The Telegraph, 29/03/15, speaks to five education experts for their advice to parents on dealing with the stresses of exam season and supporting children. HMC members Lee Glaser, headmaster at Taunton School, and Keith Budge, headmaster at Bedales School are quoted and Theresa Homewood, Senior Deputy at HMC member school Sevenoaks are quoted
The Easter holidays have arrived and for students across the country, this can only mean one thing: revision.
There is certainly no shortage of advice with every avenue flooded with revision kits, support forums, apps and an astonishing amount of flash cards. Finding the right advice is much like searching for a needle in a haystack.
So what do the experts say?
1. Plan revision in advance
"The important thing is structure,” advises Lee Glaser, headmaster at Taunton School, Somerset. “It's not a magic wand answer, but I think that sitting down at the beginning of a long revision period and putting together a revision plan that the parents have knowledge of, is a good idea.
“It's agreeing the amount of revision that is going to be done at the beginning of the holiday and then there needs to be trust to let children get on with it.”
A possible guideline for a revision timetable could be the students’ school timetable.
2. Don't work too much
One of the most common questions regarding revision is how much time is the right amount to revise. Is it OK for your child to be working all hours of the day?
The experts’ answer is a resounding no: a general guide of 4-6 hours per day is recommended with plenty of time for breaks and relaxation.
"I would say pupils should be doing 6 hours a day of revision usually broken down into three 2 hour stints,” suggests Glaser, “Kids don't need to be getting out of bed at 6am in the morning and it's important to take days off, you've got to have a break.”
“My key message is about productivity,” says Keith Budge, Headmaster at Bedales School, Hampshire, “too often it is convenient for both parents and students to think this is about time spent in one room “revising”, whereas actually it’s about getting through the work as efficiently as you can.”
3 ... and remember to take breaks
“I think it’s really important that students build in breaks and rewards,” says Theresa Homewood, Senior Deputy at Sevenoaks School.
“In order to be an effective, active and productive reviser you need to make sure that you are being sensible about how you look after yourself,” says Budge.
“The worst thing is the detention type of approach, either self imposed or parentally imposed, which is all about time."
Glaser stresses, "if parents see kids working too much, take them out, go for a long walk. You hear horror stories of kids being told 'into your bedroom, 12 hours a day, you're not coming out until you've done it' and that's just soul destroying.
“We see first hand the mental health crisis that some kids are going through. Kids need to know that they can take time off without worrying themselves.”
4. Eat, sleep and drink well
“Provide them with lots of treats and snacks,” says Louise Robinson, the Head of Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School, but “keep snacks healthy by making sure that there is prepared fruit and veg.”
“Concentrated caffeine drinks should be avoided at all cost,” insists Homewood.
Eating, drinking and sleeping well will enable your child to use their revision time much more effectively. The key is not the length of time spent working, but the quality.
5. Manage Stress
Homewood says students “need to manage their stress levels – a bit of stress is helpful but too much stress is counterproductive.”
For some, this may be easier said than done but part of managing stress is ensuring that students get enough time to relax and take a break from work.
“It’s really important that they don’t set unrealistic expectations,” says Homewood. “I always encourage students to do their best but to compete against themselves not their friends.
“Exam results are important, they can open doors, but it’s not just this that’s going to determine life success. It’s about being a kind person, being positive, being resilient.”
6. Find a comfortable and quiet place to work
Homewood stresses that children should “have a comfortable quiet space in which to work and encourage them to leave distractions like emails and Facebook elsewhere”.
7. Be aware that there are different ways of revising
There is no set way to revise and students will find different methods more helpful than others.
8. Use the resources available
Theresa Homewood recommends that students get organised with a copy of the syllabus, their class notes, text books and past papers.
Parents “should help their children by removing temptations, like mobile phones. But equally provide other sort of aids that they can use to help them,” says Robinson.
“There are books and cards available in shops like WH Smith that really gear up to helping students learn.”
The exam boards themselves provide a huge number of resources such as past papers.
Students can also pair up with others to help each other revise: this can be especially useful in language subjects.
9. Encourage your child to be active in their revision
“Revision can be very dull so make it as active as possible”, advises Homewood.
There are "well established techniques to help you revise actively,” says Budge.
These include taking notes when reading, testing yourself, organising information in various different ways and using flash cards.
For Budge the key is “interactive and proactive work that requires you to do things rather than to expect that you can be a passive learner.”
10. Provide a strong support network
Providing rewards, testing at the end of the day and asking questions about their learning are all ways the whole family can get involved.
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