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Tutor and former teacher, Maurice Markwell, provides some much-needed advice on how to tackle the new academic school year.

Back to School

The new school year has arrived; full of anticipation, excitement, trepidation and that’s just the parents! You hope that your little or big one will hit the ground running; socially, academically, making the most of school both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. They only get one shot at school, so how can you best help as a parent?

Make sure they have a regular routine during the week, save those sleepovers for the weekend. Dust off that kitchen calendar, if you don’t have one, buy one; your mobile phone calendar cannot be easily seen by anyone except you. Other members of the family need to see it, to remind brothers, sisters and especially parents of events. A smooth family life is about constant communication as it is in any school, large or small. Write in all the dates you can find from the school website…which homework on which days? Some schools still have homework timetables. If the letter at the beginning of term from your class teacher/head of year outlining some of the years events, organisational matters, etc doesn’t contain a homework timetable, ask for one.

All this comes first; then organise clubs. Remember a club every night can put a great strain on the family; prioritise! Too many activities means tired, grumpy, under performing, ratty children – and greater stress for you.

As the term unfolds monitor possible problems regarding relationships, regular homework etc. We all know teenagers in particular often don’t like to talk, but follow through with the questions about the week. They won’t always like you but they will always love you! If you are concerned don’t wait for the next parent meets teacher date, ask for a brief chat. A rushed five minutes may not be enough on that night.

New Year 10 parents need to be aware, if they are not already, that GCSE exams start as early as October of Year 10. These tests are in the form of Controlled Assessments, especially in English, which can ultimately form up to 40% of the GCSE mark and not all schools will allow pupils to retry these. If grades are low in these Controlled Assessments they will need a higher grade in their final exam at the end of Year 11 to average a C. So: encourage, cajole and support them as much as possible. Modular GCSE exams mean there often isn’t any revision time possible because of other subjects and their homework will often continue.

Lastly, try and encourage your children of all ages to read! Books, First News (an award-winning  newspaper for children) Daily newspapers, even Hello is better than nothing. Facebook isn’t a substitute. Children need a wide range of vocabulary at their disposal to be able to explain and answer questions and show their true intelligence and ability. Phrases such as, ‘I know what it is but can’t explain it,’ doesn’t help in a GCSE paper.

Parenting, as we know, is ever more complex and varied. What will your report as a parent read like in July of 2013? A job well done?  Could have done better? Good luck which, as parents, we all need.

Article by Maurice Markwell

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