How parents can support their children in the build-up to exams
What are the end-of-year assessments?
The internal exams that are sat by students in Years 7-10 have a fundamentally different purpose to the external IGCSE and A Level exams that are sat by students in Years 11-13. The final IGCSE, AS and A Level exams assess students’ knowledge, understanding and skills at the end of the respective courses. The assessments that students sit in earlier years help us to monitor their progress and to show us what we need to do as a school to support them in their future progress.
This means that there is a major difference in our approach. By placing high stakes and pressure on internal exams, it has the potential to create negative associations with exams and push children towards trying to cheat or use tutors as a shortcut. This clearly does more harm than good and can prevent teachers from being able to properly identify where a child may need help.
We want students to see exams as a useful tool to identify where they can improve and for teachers to identify where they may need help. It is, therefore, imperative that parents see them in the same way and support our vision in their purpose.
How can parents help their children to prepare?
There are a variety of ways in which parents can specifically help their child to prepare for these assessments.
Making a revision schedule is really important: it should be realistic and not excessive. Parents should engage with this to help avoid clashes with family activities, meals, etc and to promote a supportive environment
Tutoring does far more harm than good: not only does it take up extra time, it promotes passivity so children begin to lose the ability to think and work independently. It can also produce unhelpful and misleading information which can result in students not receiving the support that they need from their teachers.
We have done a lot of work with students this year on what good revision looks like: any passive reading or just highlighting is not helpful and is a waste of time and energy. We have shared with students and parents a Revision Workbook on revision strategies. The focus must be on participating in activities where their memory and recall is being tested and challenged, such as writing notes from memory and then opening notes and adding to them. Students are currently receiving guidance on what to focus on and suggested strategies. Materials are on Google Classroom and/or in their class notes.
We know a lot more about how the brain works than when I was at school. Current research makes clear that working 60 hours per week will not produce the highest grades. Our brains and memory work best by chunking up subject study, and mixing and matching between subjects regularly. Intentional breaks should then be taken and these should include some relaxation activities. We strongly recommend that students remain involved in ECAs and anything similar that they do outside of school. The brain is a muscle and a healthy, regularly exercised body will be the most ready for exam success.
How can parents help them thrive?
Teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night. However, we know a large number of our students struggle to achieve this.
Screens can be calming and relaxing. They are also a key part of the way this generation remains connected with their peers which is important for mental health. However, they are a distraction during intentional revision time and a good habit is for them to study away from their phones and if possible away from their beds. Their screens should also ideally not stay in their bedrooms when they should be sleeping. If that means buying an alarm clock to get them up in the morning, rather than using their phone alarm, please do that.
Many students report that pressure from parents to do well is the number one cause of stress for them. We obviously want them to do well and a bit of stress can be a good thing but this needs to be managed carefully. Too much stress and their brains flood with cortisol and their thought processes and working memory will not work as effectively which will result in a lower performance in examinations.
It is good to encourage exercise and to make time for treats. Focus on rewarding hard work instead of results
Children and young people who are unduly stressed will not thrive and achieve their full potential. We look out for the warning signs when they are in school, but you should also look out for these, such as:
- worrying a lot
- feeling tense
- having headaches and stomach pains
- not sleeping well
- being irritable
- losing interest in food or eat more than normal
- not enjoying activities they previously enjoyed
- being negative and have a low mood
- feeling hopeless about the future
If you are concerned, reach out to your child’s tutor and we can discuss support plans and also provide recommendations for external support if needed.
The IGCSE, AS and A Level exams have already started. The internal assessments run from Monday 8th May until Friday 12th May. We very much hope that all parents will help their children to help themselves in approaching the assessments purposefully and effectively during these periods.
In the weeks after the exams, teachers will mark and moderate within their subject areas: this process can take a bit of time, particularly where extended writing has been involved. Students will then receive their papers back in lessons along with feedback on where their strengths and weaknesses are. This may be done individually or by discussing areas of strengths and weaknesses for the class as a whole group.
Parents of children in Years 7-10 will see the end-of-year assessment grade alongside the current grade in the Term 4 report. Those in Years 11-13 will have to wait for the Cambridge Results Days (AS and A Level on 10th August and IGCSE on 17th August). These can only be released directly to students.
Deputy Head of Secondary
Network International School
Over the last few months, the Secondary teachers at Network International School Yangon have been working on updating our approach to Teaching and Learning. With this exciting development, Tr Sophie launched the new Teaching and Learning Policy to Secondary parents at the most recent Parents’ Coffee Morning and explained how this would affect their children’s education from next year onwards.
As the end-of-year assessments approach at Network International School Yangon, Tr Sophie spoke to Secondary parents at the recent Parents’ Coffee Morning about how they could help support their children and complement what is being done in school.
Retrieval practice helps to enhance learning and improve long-term retention of information across a wide range of materials, from simple facts to complex concepts.
The week provided students with an opportunity to learn about healthy habits and practices that will help them lead a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.