Why the learning revolution starts in Croydon

By - Thursday 23rd June, 2016

Charlotte Davies wants to make Croydon a centre of excellence for understanding how people learn and behave

Fit 2 Learn is a Croydon-based community interest company that seeks to empower communities and individuals through understanding how to make everyone an effective learner. Our approach involves using new technology to capture data about people’s physiology and changes to that physiology in order to fine-tune people’s control over their muscles, their sound processing and their visual processing until they can learn effectively and behave calmly.

We founded the company in response to our mounting frustration, as experts in teaching and IT with extensive professional experience both in education and commercially, that so many people are let down by an education system which does not help them to develop the vital structures that they need for effective learning.

We hear many debates about how difficult the exams are for UK children and how UK children must improve their basic skills in numeracy and literacy if we are to compete as a country and not be dependent on immigration to plug the skills gap. We all want our children to be the best that they can be, but we must be smart in our thinking to achieve this. Part of being smart is identifying the key skills that a child needs in place in order to be able to master numeracy and literacy.

Becoming a capable, confident learner starts very early in life

Our approach is based on the assumption that the brain is a sealed unit, therefore it is designed to sort itself out. The critical factors are the inputs to the brain and that it takes the whole body to support the brain In May 2016, at the International Tomatis Convention, Fit 2 Learn was recognised for its contribution to understanding in this field when we won first prize for our case studies analysing why people struggle to learn and behave calmly and how to overcome those issues.

Becoming a capable, confident learner starts very early in life. Pre-reading skills include all of the basics that children are supposed to be developing in their first seven years, such as:

  • Moving with left and right in coordination using gross motor skills
  • Being able to smoothly work from left to right and back again, i.e. doing something like throwing a ball in an arc
  • Good core strength – if a child cannot sit up properly they cannot hold their head in the right place to develop binocular vision
  • Fine motor skills in the face, hands and feet
  • Good sound processing in order to be able to hear speech against background noise – this skill does not come in until six years of age
  • Being able to control two eyes together in order to be able to focus and refocus and send effective messages from eye to brain – this skill does not come in until seven years of age
  • Developing good cognitive vision i.e. the ability of the brain to ‘see’ patterns. If a child does not reach the stage where their sound and vision processing are integrated with their motor skills they will always struggle to learn efficiently

At present in the UK we do not even screen our children to check the development of most of these skills.

When vision is checked by an optician, what is checked is 20/20 visual acuity i.e. whether a person can read a letter that most people should be able to read from a distance of twenty feet. This is called the Snellen test. Each eye is tested separately, meaning that the standard eye test does not consider how both eyes work together. Most people read from a distance of thirty to forty-five centimetres. We therefore need to habitually test that every child can use two eyes together when undertaking typical near-point tasks to ensure that they have optimal visual functioning.

We do not check sound processing in the UK at all. Sound processing is how the brain processes sound, which is different from a hearing test. A person can hear a sound, but they may not be able to process that sound and make sense of it. Good sound processing is vital for good reading. It is not unusual to meet children who can sound out text, but have no idea what they have just read i.e. their sound and vision processing are not integrated.

The human brain is the most complex organ in the universe

Our basic P.E. checks are very patchy compared to those in many countries which screen for school readiness or countries such as China which do not allow students to progress to high school if they are not fit enough. We rush our children into competitive sport then wonder why so many drop out or do not enjoy going along each week to struggle.

The human brain is the most complex organ in the universe. After birth it takes seven years for it to develop to a stage where it can bring together the senses and the motor skills and start to learn to operate in a fully integrated way. Humans go on developing and mastering this integration for another eighteen years, until twenty-five years of age. Cognitive skills and fitness need to be maintained throughout life to ensure a healthy old age.

Those first seven years are absolutely critical: if something goes wrong, then it impacts on a person for life if it is not corrected. Humans are strongly affected by environment: cramped flats, negligent parents, lack of space to climb and play, lack of exposure to rhythm and language, lack of love, early childhood illnesses and so on. However, humans are also very plastic: they can change most aspects of their development through practice. Fit 2 Learn helps clients to work through the gaps in their development until they can learn efficiently and effectively.

I’m both excited about the work that we are doing, and proud that Croydon can become a centre for educational discovery, change and progress. In 2013 I delivered a Ted Talk at Warwick University on our work and here you can watch a Fit 2 Learn client, Tam Kimber, who is a music teacher, talking in a series of videos about her experience of our approach.

Tomorrow, Friday 24th June, Fit 2 Learn is running a seminar from 9:30am to 12:00 noon at Fairfield House, 10 Altyre Road, Croydon CR0 5LA to explain some of the work that we have been doing in schools and to talk through some case studies. The cost is £30:00 (inc VAT) and you can click here to book a place.

Charlotte Davies

Charlotte Davies

I am an Educational Consultant, Director of Fit 2 Learn CIC, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. My teaching experience has covered Economics and Business Education including Enterprise; I have worked as a senior teacher. I now work to identify the root causes of educational under-achievement.

More Posts