How can I help my child at school?

Parental support is 8 times more important in determining a child’s academic success than social class.

Parental support is 8 times more important in determining a child’s academic success than social class according to The Campaign for Learning.

As a time-served teacher with over 15 years of experience at the chalk-face I offer below some pointers for parents and students in the run-up to GCSE exams.

For students:

  • Start revision now; needs to be done in bite size pieces; often say to students that revision is like eating an elephant, you can’t do it all in one go, has to be done in bite size pieces. That is why B.B.C. revision site is called bitesize as it gives revision is small manageable pieces.
    • Make a revision plan from now until the exams.
    • Break it down into days and revision times.
    • Share out subjects & topic so that you are covering all bases (See traffic lighting specification)
    • Set time slots of 20 min for revision and build in rest times.
    • Build in rewards for doing the 20 minute revision, eg. Check fb on mobile phone (see more about mobile phones later) chocolate biscuits
  • Ask your teachers for a list of topics for each subject & what exam board you are studying (useful for when you are buying revision guides or accessing revision websites.
    • Traffic light the topics
      • Green for the topics you know well
      • Amber for the topics you know a little but still unsure
      • Red for the topics you think I haven’t got a clue; did we even do them in school?
    • Then allocate your topics to your revision timetable.
    • Put the red topics first and then several times later
    • Don’t bury your head in the sand about topics you don’t like or understand. If you do these first then you have more chance to work on them.
    • Remember still to include the green and amber topics too.
    • Seek help from your teachers about the red topics.
  • Your revision should include recall of fact, application of knowledge and exam question.
    • Ask your teacher for questions.
    • Buy revision guides with questions and exam questions in. CGP are usually reasonable and exam board specific
  • Find a place that you are comfortable with to revise.
    • No electronic devices in the same room.
    • Good light, not too hot – good with a window slightly open to get fresh air- oxygen is good for the brain to work.
    • Bring water with you so you have no excuse to go and get it – being hydrated help the brain function better.
    • Bring in all your material you will need before you start
      • Good to keep everything in a box & and tidy back into here at the end.
  • Always revise in this same place and it tells your brain it is ready for work time.

For the parent:

  • Work with the school as much as possible; when young people see you working together it makes them more secure about what is being asked of them.
    • Attend parents evenings/review days as you might gain useful information about revision or revision material that is provided by school – the older they are the less likely it is that information given out at school is pasted on to you.
  • Agree with them their revision timetable.
    • Ensure that it is balanced and not all revision.
    • Support that they are doing/what they agreed but be flexible; if something special comes up then negotiate a swap of times.
    • If they are doing what they are supposed to be most of the time; don’t nag over occasion lapses. 80/20 rule.
    • Be there to listen; reflect their feelings……”You feel annoyed with yourself because you just can’t understand how that equation for speed is worked out.”
  • Ensure they go to school each day; huge correlation between attendance and GCSE grades.
    • read…
    • Ensure they have an alarm clock so that they get up in plenty of time to prepare for school.
      • Suggest packing their bag the night before so that they have everything they need.
  • Have regular meal times in the house where ever possible.
    • Ensure they are eating a healthy balanced diet.
      • High sugar impairs memory and learning skills.
      • A 2012 study on rats, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that a diet high in fructose (that’s just another word for sugar) hinders learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain. The researchers found that rats who over-consumed fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired. Parents can do a lot to support young adults preparing for their GCSE’s but many teenagers (and younger children for that matter) do not like asking for academic help or appreciate their parents telling them how a piece of work should be done.
    • If this is the case, and the student is struggling with a subject then professional help should be sought.
      • Teachers at school, friends who are teachers or qualified tutor.
      • There are many people who advertise as tutors, eg. university students; however, ensure that you have a qualified subject specific specialist teacher as they know what is required by the exam board.