge and the confidence to trust it is what lies between you and that A grade, that job, that skill.

This idea isn’t new. It’s the growth mindset theory and it’s part of what Richard De Souza teaches with his D7 – a set of attributes that all ‘High Performers’ have. It makes sense to me and it’s an idea I have talked to my students about to encourage them to have more self-belief and to trust in their abilities. I hate the thought of a child who resolutely believes they can’t do something and feel passionate about instilling confidence in all of my mentees. But as I went about parroting Richard De Souza’s wisdom I realised I wasn’t actually using it for myself at all.

In my work, I struggle with self-belief and focus all the time. As soon as I sat down and talked to myself about it, it was glaringly obvious: you can’t achieve what you want because you believe it’s to do with raw talent rather than hard work and confidence. This was a humbling realisation, one that made me much more aware of the ways in which I am holding myself back.

It might be slightly different for others, but I am sure now that confidence is the crux for me and something I have to work hard on every day to keep my inner-critic at bay. If only I had been my own mentee – maybe I would have realised sooner!

By Fiona Johnston, Oppidan Mentor

Oppidan partners with Marbella Beach Resort Puente Romano

Oppidan Overseas

Beach resort Puente Romano in Marbella has become the latest destination to join the Oppidan Overseas programme.

Oppidan will be the exclusive education provider for families at the resort, running a wide range of activities for children aged 7-13 and private 1-to-1 mentoring available to families in the afternoons.

Oppidan will be at the resort from the 5th-12th April 2020, allowing your children to prepare themselves for returning to school after the Easter break. If you would like to join us and stay at the club, please do let us know.

For more information about any of our Overseas work please get in touch or visit our Overseas page here.

To Praise or not to Praise

How to praise children

By Marina Oswald

When your child does well in an exam or gets a gold star from school the usual responses may be along the lines of the following:

·      ‘Well done!’

·      ‘Good work!’

·      ‘Look how clever you are!’

 Whilst all of these responses acknowledge a child’s success, these forms of praise are fundamentally limiting. A throwaway comment may seem harmless, but studies (Mueller & Dweck, 1998) have shown that the focus on success rather than effort or learning can have a negative effect on a child's performance.

 Over the past few years, Carol Dweck's teachings on Growth Mindset in particular have been applied in schools throughout the UK. There are also ways in which parents can encourage the development of a child's mindset outside of school walls. In the late 80s-90s, Carol Dweck found that children who focus on end results over effort made more mistakes by not seeing the importance in how they got to those end results. By changing the way in which we praise children, we can help them to associate effort with achievement.

There are three types of praise:

·      Basic praise - 'Well done'

·      Intelligence praise - 'Look how clever that was'

·      Effort praise - 'I can see you put a lot of effort into that and have learnt a lot, you deserve that result'

By focusing on effort, we are teaching children how to be successful - working hard rather than resting on their laurels (which children tend to do after being told they are clever or gifted a number of times).

 Oppidan directors, Henry and Walter, were recently invited to talk on an episode of The Parent Practice podcast with Elaine Halligan, which included a discussion on ‘descriptive praise’. Similarly to effort praise, by changing the way we praise children and becoming more descriptive we are telling them specifically why they have achieved success. Descriptive praise is not exclusive to academic success, it can be used in lots of different circumstances to develop good habits.

 Examples of descriptive praise:

·      ‘You worked so hard to produce that, the time you put into it has paid off’

·      ‘Thank you for letting your brother choose first, that was very patient of you’

·       ‘You were very kind to hold the door open for that person’

 Learning about the best techniques and approaches to education is at the forefront of Oppidan’s ethos. Oppidan regularly hosts workshops for mentors on themes such as Growth Mindset, Mindfulness, Game Plan and Motivation. We learnt about how to praise children in the last workshop theme mentioned – How to Motivate Children. The next installment of the Motivation Workshop will take place in November.


·      Mueller & Dweck (1998). ‘Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’

Oppidan partners with The Week Junior

Oppidan is thrilled to announce the launch of a partnership with Britain’s fastest-growing children’s magazine, The Week Junior. Our Junior Heroes competition offers children the opportunity to engage with multiple academic and creative skills, sending a written entry on which singular person has, and continues to inspire them as they grow up. 

The nationwide competition will run for five weeks. Full details of the competition and how to enter will be featured in The Week Junior magazine 11 October 2019 edition (on sale on Saturday 12th October 2019). The closing date for entries to be received is Friday 8th November 2019 and the winner announced in the 7th December issue.

First prize will win 2 x Oppidan Camp 2020 places for themselves and a friend, as well as an Oppidan Camp School Day for their whole class. 
Second and Third prize will win an Oppidan Camp School Day for their entire class. 

The top 3 prize winners will also receive a copy of The Week Junior 2019 Annual. 

What’s more, every entrant will receive a discount code entitling them to 10% off an Oppidan Camp place for 2020.

We’re delighted to be in partnership with The Week Junior and keep your eyes peeled for a copy! 


Oppidan Young Leaders Programme

Oppidan has been running a Young Leaders Programme in which 16/17 year olds come and spend a week on work experience with the Oppidan team at Second Home. Garry wrote a brief article on his time with Oppidan.

I very much enjoyed my time in Oppidan Education’s Young Leaders Programme. It was one of the best work experiences that I could have hoped for. Henry and Walter and the entire Oppidan team were all incredibly welcoming and supportive.

During the week, I sat in on a variety of meetings as well as in some interviews for potential Oppidan mentors. It was great to see how the decision-making process was shared at Oppidan, and my opinions were often solicited and always valued.

The week was geared towards me understanding Oppidan’s business and generating ideas for a project that would lead to Oppidan’s growth and development. I was encouraged to bring the latest thinking from leading business schools into my analysis, which was a fantastic learning experience.

In the end, I proposed the launch of an Oppidan Junior Mentor’s programme and I presented my ideas to the Oppidan team on Friday. I was given valuable feedback, and I was honoured to be asked to continue working with Oppidan to implement my project. The project gave the week a great sense of purpose and urgency, making the week hugely productive for me (and hopefully for Oppidan).

The programme showed me Oppidan’s underlying ethos of mutual development and respect, and I was very impressed by how committed Henry and Walter were to making sure I got the most I could out of the experience, which is unsurprising given how committed they are to mentoring. I couldn’t recommend Oppidan’s Young Leaders Programme more highly.

By Garry

If you are in Year 11 to 13 and would like to apply for the Young Leaders Programme 2020 then keep an eye out for when applications open in January 2020! For more details, contact

Information on the Harrow Test: Autumn 2019

The Harrow Test is the pre-test for entry to Harrow School, taken by the majority of boys between mid-September and mid-October of Year 7. Boys are offered conditional places based on successful Common Entrance exams taken in the summer term of Year 8. The Harrow Test takes place at the school; for parents and teachers who decide to attend, they will be invited on a tour of the school and a visit to a Boarding House. 

At Oppidan, we specialise in preparing boys for the Harrow Test; that preparation is based on a measured approach to helping boys remain engaged about the process, without putting undue pressure or concern on that application. A less is more approach is considered the mark of an appropriate guide of preparation, especially with the interview. Preparation for the academic elements of the test include familiarisation with the types of questions likely to be answered, and confidence to be able to tackle those problems head on. 

The Harrow Test is composed of the following elements: 

English and Maths Tests (1 hour) 

These tests are taken on a computer and take an hour to finish. It comprises five section: for the English, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension, and for a boy's numerical ability, mental arithmetic and problem solving. The test is timed and each section has a separate time allowance such that a boy has to use the time allocated for each specific section.

English Writing (20 minutes) 

This is a straightforward assignment used very generally to check a boy's literary and writing ability. The school are looking for clear, accurate English - it is not an area to get overly fussed or concerned about. 

Visual Processing Speed Test

This is a short test assessing a boy’s ability to process visual information.

Two Interviews

One interview will be with a House Master and the other will be with a senior member of the Harrow teaching staff.  The aim of the interviews is to give a boy a chance to develop on his breadth of academics and an opportunity for candidates to showcase their interest in learning. A willingness to engage is the priority; senior schools are looking for a “zest for learning” and whether you are timid or confident, the point is to paint detail on your life, to outline your interests in a variety of subjects, and to show a willingness to engage in debate and give their opinion. Senior schools are not keen on boys who have been rehearsed or who have memorised template answers.

At Oppidan, we work on the basis that coaching children into reciting rehearsed template answers to questions is detrimental to their chances of a successful application. A relaxed approach in this area is vital to a proficient and rewarding interview experience. Interviews will involve poetry analysis, debates, thunks and picture analysis too all within the context of critical thinking.

Examples of Interview Questions:

  • Why do you want to come to this school?

  • What interests do you have outside of school?

  • What is your favourite subject?

  • Why do you like a particular subject?

  • What makes a good teacher?

  • Which books have you read recently?

  • How would your friends describe you?

  • What has been interesting you in the news recently?

Harrow Test Results

By the end of the first week of December of Year 7, an applicant is put on one of the lists below and is notified accordingly. Roughly 180 offers are given out for 160 places and some boys (about 30-40) are placed on a waiting list (no batting order.) An offer of a guaranteed place is contingent on an average of at least 65% overall at Common Entrance and a minimum of 60% across both English and Maths papers. 

The Game Plan For Clearing: A-Levels 2019

If you opened your A-Level results today and the grades looking back at you weren’t what you’d hoped for or expected, there will no doubt be a wave of emotions and thoughts hitting you. 

The outcome of many things will often reflect the effort one puts in, but other times there will be a mismatch of input and results. Whether this means that you’ve missed out on a University place, or simply didn’t achieve a grade you felt you worked for, it will hurt. 

In the aftermath there can and will be many questions asked, and much soul-searching done but this is a waste of energy. You now have 2 choices. You can dwell on what didn’t happen or use these results as a springboard for the next step. 

Here are the 3 things you need to remember:

1. Practice resilience

Your results didn’t go to plan but the world is going to keep turning and you will have many fantastic adventures and meet brilliant people irrespective of the university or course you do or don’t do! Trust us on this one. This period of change is one that you can grow from and must try to pick yourself up before your emotions manage you. You have the capacity to adapt and be successful! It’s time to start solving the next step. 

2. Think about what you desire to learn. 

Ask yourself what you enjoy and what you look forward to studying. Did you perform better in a subject than expected? This will help make navigating clearing easier. We don’t recommend wild swings to subjects you’ve never studied i.e. applying for Mandarin and Accounting if your UCAS was five applications to study Medieval History. Your passions and interests likely haven’t changed overnight, so stay true to yourself! Thinking about your long term aspirations can help here. What subjects of study will help you get to that place? Many graduate-entry jobs will be happy to accept any degree subject as long as it has been completed to a high standard. So send yourself in the direction of study that you will truly be engaged with for the next 3 years. 

3. Set yourself a game plan 

As Baz Lurhmann wisely wrote ‘Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum’. 

Your results will not stop the world from turning (even if it feels like they will do now - we promise!), use them to motivate yourself. Make a list of your passions and long term goals, shortlist areas of interest, give UCAS a call or check out their website, also give universities you applied to a call and see if there are places on similar courses or one that you applied to previously but didn’t accept an offer to. 

Remember as part of your game plan to be kind to yourself. There are so many options available beyond immediate entry to university - a gap year can offer unique work experience opportunities, or time to study and retake exams if you feel that you want to. Keep dialogue open and the right decision will come your way. 

Get in touch if you think you would benefit from the guidance of an Oppidan mentor.

Oppidan Partner with Forte Village

Oppidan is thrilled to announce its latest partnership with luxury Sardinian resort, Forte Village.

Winner of ‘World’s Leading Resort’ by World Travel Awards for the past 20 years, Forte Village joins a growing list of Oppidan Overseas venues. To learn more about Forte Village please click here.

Oppidan will be running a series of ad hoc workshops and educational activities, designed to engage children with great content such as business pitching, debate groups, quizzes, memory challenges, creative writing events and more, taking place around the resort.

Oppidan mentors also offer one-on-one support to children of all ages outside of the workshops. These sessions are charged as an extra through the resort.

Henry & Tom will be heading out to Forte Village on the 24th August 2019 for a week. Please do get in touch for further information regarding the partnership.

What is a mentor?

For me, a mentor is someone who helps you discover passion for learning: in school and out of it. By delving into what we’re excited about, by exploring our desires and by helping us gain confidence in our ability, a mentor can really help someone to excel and progress.

If I was asked who my mentor at school was, my biology teacher for both lower and upper sixth form (year 12 and 13) springs to mind. He helped me further my passion for science and discover a real enjoyment of the work we studied. We were encouraged to devise our own experiments and think outside of the rigid box of the syllabus, whilst also engaging in educational games which he had devised. This really helped me to feel inspired in the subject, and also motivated me to complete tasks which were required by my curriculum as I knew I could accomplish something. He helped me discover confidence in myself and instilled in me a great desire to succeed. 

I owe a lot to my mentor, and I have really taken his support and guidance with me throughout life: in education and outside of it.

Written by Santino Coduri-Fulford, Oppidan Mentor

Past-Paperless Mentoring

For many of us a paperless world is in sight. I’m not talking about preserving forests, not directly anyway. We all agree that is important. I’m referring to exam papers (of which there are many). I’d argue that all of us who have anything to do with Oppidan are interested in lessons being about learning, not solely about past exam papers. 

As teachers and mentors, we’re all aware of the duty we have towards young people and families to help them achieve their ambitions. Exams often open the door to these ambitions. So how do we do this without draining the life out of learning? How to keep young people eager upright, rather than stooping ashen-faced under stacks of papers? 

It’s been a real joy to arrive at mentoring sessions this year with a bag full of books, articles and links to Ted Talks. A lesson involved examining a range of different History texts (think The Story of Art vs extracts from The Magna Carta) and trying to come closer to answering the question: ‘What is History?’ From here we built-up to thinking about different types of history and the questions of why and how History is re-written. We incorporated examples from the course taught at school and my mentee was surprised to realise how much he knew. Only afterwards did we look at the exam question which asked whether or not it is a problem that History is constantly being rewritten. 

This all had me thinking that perhaps we need to learn more freely first to equip young people to tackle exam questions later. 

Written by Digby Don, Oppidan Mentor

To view Digby’s mentoring profile click here.

MUSTIQUE | Notes from a Small Island

Oppidan Education was delighted to be invited by The Mustique Company to spend a fortnight on the island over the April holidays, providing revision study clubs and group workshops as well as private one-to-one sessions to the families and their children. 

Traditionally, the Easter holidays have been a time when families stay at home in order to allow their children to revise. Fraught with tension, the holidays become a struggle in which parents and their charges clash and little productive revision is accomplished. 

The aim was therefore simple and was carried out accordingly: for the children, to provide a structured schedule of revision for those with upcoming exams, whether that was the 11+ exams, Common Entrance, GCSEs or A Levels. For the parents, a guilt-free holiday in which the stress of organizing, motivating and coercing was taken out of their hands. 

We were delighted that cumulatively over 250 children joined us for the workshops. The morning sessions focused on the syllabus created by Oppidan Camps, our programme of educational summer camps for children in the UK. Poetry, debating, public speaking and creative writing formed the basis of a curriculum designed to improve a child’s self-belief, confidence and desire to learn, whilst simultaneously ensuring academic improvement and tangible progress. 

In the afternoons, we provided over seventy hours of one-to-one tutorials to the children; there was a real fizz of focus amongst the children who realized the imminent nature of their exams; the work we did was, I believe, hugely productive and allowed the children to then relax in the evenings with a feeling of real achievement gained. 

An enormous thank you to the guests and their children for all the hard work and hospitality shown to us on the island and a special thank you to The Mustique Company and to Roger Pritchard for their kindness and support to Oppidan as we look to a budding partnership and future years together. 

Walter Kerr
Co-Founder & Director

This article is taken from the original article on The Mustique Company’s website.

Meet the Oppidan Team: Alex and Alice

Alex Hogg
Marketing Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I played a lot of sport when I was growing up so there were many coaches that inspired me to be the best I could be, and my parents were also hugely influential. However in terms of a personal mentor; my Grandfather, despite not seeing me regularly, has always been heavily invested in my development as a person and has instilled in me some very important traits from a young age.            

What does mentoring mean to you?

A mentor to me is a role model, someone you respect and look up too, someone you aspire to be like, someone that you can approach with any problem you may have.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Work hard at everything you do but don't forget to have fun, you will never have as much freedom as when you are younger so make the most of it! Oh, and learn an instrument - it's really cool when you're older!

Alex was educated at Notre Dame before going on to study Sports Marketing at Leeds Beckett University. He has worked in a number of marketing roles in professional sports clubs in England and Australia.

Alice Evans
Client Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I definitely had more than one mentor growing up and they changed over time. Although I would say my parents have been the two most constant mentors throughout my life, I also have been lucky enough to have made very strong friendships over the years. I often go to my close friends for advice or a second opinion on a certain issue I face, and I am so grateful to know that they will always be willing to help me.

What does mentoring mean to you? 

The role of a mentor is incredibly broad and can cover anything from specific academic support to the building of pro-social skills in an invisible manner. A mentor is not a teacher or tutor, but rather a guiding figure who doesn't necessarily have to know you on an extremely personal level.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Ask for more help when I felt I needed it. I definitely was the quiet pupil who didn't ask questions - being vocal in lessons is important (within reason!).

Alice was educated at The Study Wimbledon and Wycombe Abbey, before graduating from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Art History. She then completed a language course in Paris and worked as a private English tutor for children aged between 8 and 13.

Mindfulness in Education: Oppidan Mentoring

Mindfulness in Education

The Building Block to a Happier Future

We were delighted to welcome Regina Zheng, a certified Mental Health Therapist & healthcare technology startup founder, to present to our mentors the strategies within mindfulness that she has developed as an Oppidan Mentor. The discussion centred on working with students in high-stress and high-pressure environments and we analysed in depth the importance of mindfulness as a concept within education and from there, the best approaches on how to incorporate mindfulness to within current mentoring relationships.

Children are increasingly worried about performance. They are highly aware of targets and ‘hoops’ they are expected to jump through. As educators, it is imperative to be aware and notice how this behaviour is displayed and how it manifests itself.

Regina argued that if students’ emotional needs are not met, then it is difficult for them to learn and to progress. Mindfulness, she says, is a tool that can help students explore both the cause of anxiety and aid in its reduction. Satisfying the need to express and let go of what is felt allows students to refocus and absorb new information better.

Regina’s main argument centred on the idea that society has deviated from the optimal state in which students are able to academically perform at their best. Many students are both over scheduled and over committed. It is important to teach mindfulness because the brain is a muscle that can be trained for optimal performance. However, when we rigorously academically  train it while negating other aspects, results will be lackluster. She quoted Bill Gates who poignantly describes his mindfulness practice as “learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in [his] head, [while establishing enough] distance from them to calm down.”

Scientific research findings support the assertion that mindfulness improves focus, reduces stress and boosts memory retention. Mindfulness is an important skill for mentor-mentee relationships, because it satisfies an emotional need that acts as a building block towards both higher academic performance and general wellness.

As educators at Oppidan, this approach is not simply paying lip service to a trendy new-age approach to pedagogy. This is the anchor for fundamental change and a cause for real development in the happiness and welfare of children.

Meet the Oppidan Team: Olivia, Felicity and Marina

Aligning ourselves with the US’ Mentoring Month, alongside our own campaign ‘We All Need A Mentor’ we wanted to introduce you to the Oppidan Team, asking them about their own mentoring experiences. This week, meet the Managers:

Olivia Buckland
Partnership Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

Aside from my parents, my rowing coach. I grew up on the water. He taught me not to be afraid of making mistakes, nor to beat myself up when trials, tests, or races didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I learnt that being part of a supportive team was better than existing in a fractured boat with people who didn’t care about the others on the same journey.                

What does mentoring mean to you?

Having someone on your team who is invested in your whole person, not a single goal. Comparison is the thief of joy - and sometimes you need a co-navigator to help steer the path that one can lose sight of in times of stress or disappointment. A mentor means you’re not singularly invested in your goals. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Enjoy learning - it’ll make school, tests, and life so much easier. Try this approach and be amazed. Your recall will be better if you put less pressure on yourself to perform for other people’s expectations. 

Olivia graduated from Cambridge University (English & Education) in 2018 and joined Oppidan in December. Olivia is Oppidan’s Partnership Manager and in charge of school and commercial partners.

Felicity McDonald
Events Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

My mentors came in the form of my performing arts teachers. Whether this was my dance teacher, singing coach or drama teachers, they guided me through some of the complexities of growing up as a teenage girl. I look back now and am truly grateful for the support they offered me throughout those years. 

What does mentoring mean to you? 

It was never formalised for me in a sense that I had an out-and-out mentor; some of the best mentoring I think can comes from friends. Mentoring, for me, is about having someone beside you who is not judgemental and helps your learn and grow. This comes in all shapes and sizes. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Live in the moment, worry less about self-image and enjoy your childhood (you only get one!)

Felicity was educated at Mayfield Girls School before studying Sociology at Bristol University. She has previously worked in Event and Marketing capacities in the financial industry.

Marina Oswald
Client Manager

Who was your mentor growing up?

I was lucky enough to have a number of mentors who supported me in different ways as I was growing up; godparents, family members, teachers. I still consider many of these people to be my mentors to this day, I am constantly inspired by them, they continue to help and support me to grow and reach my goals.

What does mentoring mean to you?

The role of a mentor is versatile and ever changing. To me mentoring means growth, ambition and support.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

On occasion I have been told a question I have asked is not relevant or 'silly', and unfortunately I allowed this to put a stop to my interest in a subject and feel as though it wasn't worth speaking up. One of the most important pieces of advice I would give to myself is - cultivate your curiosity and never stop asking questions.

Marina was educated at Moor Park and then Stowe School. She had worked in Public Relations for four years, focusing on the lifestyle and hospitality sectors before joining Oppidan Education.

The D7: Oppidan Education & a Wimbledon Champion

Mentoring exceeds tutoring.

Watch the video to find out why.

How many times have you heard your child say, “I’m bad at maths,” “I can’t revise,” “I freeze in exams”? The chances are, almost every day.

However much tuition a child gets, and I use the term tuition to describe technical, prescriptive exam help, this attitude will never change. They’ll remain frozen by the negative self image they have and they’ll forever think that being “good” or “bad” is something inherent. Their confidence and desire to learn will plateau; their technical ability may indeed improve, but there’s fundamentally a limit as to what they can achieve.

At Oppidan, we have the solution to this problem. Our mentoring provides the necessary change to the current binary approach of assessing children. By focusing on seven different areas within each lesson to help critically analyse where a child can improve, our mentors help your child throw off the fake self-image they have of themselves.

Oppidan mentors use the D7 as a resource to give structure and game plan to mentoring work. It allows the mentors to understand the dynamic of the student’s learning, offering a fresh form of gentle assessment for them to utilise. Over time, tracking the D7 realises tangible progressive results.

We have partnered with Richard de Souza, a sports psychologist and the creator of the D7 whose approach has led to winning a Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis championship. Together with Richard, we train our mentors to appreciate the nuances of each child’s learning and to follow the same techniques to allow for the same success that he has had.

Oppidan’s educational mentoring is an objectively unique product within the market and an approach, we believe, that is the future of one-on-one teaching.

Current Affairs: The Oppidan Way

Current Affairs: The Oppidan Way

As a child, I would often fancifully picture my adult self reading the morning newspaper and drinking a strong black coffee. There can be little doubt that a cup of coffee is an essentially adult image; regrettably, the same is largely true of the newspaper. 

It’s all too easy to communicate to children that politics belongs only to the adult world. Accordingly, a child will often accept from a very early age that their place in political discussion is that of a privileged outsider. As a mentor, I notice repeatedly that children are intimidated by political discussion, and I believe that this is largely a result of an unnecessary adult-ising of politics.

We’ve decided to launch a series of current affairs workshops to combat this problem.

Engagement with current affairs is becoming increasingly important within education. As the school entrance process at 11+ and 13+ is slowly revolutionised and leading schools move away from traditional exam-driven modes of examination, Oppidan’s emphasis on the roundedness of a child’s education grows more and more relevant by the year. Political stories are often used as a launch pad for discussion in interviews, but for many children this serves to reinforce the adult-child interview dynamic and makes them hesitant to think and speak freely.

We all perform at our best in interviews when we feel respected as an equal, but the problems outlined above often make this much less likely for a child who is confronted with a political topic in a school interview. As the school years tumble into the Sixth Form, a wider awareness of political issues is overtly rewarded in many humanities subjects – and the increasing emphasis on independent study, as enshrined in the mission statements of the increasingly popular Pre-U and the Extended Project Qualification, has cemented this more deeply. In short, children who can engage with current affairs and political issues with humble curiosity and confidence are rewarded in abundance. 

There is compelling evidence that increased understanding of current affairs correlates with increased academic performance across the full range of subjects. That is, even when allowing for similarities in educational and socio-economic background, there seems to be an indirect relationship between engagement with current affairs and broader academic performance that sees increased performance even in seemingly unrelated subjects such as maths!

The fundamental aim of a parent, so goes the adage, is to make themselves redundant. I try to order my mentoring according to the same maxim, and a core part of the joy of working with Oppidan has been getting the chance to talk at length with Henry, Walter, and the team about the values and skills we should strive to leave our mentees with. ‘Humble curiosity, confidence, and adaptability’ can sometimes become something of a tag-line, but in the day-to-day work of a mentor it acts as a yardstick against which progress and value can be measured.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing several children grow in their understanding of political events and relationships over a number of years. At each turn, this engenders a level of humility and confidence that empowers them throughout their daily lives; and, as they grow older and their lives become increasingly complex, a social and intellectual adaptability shines through. These are nebulous terms, of course, but in practice they allow a child to take their learning beyond the classroom, to experience themselves as a member of the community, and to nourish themselves as life-long learners. After all, in the trenches of the adult world, the newspaper often represents our great daily opportunity to learn. 

Our workshops are structured to help children engage with the pressing importance of politics and to develop their analytical skills. We believe that through group engagement and the interactive nature of the workshops, we are taking a vital first step towards providing a platform for children to engage with political discussion as equals.

By Michael Slade, Oppidan Mentor & Speaker


Our first current affairs workshop will be on Tuesday January 16th at 5:30pm and arrives in time for a busy few weeks of school 11+ and 13+ interviews in the latter half of January. Accordingly, it is pitched at an appropriate standard for these age groups. The bedrock of the workshop’s content will be the week’s three central stories. We will be unpacking the importance and relevance of each story, and throughout we will be considering how different media coverage can alter our view of each story. Using a variety of media, the workshop will  act  variously as a lecture, a political discussion group, and political theatre. 

To book your ticket for the event at Second Home, Holland Park, please email  

Oppidan's Poet Laureate 2018

Douglas - Oppidan Camp ‘Poetry Laureate.' Easter Camp 2018


Many might think that this camp is just more work.

However really it is a big thump-on-the-knee.

Oppidan is just like doing art work.

With Dragon’s Den you can make your own company.

And with languages, history, poetry tests, capture the flag, human charades.

It is positive to make your last vocally cracking games probability like Ludo.

Oppidan is sure to make you explore the wonders of our adventurous brains.

Socially, rather than academic war and destroys our fears for our future aims.

Oppidan is a bulging chance to win. Never something you should consider and bin.

Douglas' Diary - The Evening Standard, April 2018

When I was told I was going to the Oppidan Camp, I thought it would be like school or having a tutor. It was not.

Take maths. We were taught by students who were the same age as us. This was good because they understood the way we think.  

The child teachers would write on a white board. We were encouraged to make suggestions for solving problems. What I liked is that we were in a relaxed environment. We sat on sofas. 

We managed to cover almost a whole year’s lessons in an hour — or at least that is what it felt like. What was exciting for me is I learnt all about pi, and measuring the diameter and circumference of circles.

In languages, it was impossible to hide our weaknesses. We stood up in a circle, and one of the tutors would ask us to translate Latin and French vocab. If we got it wrong, we would lose a life. And after we lost two lives, we would have to sit down.

It felt like a game.

Then we were put into teams of three people. We were lucky that a boy in my team was bilingual in French. Each was given a Latin or French word. We had to write down all the declensions. The first team to finish got a point. My team came second. 

In public speaking, we were told to research whether social media had a good or bad impact on the world. I think that social media is negative, but I had to argue the positive side of it.  

One of my team did the introduction to the debate. I did the middle part: I made six points. Then it was an open debate, and we talked in a more relaxed way.

I learnt the important thing is to stay quiet and listen to what others are saying. Because then you can make an important point and win.

Outside, we did orienteering. There was an assault course where balloons filled with water were fired at us. Twice we played “Capture the flag”. I dodged all the teachers. The team I was on always won. And I captured more flags than anyone else.

The most enjoyable session of the week was Dragons’ Den. In my team of three, we spent the first hour inventing our business, making a plan, and designing a logo. 

Our idea was an app with recipes for how to use waste food. We were each given £300,000 to create our companies.

The mistake we made was we were too loud in criticising other businesses. We did manage to raise money from one of the Dragons. But we were told that we could not win the contest, because we were not respectful enough. 

We slept in tents. Before bed we roasted S’mores and told scary stories. I loved Camp Oppidan and want to go back.

D. Paisner

Mentoring under the Microscope

“I appreciate what Oppidan are doing, treating children like young adults, stimulating their learning whilst having fun. His confidence is through the roof as is his self-esteem and self worth – this is a godsend.”

Mr. Velez

August 2017

At the risk of self-promotion, this testimonial from an Oppidan parent encapsulates the breadth of education that mentoring allows.  The narrative of mentoring and the success it brings focuses on support, direction and guidance. It highlights the role of the mentor in promoting development and potential commensurate with a child’s ability. It advocates humble curiosity, confidence and adaptability as the soft skills associated with “slow education” at the expense of prescriptive target-based tuition. In turn, this helps foster independence at school and at home, and a sense of self-worth which goes some way to helping manage the stress for children and parents in pursuing academic challenges.

It is self-evident that the mark of a good mentor is the rapport they are able to nurture with a student. This should be obvious. If the student doesn’t trust or value the mentor, little progress is made. We often say that the difference between mentoring and tutoring is intrinsic: as the relationship develops, the shift happens organically and the mentor takes on a different role that transcends academia. Once the child is invested in you, the sky is the limit as to what can be achieved. You are as much a mentor in the enthusiasm and the personality you bring to the lesson as you are in the actual content of the lesson.

As already discussed, the ethos of mentoring stresses encouragement, empathy and creativity within learning: above all, a sense that learning is fun and to be taken advantage of. But how does that manifest itself within a lesson? This is a question Henry and I are often asked. “The narrative sounds wonderful but what will you do differently?”

Mentors differ in their approach to one-on-one teaching not only in the personality they exude within that lesson but also in the way they teach and the content and the creativity they bring to it. A child will more likely do well with a teacher they like, but there are also specific techniques that help engage and promote active learning. Through these, they take mentoring from a frilly add on to something tangible which produces results and practical progress.

1.)   Lessons must be student led: Too often tutors follow the same passive form of teacher-led teaching at schools. Instead, students of whatever age must be encouraged to take the initiative on what they want to learn and what they think would be beneficial to study.

2.)   “I teach, we teach, you teach:” Research shows that if a child has to teach the material they have learnt, the material is far better understood. A move from lecturing to discussion and then onto teaching ensures marked improvement and gives children the confidence to be able to tackle difficult material.

3.)   Active Learning:  Encourage movement during lessons. Whether that be through placing an exercise on each side of a table and moving around it completing each exercise, or simply taking the lesson outside, taking a lesson outside a classroom environment helps a child relax and feel at ease.

4.)   Focus on Self-Projection: Lessons should involve situations where children (and mentors) are asked to present, to speak about themselves, to debate, critique or question an article, passage or piece of literature. The Radio 4 game show “Just a Minute” is brilliant preparation for interviews as well as vital in learning to project.

5.)   Mentor - Child Performance Reviews Mentors and their charges should spend time focusing on how the other person is performing. A novel concept at first, barriers are broken down and it’s hugely rewarding for the child to take control of the lesson.

6.)   Demystifying the Comprehension: There is reason to suggest that the comprehension is the least popular task within the English syllabus. And rightly so – the concept is disconnected from what students take satisfaction from: real-life learning. A good tip is to practice comprehension skills on the book that child is reading – they’ll take far more interest in something they are already invested in.

7.)   Overcoming Perfectionism: Allow a child to be wrong. Often. Discussion on “thunks”, a collection of questions with no simple answers, helps children understand the process and train of thought and the need for clarity in explaining their reasoning.

8.)   Super-Curricula Studies: A brief from a parent to improve a child’s English or Maths should still involve aspects that go beyond what the curriculum dictates should be taught. 20-word summaries of books they have read, poetry analysis contextualised within what they are learning at school, art history or even situational thinking (working out the date of historical events based on clues you are given) help keep things fresh in otherwise often-dry subject matter.

9.)   Lesson-Analysis Oral plenary sessions at the end of a lesson help round off what has been learnt and negates any sense of confusion within the child. What has been learnt? What are the key points? How do you evaluate what has been learnt? How could you apply this knowledge?

These techniques are neither novel nor are they the only way to make a success of teaching one-on-one. But if in a small way, they help change expectations and make the child look forward to the lesson, then I would argue progress is being made.

By Walter Kerr