‘I took my tutor on holiday!’ – the phrase you’ll hear next September and why it’s making their children better.

Have you ever taken out a tutor with you on holiday?

If you already have – well done! If you haven’t, you are missing a trick for a very simple way to rapidly improve your child’s education.

For some it may seem like a strange idea, but it’s actually very common. Over the last few years more and more articles have appeared in national newspapers highlighting this growing trend. The reason for such rapid growth: it makes the difference.

Smart Learning

The key reason for having a tutor with you on holiday is quite simple: it’s about maximising the opportunities you are already giving your children.

Travelling and going abroad is one of the most fascinating experiences a human can have. To see other places is eye opening and exciting. It’s also one of the best ways for children to learn. Another culture, a new way of life, is the perfect intellectual breeding ground. 

Where could a tutor help?

Where a tutor can help is to harness the experiences for effective learning. A tutor can help a child apply what they have learnt in school, and use the exciting environment & experiences to provide the spark to get a child truly into subjects – which will engender a guaranteed improvement in results.

Languages

Languages are the really obvious benefit from going on holiday. Whether it’s picking up some more French walking around markets in Cannes, to getting the hang of spoken Arabic in Morocco, visiting countries provides an easy access into a new language. Seeing the thrill on a child’s face when they successfully have a conversation with a local, the realisation that they have cracked part of a language is truly unique.

This is where a tutor can be extremely effective. A tutor in this situation can teach your child language lessons in the morning. Then, using what they’ve learnt, your child can go out and practice in the real world in the afternoon. This repetition and practice ensures that the knowledge will stick.

Unlike in schools where languages can often seem like a translation exercise, when abroad it makes sense to the child as a way to open up a different culture. The lessons don’t even need to take place indoors – they can be out and about on the streets. This is the ultimate learning tool – and would make for a great holiday. What better benefit on having a holiday than to have acquired the basics of a new language for life, and also being able to tell their friends about it.

History

History is an area that could have a profound influence on your child. It’s overlooked by some parents as it doesn’t appear to directly improve a child’s life (in a way that languages do). However, there are parents all over the country that have seen its potential, and are getting their children into schools and universities.

Where history plays a unique role is in its ability to educate on a wider cultural scale – which can cover everything from art to economics, supporting a myriad of subjects. This broad knowledge helps develop a well-rounded child – which is highly valued.

There is no better time to develop this than when on holiday. Getting a tutor that is familiar with the country or area that you are visiting will help your children expand their historical and cultural awareness. A good tutor will focus on the areas that your child is interested in, developing their knowledge, and providing that inspirational spark that will produce results back at school.

But crucially, where historical knowledge can make a huge difference is in a very short moment that can define the rest of their life – the school or University interview. The historical knowledge acquired on holiday could set your child apart from all the others. It could be the knowledge that convinces an establishment of a desire to learn, and convey that they are an interesting, intelligent person.

Summer is the key time to get ahead for the next year, and for life – and the way to do it is with the help of a tutor on your holiday.

Top tip:

Don’t want to take the tutor with you? Book them to spend some time with your children the week before. Although not quite as effective, it could still help them whilst you’re abroad.

By Jonathan Coates @coates_jonathan

5 Revision tips to help your child succeed in exam season

The pen and paper is forcibly pushed away across the desk. An exasperated face descends into welcoming hands. It could well be the yearly tax return. But this is not adult anguish, but child confusion. The next outburst is quite predictable – ‘I just don’t get it!’

Exam season is upon us, and parents everywhere are seeing their children struggle with revision.

Revision is really hard to do. It has the pressure of a looming deadline, the requirement to try and remember what seems like an insurmountable stack of information, and the fear having to write it all out in an exam in precisely timed chunks. For younger children it is especially difficult – avoiding distraction, and even understanding why this torture has to be undergone produces the possibility for a constant battleground with parents.

How to revise is a very individual process, based on learning style and various other factors. Some children work well with flash cards, others with reciting the text, and others by putting up paper on every available wall. Although these techniques can be perfected (especially with the help of a tutor), trying to write an all encompassing ‘guide’ in a blog would be at best, useless, and at worst misleading.

However, there are some broad elements of revision that can be adjusted to optimise your child’s revision and learning capacity. I’m confident that parents are already doing many of the points below. However, if the quality of these points can be improved then it could make all the difference.

5 revision tips to help your child succeed in exam season.

  1. Revision Space

A child needs a set space, which is free from distractions in which to revise. The continuity will help concentration. If possible, it should be somewhere that is calm, and doesn’t have any distractions nearby (such as computers, or siblings!) Kitchen tables and open spaces are fine as long as there is calm in the room whilst the child is working.

  1. Revision Timetable

Put together a revision timetable in advance with your child. Again, continuity is the key – copying the timings of school day is a not a bad approach. Make sure that there is a copy of the timetable somewhere public (kitchen etc) that can be ticked off – giving a sense of achievement. This is very important to stop the overwhelming feeling! The timetable must be rigidly stuck to – no last minute excuses from children (or parents!) This is why drawing it up together is important.

  1. Sleep

This is possibly the most important aspect of good revision. Research from Harvard has found that consolidated sleep for a whole night is optimal for memory. In addition, lack of sleep hugely affects attention and concentration. A slightly sleepy 13 year old has been shown to have cognitive function of a child two years younger. One of the key things to avoid is the use of backlit electronic devices before bed. Research has recently shown that using devices an hour before bed suppresses melatonin by 22%. Melatonin controls the body clock – so affecting it can really hurt sleep patterns. Avoiding it may just help improve your child’s sleep.

4. Food

Food is fuel. Ensuring your child is taking on the right type of food is very important. Sugar has been shown to hugely affect memory and concentration, so try to avoid non-natural sugars. A classic example is on cereal in the morning. A good mixed diet will help your child. But remember – something fun once in a while, such as chips can be a good reward.

  1. Take breaks & Exercise!

Taking formal time out from revision is crucial. Regular breaks help relieve monotony by having a scenic and mental change, which allows your child to return to the revision task with renewed vigour. They also allow the brain time to process the information. Try doing some ‘brain gym’ exercises in between revision topics. Getting out of the house and doing some exercise during the day can be really beneficial. The activity can range from the easy to the energetic – from taking a walk, to playing tennis, or going for a swim. It’ll allow you to have some time with your child that isn’t as ‘revision schedule enforcer’, and give them some space to take their mind off the revision and exams each day. It’s also a great stress reliever (for both of you!)

Ensuring that these points are being adhered to can really help your child’s revision. However, how to apply them is down to you!

 

How to apply this information now:

  1. Share and comment on this post. By sharing you can gain other insights by parents on how they improve their child’s revision session Hearing other people’s experience can really help your confidence and give you tried and tested techniques.
  2. Contact Hampstead & Frognal Tutors. We are happy to talk through any information about your child’s academic development, without any pressure. We believe in helping children grow, and want to help you achieve that with your child.

By Jonathan Coates @coates_jonathan

IT in Schools

Education ministers and policy-drivers often go to great lengths to emphasise that education should do nothing if not prepare students for the world that awaits them when they leave school and enter the world of work. And a noble aim this is. While most would agree that education for its own sake is an enriching and rewarding way to spend your time, few would contest that education should also reflect the ‘real world’. It is in this spirit that subjects such as ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) have been steadily introduced to the curriculum.

ICT (including computing, or computer science) would appear to be a perfect choice for those looking to provide themselves with a skill that holds some currency on the job market. More and more jobs require more than a basic grounding in computer programmes, and technology start-ups and businesses form a vibrant part of the economy. Furthermore, IT has come to form the backbone of many more established industries, including, notably, finance.

Despite this, only 10% of students sitting their GCSEs in 2013 chose ICT as a subject. While this number is a huge increase (of 38%) from 2012, this explosion is from a frightfully low base. What explains the low uptake?

The answer may lie in the fact that technology moves incredibly quickly, making it hard for the exam boards that develop curricula to keep up. Even those designed in conjunction with tech giants (such as AQA’s collaboration with Microsoft) run the risk of giving students a thorough grounding in technologies that may be too narrow, or may soon be obsolete.
Ronan, an IT professional with 12 years’ experience working in the industry, points out that a crucial problem is that there are simply too many different technologies, coding languages, and frameworks in use. Moving from one IT job to another, even within a company, may require entirely different sets of skills, a breadth that is hard to condense into an exam-based curriculum. This is not just a challenge faced by schools, universities are just as prone to creating computer science degrees that are effectively worthless.

Exam boards have set about addressing this problem by focusing on the fundamentals, such as how computers interpret and use data, but, at GCSE level, many courses still feature too much of the ‘how to use Powerpoint’ material, leaving students bored senseless. Newer course materials feature some introductions to coding, and problem-solving using advanced technologies, but this doesn’t solve the obsolescence problem.

To further compound this issue, there is a distinct scarcity of highly-qualified computer science teachers at GCSE and A-Level. This is largely due to the fact that those with the relevant knowledge are working in the field, rather than teaching. Of those who have entered the teaching profession, many graduated with their degrees in computer science too long ago, making the information and technologies that they studied out-of-date.

What we are left with is a seemingly impossible task: to create a curriculum that provides a strong foundation in the key technologies, whilst simultaneously providing the skills for an ever-changing field; a curriculum that anticipates a changing jobs landscape without being too in hock to trends; a programme that helps students develop skills to a reasonable degree of proficiency, whilst acknowledging that focusing on one or two sets of skills or technologies ignores the sheer volume of other systems in operation.

The answer to this dilemma may very well be to treat ICT qualifications almost like a vocational course. IT resources and materials are available in large quantities online, and are often free to use. The relative abundance of ‘self-help’ materials encourages students who are passionate about computer science to strike out on their own and develop skills they find interesting or relevant. Additionally, job placements are very often the best way to develop IT skills.

Ronan confirms that entering the workforce with any amount of real-world experience is more valuable than any qualification or degree. ‘You may start out doing menial tasks, like migrating data or fixing minor bugs, but eventually you move on to bigger or more complicated tasks, and grow your skill set from there.’

Working with companies to create internship-type placements for GCSE or A-Level students could be a promising way to create an environment in which fundamentals (however those are defined) are learned in the classroom, and the ‘nitty-gritty’ of coding, systems, and frameworks is learned in real-world situations, thus also encouraging students to learn crucial job-market skills and teaching them to adapt to new challenges, think on their feet, and study independently.

Exam boards are right to review skills such as creating documents and spreadsheets and using databases, but their focus needs to be beyond this; on programming for mobile technologies, web-based technologies and programming, and coding languages and frameworks. Only with an emphasis in these areas will British students emerge with a qualification that would ever mean something to an employer. Many examiners are moving decidedly in the right direction, but encouraging practical skill development in the workplace would better serve students.