As a PE teacher and lifelong Manchester United fan (no I’m not from Manchester but my Dad supported them since the 1960’s so there is a family tradition), I always find this time of the academic year to be akin to the closing weeks of the football season.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously referred to ‘squeaky bum time’ meaning the supporters were on the edge of their seats as each match came to the final few minutes as they were willing the team to hold on to the lead.
For the staff at Ernesford this time of year is our time to feel anxious, we are the supporters of every young person who is about to sit an exam whether it is a GCSE, BTEC or A Level qualification, we have seen our young people ‘train’ all year for their moment, sitting in the exam hall, performing at their peak and it is at that stage we can have no more influence on their outcomes.
That said, the exams don’t ‘kick-off’ for another 2 months, so now is the time to fine tune that ‘training’, increase the intensity and volume, reduce the periods of rest whilst making sure our students get just the right balance of quality revision and well-deserved relaxation. Whilst we can influence the work ethic of our students while they are in school, it is much harder to influence how much effort they put into their studies at home.
This is where you, the parents and carers, can have a significant influence. However, I realise that encouraging a teenager to spend quality time revising, researching and rehearsing is not a simple task, especially with the plethora of issues that encourage the high level of procrastination that is all too familiar (to all of us, not just the children!).
So, what follows in this blog is a selection of 10 top tips that will help you to help your child stay on the pathway to revision success rather than entering the perils of procrastination as demonstrated in the all too familiar scenario in this clip:
10 Top Tips for Parents/Carers:
1 – Remove the most obvious distractions of modern day technology which is often more of a hindrance than a help when a young person is trying to study i.e. take their mobile phone/iPad/tablet/any device that connects to the internet from them. It may be just for 30-40 minutes at a time, but by doing this you are enabling them to focus solely on their studies.
2 – Ensure that they have a quiet area in which to study, away from the distractions of noise and that includes the television and radio. As complex as the human brain is, research shows that if you listen to music whilst revising the brain cannot concentrate on both elements at once so the music is detracting from the studying.
3– Make sure your child has regular breaks. Chunking their revision into blocks of time with 15 minute rest periods is far more effective than studying for hours on end. 30 minutes working with a 10-15minute break and then another 30-minute block of study is a good place to start.
4– Check that your child has a copy of all the revision guides on offer from the school. Almost all subjects provide revision materials at a reduced price so make sure your child has a copy of everything they need. If in doubt, contact your child’s Head of House who will check what they should have.
5 – Revision strategies – reading, making notes and highlighting are actually the least effective strategies for revision. Instead, your child should be testing themselves with quizzes, questions and practicing from past exam papers (even though there are new exams now, old question papers are still useful).
6 – Learning key words and equations is vital and you should ask your child to give you a list of key words they need to know for each of their subjects with the definitions, so you can test them daily.
7 – Ask your child to explain what topics they are revising and then ask them to give you more detail. You don’t need to know anything about the subject, you can just keep asking them to explain until you understand!
8 – Avoid cramming sessions – trying to study in one large block just before an exam is a recipe for increasing anxiety. Revision should be taking place weeks in advance of the exam so your child has time to learn and re-learn key concepts and information. The diagram below shows that after one day of revision only 50% of information is retained, whereas revisiting every day for 4 days means far more information is retained.
9 – Eat well, sleep well – By providing a healthy diet with plenty of green vegetables, fruit and water-based drinks you will be supporting your child to feel fresh and well energised at what will be the most mentally demanding time of their young life so far. Ensuring that they go to bed at a reasonable hour, by 10pm and without their mobile phone and aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep will have a significant impact on how much information their brain can retain.
10 – Believe in them and show as much interest and encouragement as you can. Your child will get the grades that reflect the amount of time and effort they have put into their studies, by telling them how much you believe in them and how proud you are of all the work they are doing you will be reinforcing a positive mindset.
So, as that ‘squeaky bum time’ of the exam season draws ever nearer it is vital to remember that if we want the best results we have to work for them. Whatever your goal in life, it is effort and determination that will lead to success. When my all-time footballing hero, Eric Cantona, arrived at Old Trafford he did something no player had done before, he asked Alex Ferguson if he could stay out after training to do some extra practice.
The other players, none of whom were as good as Eric looked on in amazement before realising that the reason Cantona was such an incredible player was because he put in the hours of practice. That moment changed the culture of Manchester United because every young player from that point on started staying out after training to practice too.
They realised the power of practice, of repeating a skill, developing their understanding and putting themselves through more work than the rest of the players in the Premier League. Our students can achieve the same success this year and beyond through effort, determination and ‘training’ harder and for longer than the rest of the Year 11 and Year 13 students across the country.
With parental encouragement, preparation and support from school and their own effort and determination, every student at Ernesford Grange can achieve excellence.