Why everyone* should go to university

Why everyone* should go to university

Coaching, University
The college where I work is well known throughout the region for its high standards. Progress and results are great, most of our students are successful at university and we’re one of the biggest state providers of entrants to Oxford and Cambridge. Not bad for a non-selective city sixth form, and I’m proud to have played a part in that success. It annoys the hell out of me though! In the UK, there is such a cultural emphasis on elitism: according to social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, 24% of MPs are Oxbridge educated and two-thirds of Boris Johnson’s cabinet went to private schools, compared to 7% of the general population. It’s as if we’ve become blinkered, believing that privilege is the only measure of someone’s worth. Old-fashioned deference is…
Read More
Starting College Successfully – tips for parents

Starting College Successfully – tips for parents

Parents, Transitions
Sunday Dreads on a Wednesday? Last Thursday was the first day back at College after a long summer holiday working on my business. Like many educators approaching the start of term, I had a sleepless night, full of racing thoughts about things not done, liberty lost and exciting ideas for the new year. In an effort to download it all, I grabbed my notebook and frantically scribbled down everything that was on my mind. It got me thinking though: if the anticipation is this intense for me, what must it be like for a student starting college, full of trepidation about this new stage with its exhilarating freedoms and terrifying responsibilities, let alone the all-important social aspects of being in a new environment filled with thousands of teenagers? How can…
Read More
Instant mindfulness techniques to learn today

Instant mindfulness techniques to learn today

Exams, Wellbeing
Most of us have heard about mindfulness, the popular method for controlling stress, anxiety and a host of other ills, but how many of us have tried it and found “it doesn’t work”? The thing is, learning mindfulness, really learning it so that it integrates with your life and helps you cope with life’s ups and downs, takes a long time. Lots of practice of formal techniques like sitting meditation is needed before everyday mindfulness becomes part of our lives. And meditation is hard! Those feelings of boredom, frustration and wandering thoughts are real (it’s just that noticing them and bringing the awareness back is part of the practice, hell, it IS the practice!) So what if there was a way to get some of the benefits of mindfulness without…
Read More
How to thrive in Mental Health Awareness Week

How to thrive in Mental Health Awareness Week

Exams, Wellbeing
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week… and it’s the week my students start their exams. I’ve been all too aware of my own mental health lately (always the case when it’s a bit below par) and I figure that sharing my experience might help those wondering how they can possibly tackle the mountain of exam pressure when just living is hard enough. I first became fully aware of mental health as A Thing in 2002, when a dear friend, severely depressed, came to stay in my home. He struggled to get out of bed, to shower, to interact, to contribute to the household… almost everything seemed impossible for him and I couldn’t understand why at the time. Later, my inability to help him in a meaningful way was a huge source…
Read More
Revision – Why bother?

Revision – Why bother?

Exams, Wellbeing
So it’s the end of the week: how have you and your young person been getting on? Is revision well under way or are they having trouble getting started? Today is all about motivation, which can be a challenge for everyone. Each day brings a new start and new ways to procrastinate! The good news though, is that even if they’re feeling like they’ve wasted the week, it’s not too late. You don’t have to wait until Monday to make a fresh start – just Start Where You Are! Go back to the plan, make some adjustment and off you go. The phrase, “Just Do It” might be a sporting cliché, but I find it a useful mantra for all sorts of things, perhaps with a choice word added for…
Read More
Insider Secrets of the Exam Boards

Insider Secrets of the Exam Boards

Uncategorized
Today I’m going to show you a treasure trove of useful information that you might not have come across before! If your child is doing GCSEs, A Levels or similar, the content they have to learn will be set by an exam board, a big organisation that operates nationally. So that comment I often hear that A levels are harder at some colleges than others is just plain wrong – they’re all the same. Teachers go to the exam board to get the specification – that’s the syllabus that tells them what material to cover in their lessons. Now, did you know that lots of the information on the exam board websites is publicly available? Not just the specifications – there are sample assessments (that’s exam papers with answers) and…
Read More
Staying well in the exam season

Staying well in the exam season

Exams, Wellbeing
We’ve looked at the “why” and “what” of planning, and yesterday we explored the “how” of revision. But with all this focus on work, it’s no wonder young people and those around them find this a stressful time. So how can we keep our teenagers and ourselves as well as possible during the exam season? Well of course there are two main aspects of health: physical and mental. We all have them, at varying levels, and they’re much more closely intertwined than may people think. Physically, students need to be getting enough sleep (hopefully that’s already in their plan from Monday), drinking enough water and eating the right foods. There’s been a lot written about “brain foods” but generally the normal advice for a healthy, balanced diet still applies at…
Read More
How to Revise – strategies and styles

How to Revise – strategies and styles

Exams
Yesterday we looked at planning for revision and making sure there’s some fun stuff in the plan too. How did you get on? Is your household feeling any more productive yet? Today I’d like to tackle the “how” bit. When I asked parents to think about their own experiences of revision, many of them said they had no idea how to use their study time, and I think it is the same for a lot of young people now. I know that as a tutor, I have a lot less time than I used to for helping people learn how to revise. It’s no good having a plan to revise at 6pm on a Tuesday if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do with that time. So how…
Read More
Exams – Set – Go! Plan for Success

Exams – Set – Go! Plan for Success

Exams
Last week, I ran a video challenge over on LinkedIn, with quick tips and ideas to help families prepare for the upcoming exam season. It’s especially important for teens to have some guidance during this unstructured holiday time, so I’m recreating the main ideas here for you this week. I hope you find them useful. Part 1: Plan for Success Today I want to talk about planning. Your kids’ teachers will have told them to make a revision plan. There are lots of ways of doing that, from whizzy interactive tools to old-school colouring in. What they might not have discussed is the “why” of planning. It’s not supposed to be just another timetable to fill the time while you’re on study leave. Why plan? I think there are a…
Read More
Exams – what happens if my child fails?

Exams – what happens if my child fails?

Exams
It’s every parent’s nightmare: the envelope opened on Results Day, the tears and recriminations, the panicked rushing around trying to set up an alternative plan for September, the loss of a dream career... but it doesn’t have to be like that! In an ideal world, you could help your child avoid all of this; you’d find a way to let them sail through the exam season like a swan gliding across the local pond. After all, results are getting better each year and Freda Bloggs down the road is getting straight As, right? But there’s more to every story. Poor Freda might be working all the hours there are to make things appear so effortless; that swan is paddling its legs madly under the water! Getting revision right will help…
Read More