Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-


Why are Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar in the Victoria Carlton Programs?


Many people ask me why I have always included JOLLY LEARNING as part of the Victoria Carlton programs.

Reason is- they work! They help ALL learners to grasp the all important basics of phonics and grammar.

Then we use our brain stimulation, literature, comprehension and writing programs to build on this skeleton and add the “flesh” so that children become fully literate and really enjoy the process.

I refuse to use any program that is not grounded in careful research as children are not guinea pigs- they deserve the best- ALWAYS!

This is the reason we always include JOLLY LEARNING in our training for new licensees.

My vision for all students at my centers around the world to be fully literate and able to speak, read and write clearly in English.

Any of you who would like to know more about our licenses or programs for schools and children- please contact us directly at victoriacarlton@ or call on 08 9 2714200.

Alternatively, if you are reading this in South East Asia, please contact Chew Yeh <>


Treating kids like rubbish!

“Your son is absolutelycrumpled paper no good at anything!”

I was chatting to one our Mums this evening and she told me of a very sad incident. It concerned her young son and his classroom teacher.

The classroom teacher told the mother, “Your child is absolutely no good at anything. He is not good at reading, writing, maths, art or even physical education.”

The mother gave the best answer possible, “Whatever,” and grabbed a piece of writing paper from the teacher’s desk. She crumpled the paper into a ball and held it up for the teacher to see. “My son is like this crumpled piece of paper. You and this school have completely crushed his spirit and he has folded up deep inside himself.”Then she threw it in the bin and left.

She knows from her mother’s heart and brain that her son has strengths and weaknesses just like any child. She knows that given encouragement and a loving and nurturing learning environment, he will thrive.

This incident took place in a Church school. I think they need to remember the words of Jesus, their leader,

“Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”

No wonder this child has no confidence and has given up. At the moment he believes he is useless and it now our job to help him re-build his fractured self-esteem.

How sad that a teacher can behave in this way. Educators are meant to teach and build children up- not crush their beautiful spirits.

Your child won’t amount to much….

AllKids are Smart Front CoverYour child won’t amount to much….

At least 10 times over the last 2 years I have had sad, hurt parents tell me the teacher of their child (primary years) has cast a very negative judgement on their child. Here are a few typical ones:

  • “Will never be academic,” (turned out to be an A student),
  •  “Will not amount to much,” – child picked that up and then pretty much believed it and went on to tell her Mum that the teacher “knows I will never be able to do it!”
  • “Will make a good hairdresser”- yes- that really WAS said! Apologies to all hairdressers as I think you are amazingly gifted!
  • “You need to lower your expectations because he will NEVER go to Uni- just doesn’t have the capacity.”  (That one went on to top his high-school year and will definitely be going to uni!)

How can trained educators do that?

How can we judge human potential so lightly and go on to trample on everyone’s dreams?

Whenever I look at the groups I teach I am always aware that I might have an Einstein, a Richard Branson, Maria Montessori, Marie Curie or a Bill Gates sitting in front of me. They might wriggle around, show little interest and be downright non-compliant at times. So what? Maybe my chosen teaching method that day was boring. Maybe they already knew the material. Maybe they were tired or had a fight with their best friend………

Many very successful adults did very poorly at school and in fact failed!

What does that tell us?


It could be us as educators or our inflexible exam based system that is breaking the spirit of our children and holding up their potential.

I have met many successful people with terrible memories of school. They were made to feel stupid, inept and eventually angry and resentful. Luckily anger has lots of inherent energy and they used it to fuel their future success.

The interesting thing is that behind all these failures who made good was a parent or mentor who really believed in them.

Just one person to believe in them made the difference!

If not for Einstein’s mother the scientific world would be so much poorer.

My take-away message is two-fold:

  1. To teachers- stop judging potential and treat EVERY child as potentially gifted. Look instead at your teaching methods.
  2. To parents- keep believing. Refuse to swallow the negative, bitter pills given to you. Let your child know you believe in them, provide a positive learning environment and let your child’s mind unfold!

So what if they fail the test, exam or forget the facts? There is a lot more to education than those things.

We believe EVERY child is smart and this is why I wrote a book of the same name.

Refuse to believe anything less.

Contact us on 61 8 92714200 to get a copy of the book. If you are in Singapore you can purchase it from

Email me privately on if you have any matters re your children you would like to discuss.












MAD writing procedure

MAD stanjpg_5935_Royalty_Free_Clip_Art_Happy_Pencil_Cartoon_Character_Holding_Golden_Trophy_Cupds for MODELLED AWESOME DAILY writing

We use many visualisations to increase the fluency and speed of children’s writing. This has been a very successful strategy and I have been trying to develop a different but as successful strategy that takes less time when we want to target specific topics, genres or spelling/grammar conventions.

MAD writing is the result and we have now used it with hundreds of children with great results!

The children enjoy it as it is fairly short, targeted and gives them great results.

They love to share their results!

This will not going to replace other forms of writing we do.

It is simply being implemented to increase writing fluency, understanding of sentences, paragraphs, grammar and to improve spelling. New topics are provided each week.

Approximately 20 mins is needed but I have often completed a lesson in 15 mins when short of time!


  1. Write up topic on board.
  2. Briefly discuss and model write YOUR response to this topic. (NOT children’s ideas) 5 mins
  3. Children read your writing aloud. 5 mins
  4. They write their own response  5 mins
  5. Edit and share 5 mins (only 2/3 can share)

Only write 2-4 sentences when you are modelling. Children might write more and they might “borrow” yours. Some children might want to copy yours completely. That is valid as you are a model.

Eventually they will have the confidence to do their own.


MON- My ideal weekend.

TUES – A terrible experience.

WED – What a surprise!

THURS- My favourite unhealthy food!

FRI- If I ruled the world!

SAT- The world stopped spinning and ………


Here is an example of a lesson where I used the topic MINECRAFT to stimulate children’s writing voices!

Please ask any questions regarding this procedure – and remember we have crafted a very practical one day course for teachers (ALL KIDS CAN WRITE) to demonstrate and explain all our writing strategies and teach you exactly how to apply each one! (Contact us for course details!)


Switching off to switch on with more power!

“Please Sir, Can I have some more?” (Oliver Twist)more

I am in a thinking space. A place to reflect.

I’ve only been here 3 days and the magic is already working!

Bali weaves a spell around us all and like Oliver Twist I want more!

I am working over the next 2 days giving JOLLY TRAINING in a school in Sanur and really enjoying the change of pace, beautiful environment, smiles everywhere and warmth.

I’ve had time to think hard about our educational programs and future directions.

Time to just be!

I’m always talking about Gardner’s 8 intelligences and the need to develop the Intra-personal intelligence for children.

But adults need it too. This is the one we so often ignore as we plod on and on and on without ever stopping and asking ourselves important questions such as:

Is there a better way?

Are we missing something important here?

Are we fulfilling our visions? If not- how can we adjust?

Times like this are like flight-plan adjustments!

If I can think, reflect and feel this good within 3 days – then I need it more often!

To really put 100% of our passion and energy into our lives we need this time-out to switch off, and then switch on again but with a brighter light!

The thinking and reflection I have done here will last a year- and then I’ll be back for MORE!

Thanks Bali- 3 weeks next time!


Angry mother scolding a disobedient child
Angry mother scolding a disobedient child

I recently spoke at a conference in Singapore to Pre-School teachers about the importance of self-care.
The thing is, stressed teachers are not effective and teaching is one of the most highly stressed jobs in the world. This is particularly true of pre-school teaching. You simply cannot get away from little children. It is not possible to say, “Open your book to page 123 and carry on with your maths” while you take a moment to leave the room and breathe!
So you have to be PRESENT all the time and that means very good stress management principles are needed.
A recent survey of 30, 000 US teachers in New York found most of them were highly stressed but wanted to stay with their profession because they CARE!

“We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and, I’m dating myself here, Tony Soprano,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT. “We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don’t do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are in¬cred¬ibly stressed out.”

Teachers often still have young children at home so they do “double duty!”
When we train teachers to use our EQ4KIDZ program we insist on spending 1 day where we focus on teachers’ mental health issues, EQ and stress management. We demonstrate ways to pause and be mindful and discuss helpful daily stress management.
In order to be able to drop all problems at the door of the classroom before entering, teachers need time to spend alone, to think, to plan and to manage their stress levels.
The busy school day must make some “intervals” or “gaps” where teachers can gather thoughts, reflect and re-group.
It is a great blessing to be able to teach the next generation but it is also one of the most taxing, enervating, highly skilled and stressful professions on earth so let’s ensure we do not lose our amazing teachers. The profession needs help!
With the many curriculum changes and challenging behaviours teachers must deal with, stress management is not just a soft option. It is a necessity. Unless all teachers are taught how to manage their stress, care for themselves and recognise unhealthy signs of tension we will have burnt out, fed up and stressed out teachers and unhappy, unsuccessful students.

FIND THE FUN by Kelli Gander, Guest Blogger

Find The Fun

You can’t argue wPreschool childrenith Mary Poppins, who we all know is ‘practically perfect in every-way’ and there is more than one lesson to be learned from the timeless tale she has to tell. This one, for me as an educator, is the most important of all.
In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game
This has become my teaching mantra and I endeavor to ‘find the fun’ in every lesson that I teach. Imagine if kids got excited about the times tables, eager about spelling, enthusiastic about parts of speech! Learning does not have to equal boring, we just have to find the fun for our students.
How do we do this? The same way that Mary Poppins did, with a game! Games not only provide the hands on experience that children need to be effective learners but also makes even the most boring concept a whole lot more exciting.
A simple pack of cards becomes a speed game to make number bonds to 10 or a spirited competition to multiply the face values. Older children use them to learn about adding, subtracting, regrouping and multiplying. Younger children use them to sort, match, do shape work and learn 1-1 correspondence. Games do not need to cost you money either, there are so many fantastic sites where enthusiastic and dedicated teachers post and share their amazing, free ideas, on how to create that ‘element of fun’.
A treasure map is a perfect way to teach children about prepositions. Lego is an awesome way to learn about volume and measurement and you would not believe what can be done with a paper plate in terms of fractions and equivalent fractions!
We often do this naturally with younger children but our older ones do not outgrow this need for ‘fun’. In actual fact, the sometimes dry topics that are curriculum essentials, would receive much greater benefit from applying a ‘games based’ approach.
So step away from that smart board. Put down those worksheets and open your mind to games. We know it worked for Huckleberry Finn, when he managed to cleverly persuade his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work! Just find that element of fun and snap! The job’s a game.


ハートを持つ子供Teaching  GRACIOUSNESS
After pondering the difficulties of teaching graciousness for 2 days my quest was answered!

On Monday I assessed a very polite child with great manners and an excellent sense of humour!  He was not scared to let me see his weaknesses and knew his strengths but wanted to improve on everything!  I realised I had a gracious child on my hands!

During the parent interview it became apparent his parents had deliberately set out to set up a loving but firm home environment.
Graciousness is not a personality trait. It has to be taught.

And it CAN be taught – to ALL children!

It is interesting to note that the word GRACIOUSNESS was at highest usage in around 1815 and almost left the collective vocabulary in the 1990s. It is gradually coming back into common usage. I personally believe our language tends to reflect our social mores and the interest in GRACIOUSNESS is a positive development.

Parents are actually beginning to ask about strategies to develop graciousness and all its associated qualities.

So how do we develop this elusive quality that has synonyms such as kind, elegant, comfortable, tender, well mannered, polite, considerate and thoughtful?

Children who have these qualities stand out like beacons to teachers. They are easier to teach, make friends easily and generally do well with their careers because their EQ tends to be a lot higher. They present a positive image and people want to be around them! Their good manners are so practised they appear to be second nature and we feel an “ease” with these people.

This is not something that can be learned at speed.

Here are some tips for parents and teachers:

• Tell children why their behaviour is helpful or not. Graciousness is about considering the needs of others before ourselves and is woven into the fabric of every major world religion.
• Read them books where people exemplify graciousness.
• Teach them good manners and insist on their use at all times- privately and publicly. Teach them social niceties so they will develop confidence in all social settings.
• Help them develop an attitude of gratitude. Families might keep a joint gratitude journal so that everyone writes or draws something they feel grateful for in every-day.
• You can have a special beautiful GRATITUDE STONE that gets passed around each day at the dinner table. As each member receives the stone, they must tell about 3 things they feel grateful for today.
• Help children write a Thank You for each gift they receive. This can become a fun exercise if children are allowed to select paper, stickers and markers and you can write the words if needed. Get children to write WHY they appreciate the gift.
• Children need to understand we do not necessarily like everything we are given. Use role play and puppets to help children act out receiving a gift they do not like much. How might the giver feel if we show annoyance or disappointment? Help them to understand that Grandma may not understand you already have 20 pairs of underpants! She may not be able to afford a more expensive gift so it was given with love and must be received with gratitude!
G.K. Chesterton, in A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND says that

“thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Get them involved with GIVING to others. This might mean donating outgrown clothes and toys to a charity shop, sharing the figs from your tree with neighbours or putting surplus lemons in a marked box on your verge. You could show children how your family can save some money to give to worthy causes or actually visit folks in an aged care home, serving in a soup kitchen etc. I have had children at my centre who have been completely transformed by their trips with parents to poor areas of the world to help.
• Don’t give them everything they ask for. Help them to realise that time with a loved one is far more precious than owning possessions.
Spend time with them on a regular basis. A parent at our centre has temporarily given up her position as a successful lawyer to take a low paying but less demanding job so she can give the gift of time to her child without taking reams of work home at night.
• Schedule special times such as BOARD GAMES evenings. A young Mum told me this week that her family have a board game night each week. What a wonderful idea! Families can talk together as they play and children learn that you definitely do not always win- a VERY big lesson for some children! They also learn that you can have fun without electronic media!
• Teach children how to be kind and gentle by looking after pets, visiting farms and learning about endangered species.
• Get children to begin a garden and plant and care for the plants they grow. This will help them also develop responsibility and respect for nature.
• Being gracious means showing equanimity, calm, respect, kindness and self-control – even when we feel the opposite. It is not about always expressing feelings. Children have to realise that there are many times when we simply cannot express our feelings without causing harm. They have to learn to stay calm, smile even when they want to yell and learn about the private expression of strong feelings. This is why drawing and writing in a private journal is so effective. A person who can draw and write in their private journal always has a means of expressing their feelings and can afford not to vent in public!
Model these behaviours yourself so children really understand. Reward graciousness when you observe it. Tell children exactly what they did right!

E.g. “I noticed you let Brian play with your Lego even though you don’t like the way he messes up your room. Well done!”
Graciousness IS important and is indeed transformative. Let’s take the time to teach it!

Begotten not Forgotten

sacredWe visited a very traditional Church this morning and I became aware of the soothing nature of the old words and prayers. Words like “begotten” jumped out and touched all sorts of emotions and memories. I listened to the beautiful organ as it was expertly played and the tones plus the words of the hymns (some written centuries ago) and wondered. What is it about liturgy, ritual and tradition that we love? The gleaming brasses and lovely altar rails were like a quiet reminder of something more peaceful and whole than the frantic scramble of my preceding weekday existence!

As we knelt to receive Holy Communion it felt as if the whole place was light and full of love and we were connected with centuries of people before us and those to come. Maybe I was just in a particularly receptive mood but the message for me was clear.

Human beings need rituals and traditions. They heal and comfort us and lend some pattern and routine to our often crazy days. The words from sacred texts seem to have a power like no other and I experience this also when visiting other sacred places of worship.

I often visit our local Buddhist temple and experience profound peace when there and when working in Singapore we love to meditate in the Sri Vinaygar temple or listen to the call to prayer in Arab St (a sound that always resonates right through me and makes me want to fall on my knees.)

Children have such an innocent and naïve approach to spirituality. They love to visit holy places and have a deep understanding and simple faith often denied to us. And yet, in this secular world all too many parents deny their children any of these sacred visits and experiences. Children yearn for the “other” and they respond so deeply when allowed to engage with symbols and their deeper natures.

As we have children of every religious persuasion at our centres (including many free thinkers), we honour ALL the festivals by telling children about them! They love to hear about Lent, Ramadam, Purim etc and we feel it helps them to appreciate the richness of our very mixed cultural identities. We acknowledge the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land at all our sessions and indeed the children are annoyed if we forget to do that!

At all our learning sessions we have a time when our groups come together for our motto, ICE song, turning on of the STAR of learning and giving out of awards. The lights are lowered and we have fairy lights to make this time special. Children often tell special news and we might have a few quiet moments or listen to a visualisation before writing. If EVER we get very busy and this GATHERING time is late. the students complain. They hunger for the special, comforting rituals that help them to feel they belong and matter. It is a special, magical interlude and I am sure it contributes to our high academic success rare. Our teachers so often comment that the work output seems to double after the gathering!

So, let’s listen deeply to our needs and those of our children and establish times when they can interact with the sacred and feel the deep connections that bind us all. Acknowledge special days with simple rituals. Establish a gratitude time with your family at meal times where each person holds a special “gratitude stone” and shares one thing for which they are thankful that day.

Mark the changing seasons with a simple nature tray on your kitchen table and above all take the time with your families for quiet contemplation- whether that be in Church, Temple, Mosque or simply in a forest or at the beach.

This spiritual yearning is part of the human experienced and we all need the deep healing and comfort that comes from contact with the sacred.


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