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Every single year, the pressure to perform well in exams increases in response to school places becoming increasingly limited and entry requirements for the best schools, ever stricter. As a sad consequence, Childline reveal they delivered 3,135 counselling sessions to children in 2017/18 for exam stress.
Reports also show that the age of children most likely to be counselled for exam stress is between 12 and 15-years-old and that 50% of children establish some strain of a mental health problem by the time they’re 14. Young people contacting Childline say that exam stress has led to:
• depression and anxiety
• panic attacks
• low self-esteem
• self-harming and suicidal thoughts
• worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions.
So, how do parents help to combat exam stress and the potential mental health implications whilst still helping their child to achieve their potential?
“It’s all about finding the right balance,” says Rob Kerrison, owner of Cambridge-based tutoring company, Tutor Doctor. “January exams make it necessary to put in hours of revision over the Christmas break, but that doesn’t mean your child’s mental health has to suffer. There are practical ways to help them create a balanced way of learning, without being left overwhelmed and, crucially, still be able to enjoy the festivities.”
Here are Rob’s top tips for Christmas revision that don’t ruin the season of goodwill:
1. Plan in social events:
Factoring in spending time with loved ones is equally important as blocking out time for revision, especially at Christmas. It’s all about creating the right balance, finding what works for your child whilst focusing on a sense of wellbeing at the same time. Spontaneity is great but when it comes to revision, sticking to a plan is key. Having social timings planned, either as a family or with friends, and then crucially, sticking to them, forms a vital part of any learning schedule.
2. Create a revision timetable:
Once you’ve clearly marked a calendar with any social events, you can then organise revision times in blocks and by subject/category. That way, everyone can see what children are meant to be doing at a specific time – meaning you, and they, can be strict on getting down to work. Far from being draconian, this method promotes productive study-time and allows for guilt-free down time too!
3. Take regular breaks:
When blocking out revision time, it’s important to schedule breaks too. Students need to allow their brains to rest for a while, so it can continue to retain information effectively. Similarly, knowing when to stop is crucial. Getting to bed at a reasonable time and switching off on revision heavy days is key.
4. Prioritise workload:
Using a red, amber and green system can help your child prioritise their work in a way that becomes manageable. Red means feeling clueless, amber means having some idea but needing a little refresher and green means they’re comfortable and confident in that area of knowledge. This simple traffic light system can help to create a clear schedule for revision by indicating how much time students need to spend on each specific subject.
5. Keep study varied:
Sometimes, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in front of a computer screen or notepad, away from the festivities. Especially when the house is filled with the sounds and smells of the holidays. Mix up your child’s learning method to keep their brain active and engaged: switch from revision cards to mind maps or introduce brain exercise games so they don’t become stagnant. Bring learning to the party every now and then by getting members of the family to assist with test questions and readings. Revision doesn’t have to be boring!
6. Find a tutor:
Even if it’s for a couple of hours a week, working with a tutor will help your child to tackle problem areas or sticking points more effectively. Children and adults alike tend to avoid or procrastinate when it comes to working on things which we either don’t fully understand or feel that we dislike. Students are a prime example of this! Working with a tutor in weaker subjects or on particular areas will encourage working to a schedule, enhance learning methods and boost confidence for exams.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others:
This is one of the biggest setbacks when it comes to progression. Constantly comparing themselves to others will hinder your child’s performance in a way that could be detrimental. Encourage and support them by reminding them that everyone is different and that extends to learning styles too so, what works for their friends, may not work for them. And try to remember and communicate to your child that, whilst important, exams don’t determine who they are as a person.
8. Keep your own ambitions in check:
Quite often, parents place undue pressure on their children to do well, leaving them feeling that their only option is to succeed. Instead of reminding your child how important exams are (believe me, they’ll have plenty of that at school) try working with them on some of the above. Ensure that their breaks include eating properly and getting enough exercise too. Once a schedule is made, help your child to revise by giving them the space and time to do so. Finally, support them by talking through any worries they may have – communication can sometimes be lost when people are stressed, so being able to chat about any concerns is crucial (and if they don’t speak to you, encourage them to speak to a friend/teacher).
The Christmas period is supposed to a happy time, but for some students it can become stressful very quickly. The pressure to do well in exams, mock and full, is very real and as the shocking statistic from the likes of Childline, the NSPCC and mental health organisations across the UK show very clearly, dread often sets in as children break up for the holidays. By addressing the issue and making revision a talking point in advance, you can help your child to minimise stress and actually improve the quality of their learning at this time.
Notes to editor:
Rob and Lynne Kerrison are the owners of Cambridge-based tutoring business, Tutor Doctor. The company provides one-to-one tutoring, directly into the home either in person or via a state-of-the-art online learning platform. The company’s core belief is that ‘thinking caps’ come in all shapes and sizes. Instead of trying to impose a single style and method of learning, the Tutor Doctor ethos is that with personal, tailored assistance, all students can achieve success.
Since launching the business in 2010 the couple have worked with over 2000 families in Cambridge and partnered with 15 local schools to provide one-to-one support outside the classroom. Amongst a plethora of educational professionals in the region, Rob and Lynne pride themselves on being unique industry experts who, whilst being highly skilled, remain friendly and approachable.
Over the last eight years, the Kerrison’s drive to support and empower students within Cambridge’s prestigious educational arena has seen the business, and its students, flourish. Rob puts much of the business’ success down to the support of their team, including their dedicated office staff and the 200+ tutors who work with them.
For more information on the services offered and how Tutor Doctor match every student to the best-fit tutor, contact the team at www.tutordoctor.co.uk.
About Tutor Doctor
Tutor Doctor is the fastest growing in-home tutoring franchise in the world. Business owners, like Rob, work with families to thoroughly asses a child’s needs and then carefully select the best-fit tutor based on goals, personality and learning style. Instead of the tired old centre-based model, tutors visit students at home or work via a state-of-the-art online learning platform so that students can learn in the comfort of their own home, at a time that suits them. For today’s busy families, this is a real benefit!
The company was established in North America in 2000 and started its global expansion in 2003. It now has over 500 franchised offices in more than 14 countries and a network of 16,000 tutors. Operations in the UK began in 2009 and since then the company has experienced growth of 50% year on year and now has 80 franchise owners in the UK. The company is a proud member of both The Tutors Association and the British Franchise Association.
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