Category : Education

GCSE exam stress: how can I best support my child?

The GCSE exams have started and many parents will be wondering how best to support their children through this key period. The following suggestions might help:

Don’t nag

Gentle support rather than nagging is the best approach. Try to avoid the temptation to manage your son or daughter’s revision as this can make them more anxious. Parents muscling in on revision plans and trying to organise their time, can be infuriating for them. Constant questions about how revision is going can lead to arguments, which end up being detrimental to the whole process.

Instead, offer to help your child to draw up a revision timetable, or to test them on what they have learned so far. Offer encouragement and frequent snacks and drinks. It is crucial that they feel your support.

Giving your child a sense of responsibility for and ownership of their own revision, plus the feeling that you’re behind them in this, is paramount.


Avoid unhelpful comparisons

Drawing attention to the fact that their older siblings did GCSES effortlessly, or that you were much more organised in “your day” will not help. It will probably add to the pressure that your son or daughter is already feeling.

Comparing themselves to others- especially siblings who are highly academic- might make things worse.

Side-step arguments

If your teenager is looking to provoke an argument, or their behaviour becomes more challenging than usual, try not to rise to it. This is a stressful time for the whole family and the best approach is to stay as positive as you can.

Watch out for signs of stress

If your child is struggling to eat, suffering from insomnia or reluctant to socialise, they are probably over-stressed. If you see any of these signs, speak to your child and reassure them.

Take steps to alleviate the stress such as preparing their favourite foods, encouraging them to spend time with friends and to take exercise. Even a short walk in the countryside can work wonders. Talented students can fall short of their predicted grades due to stress. It is not easy, but try to help them to maintain a healthy balance between revision and living.


Offer rewards and encouragement

A series of rewards during revision time can really help your son or daughter to keep up the momentum. A trip to the cinema to see a good film, preparing their favourite foods, inviting close friends to supper- all of these may seem like small things but they can make the world of difference to your child’s sense of well- being and confidence.

Finally, remembering that there is a life beyond the GCSEs is vital, both for teenagers and for their families. This is can be very challenging for students when they are in the midst of the exam period. Try to reassure your son and daughter that the exams last only for a few weeks and that after that … they have their whole life ahead of them, bringing a series of new and exciting challenges.

Coding in the Curriculum

Many parents worry about technology.  Whilst we urge our offspring to spend less time on screens and limit their access to Facebook, we joke about relying on our children to solve our tech problems.

Whatever our own attitude to technology, we cannot ignore the fact that the ability to write code, understand the digital world and programming will be essential for our offspring.  Technology is moving on at such a pace that we cannot allow our children to be left behind.  Most will have their own websites and perhaps also run their own businesses. They are likely to have many careers in their lifetimes, perhaps running concurrently, and they will need the technological skills and flexibility to manage these effectively.

In response to lobbying, the UK Government launched a new computing curriculum in 2014.  This requires that by age seven, pupils understand what algorithms are and that by age eleven, pupils are able to write simple programmes.  This is an important step forward.

Many independent schools, whilst not following the national curriculum, are ensuring that their pupils are well- versed in computing.  Coding Club is a popular option at Abingdon Prep in Oxfordshire.  The basics concepts of programming are taught in the Reception class and then integrated into teaching as pupil’s progress through the school.    Westwood Hay prep in Hertfordshire has a state of the art computer suite and enthusiastic IT teachers who make computing enjoyable.  At Francis Holland, Sloane Square, Headmistress Lucy Elphinstone is a fan of computer coding, acknowledging the need for girls to have this skill in their future careers.

Contrary to the popular perception of stuffy, boring IT lessons, coding can be really fun and creative. Learning how to code enables children to design apps and games.  It also encourages problem- solving.

So next time you have a tech problem – your iPad won’t work, or your website is down, you may breathe a sigh of relief when your children come to the rescue.  And you will be grateful that they were taught computer programming at school.

Qualities of a successful tutor

Building a strong rapport with the student

Building an atmosphere of trust and respect is key to the tutor/tutee relationship. A student who trusts and respects his tutor and his tutor’s abilities is happy and relaxed.  And feeling happy and relaxed are key ingredients to successful learning.


Successful tutors are able to put themselves in their students’ shoes.  Not all students find learning easy.  Shakespearean language, Latin verbs or quadratic equations are a doddle if you have specialised in this area and studied your subject to undergraduate level and beyond.  It is easy to forget that a child may find these concepts much harder to grasp.  So a tutor needs to find out the best way in which to communicate their knowledge to each individual child.

Understanding students’ individual learning styles

Everybody learns differently.  Put simply, most people are a mixture of auditory, visual or kinaesthetic (learning through action) learners.  The child who finds it difficult to sit still in a classroom environment may be predominantly a kinaesthetic learner, who would benefit from learning through physical action as opposed to sitting passively and listening to the teacher.  This a very simple method and a good tutor will use this as just one of the methods to inform their tuition.

Engaging students’ interests

A good tutor finds out what makes his or her student’s heart sing.  If this happens to be computer gaming, he or she is likely to be more fired up in an English tutorial if their tutor uses well-written articles and visuals on computer gaming to illustrate comprehension and grammar skills.   A dreary article from the Times on current politics may well send your computer gaming fan into the depths of despair.  The more the student’s interests are engaged, the more they care about what they are learning.

In-depth subject knowledge and the ability to relate this to real life 

Successful tutors engage students more fully if they can make their subject come alive.  The successful tutor does not always rely on abstract assignments or set vocabulary for the student to learn by rote.  By turning assignments into project-based activities and providing opportunities to relate these to real-life situations, the tutor is able to demonstrate the value of the subject outside the classroom.


The successful tutor is prepared for each tutorial, but he also has to be prepared to change the content at the drop of a hat.  You may come to the tutorial armed with all sorts of fun exercises and songs on French irregular verbs, only to find your tutee in floods of tears over her impending oral exam the following morning.  So you have to be prepared to switch and be in tune with your student’s needs.

Communication with parents and teachers

The successful tutor communicates clearly and frequently with all key adults involved in the student’s learning.  Drawing up a study plan, with clear timescales and academic goals is vital.  It is equally important that this plan is reviewed at regular intervals and changes are made where necessary.  

Having used tutors for all my children, at various stages in their lives, I have found that those who took the time to find out what really motivated them and made them tick, were the most successful in helping them achieve their goals.

Lumos Education speaks at the United Nations in Geneva

Lumos Education was delighted to be invited to speak at the International Investment Center’s Sixth Conference held over two days in Geneva: both at the science research centre in CERN and at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva.  The theme of this year’s conference was “International Co-operation:  Innovation as a tool for social and economic change.”  As Lumos Education work with clients all over the globe, this theme fitted well with our philosophy of helping to promote academic mobility and education across borders.  Johanna Mitchell, Director of Lumos Education, gave a presentation to conference participants entitled “Education and the Arts:  a key to International Collaboration.”

The Conference was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.  We were honoured to play a small part in the UN’s promotion of international co-operation.

All girls or co-education- which is best for your daughter?

Historically in England and Wales, most schools were single-sex, but now the majority are co-educational with just over 800 single sex schools in the country. If you are considering an all girls’ school for your daughter, here are some key points to consider:

1.Will my daughter do better academically at a single sex school?

Overall, research shows that girls fare better academically at single sex schools.   A 2010 study found that girls fared better in examinations at age 16 in single-sex schools, whilst boys achieved similar results at single-sex or co-education schools (1).  Advocates of single-sex education for girls point to the fact that girls can concentrate more without distractions from boys . It has also been argued that girls do not want to appear competitive in front of boys, so effectively dumb down their performance.   The biggest provider of girls’ education in England and Wales, the Girls Days School Trust (GDST) say in their ethos that:  “experience shows us that they (girls) shine academically and socially in a girls-only environment.” The 24 GDST schools which include South Hampstead School for Girls and Nottingham Girls’ High School, maintain a top performance in league tables.  Their list of alumae is outstanding and includes the author, Dame AS Byatt, designer Emma Bridgwater, classicist Mary Beard and Dame Stella Rimington the first female Director of MI5.

Nevertheless, there are many schools where both boys and girls do very well in co-ed environment such as Sevenoaks Schools in Kent, where students study the IB, and Brighton College.

 2. Career prospects: will my daughter earn more?

Very possibly.  A 2011 study has found that, later in life, girls who had been to single-sex schools went on to earn higher wages than women who had been to co-educational schools.(2).  This is just one study and of course, career prospects depend on many other things such as motherhood, personal choice and home environment.   But it is interesting that earnings prospects look bright for those girls educated in an all girls’ environment.

3. My own experience of all girls was negative- I want co-ed for my daughter.

This is understandable and you will not want your daughter to have the same experience as you.  All girls’ schools have changed a great deal over the last 30 years.  They are very much focused on what girls need and employ excellent teachers

At Queen’s College School,  London, both the academic and creative are taken seriously, with several girls going on to do a year’s art foundation at leading London art colleges before then going on to university.  At the recent open evening, Principal of Queen’s, Dr Frances Ramsey explained how every girl had been accommodated in her choice of GCSE subjects.  This would not be possible at a larger London school.

Many co-ed schools provide equally positive opportunities such as Brighton College and Sevenoaks School, where results are excellent and both boys and girls thrive, and Westminster sixth form where both girls and boys achieve some of the best results in the country.

4.  Will my daughter find it hard to relate to boys?

Not necessarily.  Your daughter will have plenty of opportunities to meet with boys outside schools, whether it be through orchestra, football club, or socialising with her brothers, cousins and their friends.  Most day schools organise events with neighbouring boys schools.  If your daughter is planning to board, you can enquire as to whether her prospective schools organise social events with a nearby boys’ school.  For example, Wycombe Abbey has their Annual Ball with Eton College and they also organise informal house visits to Pizza Hut with one of the houses from a boys’ school such as Harrow or Radley.

5. Will she be happier at an all girls’ school?

This depends on your daughter:  her personality, her interests and her individual needs.  An all girls’ environment may not necessarily suit every girl.  It also depends on quality of pastoral care offered by the school.

Sophie went from a mixed prep in London to an all girls’ boarding school in Surrey.  She was unhappy because in her words “I really missed the company of boys.”  After two terms, her parents’ moved her to a mixed schools where she thrived both academically and emotionally.

However, your daughter may prefer the specific attributes which an all girls’ environment can offer.

One thing that girls’ schools really excel in is understanding girls – what makes them tick, how they study best, what motivates them and more importantly, the huge challenges which they face in the modern world.  At the recent open morning at Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, Headmistress Mrs Lucy Elphinstone spoke of her awareness of the issues surrounding girls in the 21st century:  she makes sure that all girls learn computer programming and emphasises the need for all girls to be adaptable and able to reinvent themselves.  In a rapidly changing world, this is a vital skill:  our daughters need to be prepared for the fact that they will have a variety of different careers in their lifetime.

Many all girls’ schools endow their pupils with the skills and confidence to thrive in today’s society.

(1)Sullivan, A., Joshi, H. and Leonard D. (2010) ‘Single-sex schooling and Academic Attainment at School and through the Lifecourse.’ American Educational Research Journal 47(1) 6-36

(2)Sullivan, A, Joshi H, and Leonard D. (2010) ‘Single-Sex schooling and labour market outcomes’. Oxford Review of Education 37(3) 311-322

The photo is of Queen’s College, London.

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