Cornerstone to a Brighter Future………

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to see the launch of the second year of CornerStone Tuition with the training of 21 new tutors at Skinner’s Kent Academy – SKA – in Tunbridge Wells.

In my daily work I see both the positive and negative impact that education can have on young people.  Intelligence and achievement – doing well at school – offers children and teenagers such resilience.  But we see on a daily basis the pressure that CAMHS services are under with more young people than ever being anxious, depressed and harming themselves.  Struggling at school – whatever the reason – is one of the pressures – which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression – or anger, resentment and disengagement.

CornerStone Tuition was launched in 2015 by Sam and his friend from school Tom who dreamed up the idea whilst fielding together at a Borderers cricket match.  There is a back story – but that is Sam’s to tell……………..  Looking on from the outside – Sam finished his A levels in 2014 and, after a difficult year, decided not to take up his place at Bristol University to read Law.  He had no plans for the year – other than to reapply to University to read Theology – and he gradually began to work tutoring and supporting other young people through their GCSE’s and A levels – and there the idea for CornerStone Tuition was born.  Young people supporting other young people to achieve their best.  Sam and Tom were passionate about delivering support to youngsters who could not afford to employ tutors – but who may be falling behind in school and struggling to stay motivated to achieve their best.  Their idea was quite simple – to pair up young people who had already jumped the GCSE hoop to help those preparing for the exams – and to deliver this completely free of charge.

Since then they have set up the charity, raised funds, found sponsors and advisors – in

Tom and Sam Meeting up with Evan Davis who has agreed to act as an advisor to CornerStone Tuition

Nick and Evan –  represented themselves and their charity to banks, the media and – most importantly to schools.  They have recruited new 6th formers from local grammar schools who work on a weekly basis with youngsters identified by their school as needing support to get through their GCSEs – and they work together in Maths, English and (new this year) Science.

In 2016 CornerStone Tuition trained 6 tutors (and 3 more joined a bit later) to work with pupils at SKA.  This year they have a programme running in Exeter (where Tom is at University) and last week saw the launch of the second programme at SKA – this year with 21 amazing young people signing up as tutors.  They gave up theIMG_1105ir Saturdays to work with Nick – who helped them to think through the best ways to motivate and share information with the pupils who signed up for the 10 weeks.  We did try to keep them interested with lunch – and cakes……. But they didn’t really need it – they were there and enthusiastic and clearly committed!

But what sticks in my mind from watching this work unfold – is that it
is the youngsters RECEIVING the support who are just as amazing as the tutors.  They too give up their Saturdays – let’s face it – to spend an extra morning at school (which may not be their favourite place) – in an effort to understand the things that they are struggling with and to aim for a brighter future for themselves.  Just for a moment imagine trying to sit your maths GCSE when you’ve not yet got the hang of number bonds to 10.  Or English when metaphor is a mystery.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not about “hot housing” – or trying to add to the pressure that youngsters are already under with the seemingly endless demands of testing and external examinations.  Nor is it about joining the groundswell of opinion that seems to say “the only grade worth getting is an A or an A*” – wherever did this come from?  Sad to say I see it daily in many of the teenagers I work with.  What it IS about is building confidence.  Helping young people to feel empowered to ask for help if they need it; listening to their needs and their hopes and fears about the process and helping them to face the future feeling good about themselves.  What better way than with the support of their peers?

And so this is to wish all of those involved in CornerStone Tuition Good Luck for the coming programmes – These are the young people – out there – building the future for all of us!



And so to the vexed question of what to eat on race day…………….. Do you carb load………….? How much? What do you have for breakfast? When…………….?  What do you eat afterwards? Really?

Only a cursory glance on the internet and there are hundreds of learned articles that talk you through it from a scientific perspective – so I am not going to even try here…………….  But what I would add is a theme that cuts through most articles – do what works for you!  Personally this means I don’t change very much at all.  I don’t like running with a full tummy – so I make sure I eat well the day before – but I don’t do any carb loading – I just make sure there is a good balance of foods including some carbs and protein.  On race day it’s always the same – a yogurt and some good old fashioned Soreen Malt Loaf about an hour before the run.  And that’s it – I’ve run a marathon following these rules – as I say – It works for me.

Whilst I was training for my first marathon in 2014 – I was trained and supported through the process by the wonderful Sarah Russell (  She taught me so much and, through subsequent years her words often come back to me.  In taking on the 12 half marathons in 12 months challenge – I have revisited her words of wisdom about re-fuelling – particularly after a race………….  Her article on nutrition can be found in full on the Sarah’s Runners FaceBook page – but her thoughts about refuelling are reproduced here:

The ability to recover quickly from a training session is essential, and this is where nutrition really comes into it’s own.   Fail to re-fuel correctly after a run, and you’re likely to feel sluggish, weary and lacking in energy – not exactly ideal preparation for your next session. And that’s not to mention the increased risk of picking up a cold or an injury.   Eat the right thing immediately after running and you’ll reap the benefits, feel full of energy and be raring to go for your next run. 

After exercise, you have a window of about 1 hour (the first 30 minutes in particular) where your muscles are most receptive to being re-stocked with glycogen.  If you don’t re-fill your fuel tank within that window, your body (rather like your car) won’t have enough energy for the next journey, particularly if you’re running every day.

Running for 75 minutes at about 80% maximum heart rate (MHR) results in almost complete glycogen depletion but with shorter runs of 45 minutes or so, you’ll only dip into your glycogen stores. Your re-fuelling strategy should therefore match the duration and intensity of your run.  Experts also recommend that the post race snack or meal should also be relatively low fat and include some protein to aid muscle recovery; it should not just be based on carbohydrate alone.  

Here are some ideas for your perfect post-run snack:

Toasted crumpet with peanut butter and jam

Fruit smoothie made with banana, yoghurt and honey

Porridge made with milk, honey and raisins

Chocolate milkshake and a banana

Now basically this is really good news for those of us who enjoy our food as – so long as it’s done thoughtfully and not to excess – a race is a good opportunity to have something really delicious afterwards.  These are some of my favourite post-race recovery snacks:

Banana, Cranberry and Chocolate Muffins

4oz butter melted

Stir in 8oz of soft brown sugar

Put into a mixer with 3-4 ripe bananas and 4 tablespoons of yogurt

Then add 2 eggs and

12oz Self Raising Flour (could add some wholemeal if you wish – and the also work well with Gluten Free flour if that’s your thing) and a teaspoon of bicarb

A bar of chocolate cut into chunks

And 4oz dried cranberries

Mix up and divide into muffin tins and bake for about 15 mins at 180 degrees.

So yummy – and they really hit the mark for me!  They used to be a post run regular on Sunday mornings!  After a race – again a bit of a ritual – 2 poached eggs on toast – and that’s it – back to normal eating – I’ll test the formula out over the next 10 months……………………..

A Spring in my Step!

It’s spring out there in case you haven’t noticed – get out there and walk – or run – or tidy the garden – but get out there!

I’ve been somewhat “down in the dumps” as I have not been able to run very much with my sore hip – I keep thinking it’s getting better – and then I run again and it hurts again……..  And I still want to have a go at my 10 remaining half marathons…………………

So I had no choice but take drastic action and I’ve joined the gym!  I can use the cross-trainer, the bike and the swimming pool to my heart’s content – without pain – it just seems to be running that upsets things.  At least I can keep fit – but I do miss running outdoors.

So yesterday was the first run for a week – and I really needed to try out my hip as my next half is only 7 days away.  So eight miles planned – and the good news is – eight miles done! Some minor discomfort and a bit stiff afterwards but massive improvement so I’m on the mend! And it is just so good to be out there in the light and the spring weather.  I saw daffodils, snowdrops, violets and primroses.  There were robins bobbing about and I saw a swan in flight. The sun was shining (and it still is).  The days are getting longer.  All is well…….

Running track for the week – so sad that they are splitting up – “We are the Battery Human” by Stornaway – because we were born to be Free Range!