GCSEs: The importance of awareness and organisation

…After speaking to the student and after I had flicked through his disorganised folder, it became all the more evident that the student hadn’t the faintest idea what material he needed to know in order to pass the exam. He looked down at the table and rotated his pencil slowly between his fingers. Exams were barely two months away…

This is an issue I have actually encountered a few times working with children working towards their GCSEs late into the exam cycle. Although exam success is by no means guaranteed, quite a few children do not give themselves the best chance to succeed.

At school, I know that I was especially bad at organisation and was frequently chastised by teachers for my poor level of organisation (especially in A level Philosophy). The reasons I managed to succeed in exams was that I always remembered things well at school and I was always aware of what I needed to know. However, perhaps with better organisation at school, I could have made exam success easier to attain.  

GCSEs are particularly a difficult challenge for children to go through. Teenagers are themselves going through biological developments and mentally changing too. Although some of the major bodily changes have already taken place between the ages of 11 and 15, from 15-16, teenagers have more concerns about the future and are even more likely to be depressed.

Children of the GCSE age-group start to develop their working habits. They start learning about how they learn best, what they want to learn about, how they want to organise their work, how they can use their knowledge in the future and so on. The Government have tried to tackle these issues by introducing students to study skills as an extracurricular add-on. Study skills should not be regarded in this way, but should be pushed early in a child’s development and enforced by those around the child (parents, teachers, tutors etc). Of course, different people have different ways of organising and this uniqueness should be celebrated too, but there are always general ideas that should be consistently enforced and reinforced.  
Although I did not enjoy being lectured weekly about the state of my folders, I have to admit that teachers certainly left an impression on me and I did start to pay more attention. Looking back, I wish those around me had started teaching me earlier about the value of organisation and thinking about what they need to learn. How aware is your child? Does he/she know how to approach studying? How organised are your child’s notes? Under which exam board is your child taking an exam? Does your child know what skills and knowledge is needed? These are just a few of the questions that parents can consider leading up to exams.

Jonathan Strange

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The challenge of working with high-achievers

As a tutor, I have come across many children who find school work easy. Despite having natural ability and being ahead of their peers, children who are perceived as highly intelligent often seem to have character traits that bind them together. I talk about “perception of intelligence” because it is the perception of being intelligent which can truly damage a child, not the fact that the child may have extraordinary mental abilities.

 

These are the four points that have stood out to me with the children I have worked with (there are actually much more):

 

  • Seeking perfection

Children are often told that they are intelligent by those around them. This adds to the internal pressure that they feel (as clever children often feel) that they need to be perfect. They thus identify themselves as “the clever one” in their peer-groups.

 

  • Inexperience in failure

Naturally, many of these children past most of their early years being able to accomplish most of the academic tasks set by their teachers. This means that they may lack the experience of real failure, which is important for well-rounded developmental.

 

  • Lack of mental resistance to failure

As a consequence of not failing in their young days and the need to seek perfection, some children take failure in their later years particularly hard.

 

  • Difficulty relating to others in their peer group

If others perceive a child to be intelligent, and the child, in turn, believes this idea, this can lead to isolation in social situations.

 

As an educator, my role is not merely to facilitate learning, but to understand the issues affecting a child.  At every point, I have to always be aware of the words I am using when working with children. If anyone has comments about the points I have mentioned or has experience dealing with these issues, please feel free to comment.  

 

Jonathan Strange

School Funding

Initially, thinking about the way schools were funded, I had thought that perhaps the public sector could be thought of as inefficient. On consideration of the data, perhaps it is instead the case that some schools are being starved of the funding that is desperately needed to improve standards.

A figure of around £6000 is the average amount needed to educate a child at school per year. On considering this figure, it may seem like a lot of money, however, this figure is only an average. Consider this, different councils provide schools with differing amounts of funding. That means that some schools receive far more than £6000 and some schools receive far less. Consider this fact carefully. Some councils are providing their schools with just around £4500 per year per pupil (sometimes less).

I am a believer in quality over quantity. Of course, efficiency is something that should be lauded; sometimes placing constraints on spending can generate creative thought. However, £4500 is nothing in this economy. Consider how for much time these children are in school and how much the education they receive will have to be watered-down. I have to say that I am worried for the future of our state education system. Furthermore, it appears that spending will continue on a downward trajectory. Take a look at the data and be afraid.

The only positive that I can take from all of this is that online education may save the system. Online education has the potential to revolutionise the way children learn and improve standards. It could also save money in the long term, however, councils and schools need to be forward thinking enough and intelligent in their investments.

Jonathan Strange