Frequently Asked Questions

As a teacher and educator, I get asked many questions and many of these questions are centred around the same subjects. I therefore created a forum for parents to come together and share ideas and hear from experts in education. This was when the Parent Clinics were launched and have been incredibly popular and useful to parents ever since.

Many of the questions, answers and resources below come from the Parent Clinic events. 

Your Child’s Study / Learning

Q             How do I strike a balance between motivating my child to do their work and forcing them, especially when preparing for their exams?

A             Firstly, it’s important to understand that motivation is not external, it is internal.

So, parents need to ask themselves, what is it that motivates their child in the first place.

Look at what their grades are currently and then ask your child what jobs are available for the level of activity that they are working at right now and how much would they likely to be paid. Or, if they were their own boss and not doing anything, how long would their business last.

Take them into the future. Show them what the future could look like and involve them in that future.

If money is a motivator for them, then do use it. If you give your child pocket money, ask them whether they have earnt it this week. What are you holding them accountable for? Your child should invest in motivating themselves as much as you have.

Another significant way to motivate your child is to start setting goals together. Ask them what grades they hope to achieve. Be realistic in your goals together. Do not push your child to a point which is well out of their reach as you will overload and overwhelm them.

Resources

Past papers – ensure that the past papers are from the exam board that your child will be sitting.

Find the exam paper, download it, and get your child to practise it. Extract the questions that you are both focusing on. It is also a good idea for your child to see the mark scheme for themselves. They need to see how stringent the marking will be and where they can grab the extra marks. One of the biggest blocks for children when it comes to exams is the stress factor. By practising exam papers and knowing where they must push themselves in an exam could help to eliminate that stress.

In addition, use resources which your child likes to use e.g. their phone or YouTube. You can even get examples of children online who inform other children of what their experiences were the year before and then as a parent, back up this information with other resources.

A great series of books to read to help parent and student is ‘The Paths To..’ There are 5 books in the series. Success, Learning, Enthusiasm, Energy and Purpose.

(The Paths To… books are also great if you want to find out how to support your child through boarding school.)

It’s important to find different ways to motivate your child. Apart from education, personal development is also important. Are there other people that can motivate your child? Are there extra-curricular activities that your child might be interested in i.e. summer clubs.

 

Q             How long should a child study for and when do you start timing your child’s work?

A            The length of time that a child should study is different for every child, so it is important to know and understand your child and how they learn.

With regards to speed, slowly start with a structure of using assessment books such as the Bond books or Schofield and Sims and then slowly lessen the duration that you give your child to take the assessment. Timing your child should usually take place between the ages 9-10.

 

Q             What do I do if my child is very slow at learning?

It is important to identify whether your child is generally slow for everything and then find out whether they have a special educational need. To do this, you will need to go and see your GP, and get a report to be sent to the school which would enable your child to get the right help.

A child having a special need does not mean that they cannot have a great future in their education or career. It is important not to feel ashamed.

There are different strategies that are out there, but the most important thing is to understand where that child is coming from. Every child is different and can reach their potential if you work with them and understand them.

Every child has something unique. It’s our responsibilities as parents to dig deep and bring out that uniqueness.

Resources

Pomodoro technique – this is a time management technique used for older children who may have a short attention span. It is based on taking regular breaks during working and helps to motivate.

 

Q             Can I have my children in the same room to work and do their homework?

A             This depends on so many different factors. Their age, their level, their personality. This again, comes down to knowing and understanding your child and how they learn.

Some children can concentrate and focus on their work if another or more disruptive child is present, but other children may not be able to.

 

Q             Is it irresponsible to accept that my child might not be a high achiever, and how do I push them to achieve the best without breaking them?

A             Your key priority is to help your child to do the best that they can do. If you are positive and trying your best to help your child, then your child will sense that from you. Do not be negative about what they can and cannot do. Always have a positive attitude and do not compare them to other children.

Ensure that you champion every achievement that they make. Support them to aim even higher.

As a parent you will know when it is too much for your child. Just focus on your child’s journey.

It could be that your child will go on a different journey than an academic one, but they can still be successful and be a great value to society. So, don’t give up hope. 

Resource

Read The element by Sir Ken Robinson. He talks about finding your child’s element, and once you can find that thing that your child is good at, everything else follows.

Looking at your child’s strength and using that strength to bring out the best in that child, e.g. confidence, discipline will help them to do better in their other subjects.

Find out their person and who they are, and then work with them to be a successful person.

 

Q             How do you get a boy child to be on top of his game

A             Many boys look forward to when they are men. So why not talk to your son about what it means to be a man. What are the responsibilities of being a man? Ask them whether they are working towards their goals for the future? Give them that responsibility and help them to be accountable. It is vital to give your child a vision of the future and what they want and could become.

After you’ve set the goals think about how you go about achieving it, not forgetting to plan extra-curricular activities.

Maximise the little times that you have and organise your time effectively.

 

Q             Are boys and girls different in the way they learn

A             There is a statistic that a higher percentage of boys than girls do not like to read. This is therefore a big stumbling block as it is imperative to be able to read to be educated.

So, a great way to encourage boys to read more is to give them reading which they will be interested in as many boys like to read differently. You can try comics or manuals. Many boys like action, so try to engage their mind as they read.

Every boy has a warrior spirit in them. That’s how they have been created. So, it is essential to nurture that.

Once your son is a teenager, it is a great idea to get them a male mentor. Not every home has a Father figure. For the homes that do have a father, they may not always be present or know how to mentor their boys. And for those that do, some children may listen more effectively to an outside mentor.

It doesn’t matter the age of the mentor or how many mentors that your child has. As long as that mentor is able to meet the need of your child, that is the main thing.

 

Admission into Grammar / Private Schools

Q             I would like to prepare my child to enter a grammar secondary school or a competitive private secondary school. My child is currently in nursery. What do I need to do from now to prepare my child if I do not intend to send her to a private primary school and for her to get a scholarship?

A             It’s never too early to start thinking about your child’s future. In fact, it’s very important to prepare and to put in the core skills while they are young. One of my books (Parents Understand Your Child) talks about the core skills that need to be in place. If we don’t set those skills in place right from a young age, it will take longer to impart those skills later.

With regards to exams, again, start preparing your child before the time that they are due to take exams. There are now even 4+ exams that children can take in preparation for reception. So why not prepare your child as soon as possible.

Many schools offer the 7+ exams. So, you can then start applying for 7+ schools when your child is in reception. It is not too early. It may even save you money to enter your child for the 7+ exams earlier.

One other significant way of helping children with their learning, specifically, mathematics is to get them into a music programme or learning to play a musical instrument.

 

Q             How do I get access to a scholarship or part scholarship to the top private secondary schools?

A             Many private schools now offer scholarships.

Parents need to look for the Good Schools Guide which lists every school in the UK and tells you everything that the school offers i.e. scholarships, bursaries.

Nevertheless, always check with the school first before making an application based on the fact that they offer a scholarship.

Apart from scholarships, there are also bursaries where the amount received tends to be more than scholarships. However, if you are not offered a bursary from a school, then you can approach outside bodies. You can find these from your local library which should have a book with a list of charitable organisations who offer bursaries. JET (Joint Educational Trust) is one of these organisations.

 

Q             How do you justify paying 30-40K to take your child to boarding school compared to a free school?

A             30-40K is expensive, but you must look at that amount as an investment for your child’s future.

By sending your child to a top school, you then set your child up to go to the best universities, and therefore getting the best jobs which would earn them more money at a younger age. They could even be head hunted by companies.

What you put in to your child’s education is what you get out of it.

 

Extra-Curricular Activities

Q             How do I help my child to develop the right extra-curricular skills and soft skills?

A             In terms of extra-curricular activities, you need to think about what is the ultimate aim? Is it for the purposes of a scholarship or for your child to develop generally?

If it is for a scholarship, the child should love and have a passion for that activity. If your child does have a flare for a particular activity, let them be the best that they can be in it.

There are several activities that children can get involved in without having formal lessons or classes e.g. getting them to volunteer to do certain jobs could help their communication and time management skills.

Volunteering is excellent for children to be involved in. If a child is specifically involved in volunteering for a charity, they can earn extra UCAS points.

Another great activity that children can get involved in are associations such as scouts and girl guide etc.

Parents should be aware that these extra-curricular activities should all be in place before they get to the point that they are applying for scholarships / university places because all these extra-curricular activities count.

 

Q             How do you balance homework with planned breaks and with extra-curricular activities?

A             Time management is crucial both for you the parent and your child. Have a structure and a routine in place where you incorporate breaks and extra-curricular activities into your child’s study plan, and then remain consistent. It’s also a great idea to set up a study area for your child so that they can focus and concentrate when it is time to study.

 

Preparing for University

Q             How do you prepare your child for writing their personal statements and when is the best time to start?

A             This is a good question to start thinking about with your child as soon as they start secondary school.

There are different types of extra-curricular activities which your child can develop over the course of their secondary school life that will help them towards writing their personal statement.

The way to go about it is to see what their strengths are, find an activity which enables them to use that strength, and then see if they will thrive in that area of activity.

The personal statement is made up of why you want to do a specific course.  Although significant, it is not just based on the grades that a child attains. The university wants to know what are the young person’s interests that show that they are inclined to do this course.

The range of things that you put into your personal statement should be the things that prove that you have a genuine interest in what you want to study. This is the reason why it is important for children to take extra-curricular activities, to find out where their strengths and skills lie.

Let your child try as many things as possible. Start with a general range of activities, and then start to narrow it down to the ones that they have the strength and the flare for.

 

Q             How do you help your child to decide on the right university?

A             The university league tables are the best place to start. You pay the same amount of money for all universities, so it makes sense to choose the top ones. As well as looking at the university as a whole, it is important to find the best university for your child’s chosen course.

As always, it is great to start that conversation very early on because it will help to motivate your child to get those all-important grades. Your child will therefore know what they must aim for with regards to their grades.

It is important to get good GCSE grades as well as A-Level grades as some universities will also look at the GCSE grades.

 

Your Child’s Career

Q             How do you help your child to make the right career choice?

A             This again comes down to their extra-curricular activities.  Help your child by broadening and trying out new things. Extra-curricular activities also include work experience. But let your child experience a valuable work experience which will truly help them with their skills and interests and which will also give them an understanding in the kind of work that they want to do in the future. This should take place around the ages of 14, 15 & 16. Don’t wait till they are taking their A-Levels.

Use whatever connections you have, to try to get work experience for your children. If your child is determined to go on a particular career path, then you may have to look for alternative ways if you are finding it difficult to get work experience in the traditional way.

There are also organisations like Sutton Trust and UNIQ. These organisations help your child go to summer school in a university and help your child to gain some work experience.

 

Resources

Q             Where do I access books I can use to tutor my child and to help them with their academics from nursery age until they complete secondary school

A             There are 3 segments of years to focus on for your children before they reach secondary school.

You have kindergarten (3 – 5 years), infant (5 – 7 years), then you have 7- 11 years.

For nursery children, it’s great to do a lot of activities at home with them. Learning through play and engaging in a lot of reading with your child is key at this stage in their lives. Only basic Maths and English activities are needed at this stage.

All the way up until 11 years of age, the real focus for your children are Maths and English so it is important to break it down for their individual levels.

From 5 years old, a lot of children are starting to read, but not all can. By 7, most of them have caught up. Try to focus on getting books which are appropriate for your child. Also, it’s important to read to your child and allow your child to read back to you.

Resources available for your children – Try to invest time to look for books which you think will work best for your child.

Mary Pope Osborne’s, Magic Tree House books – these books are quite basic, but also have a lot of general knowledge in them. They are perfect for school years 1 and 2.

Bond books – highly recommended

CGP books

Hayden Richards Junior English – good staple book to have at home

The Stephen Curran books

So you really want to learn Maths – For those looking for top independent schools for their children

Revision fun for clever kids  – Katie Knapman

It is also a great idea to get past exam papers to revise with. You should be able to obtain this from your child’s school.

Parents should also ensure that they attempt to find the above books at the correct season as they are not always available throughout the year. Online bookstores are a great option.

 

Q             Where can I get a further Maths tutor

A             Please contact Shola Alabi.

 

Additional Resources

Understand your child                                                   Shola Alabi

Study Planner                                                                    Titi Windapo

Revision Fun for Clever Kids                                       Katie Knapman

Greatness in me and my Child                                   Yemisi Akindele

bmoneywize Game                                                         Arinola Araba

The Element                                                                      Sir Ken Robinson

Mary Pope Osborne’s, Magic Tree House books – these books are quite basic, but also have a lot of general knowledge in them. They are perfect for school years 1 and 2.

Bond books – highly recommended

CGP books

Hayden Richards Junior English – good staple book to have at home

The Stephen Curran books

So you really want to learn Maths – For those looking for top independent schools for their children

Books specifically to help parents

Parents buy the FF books to help yourselves with:

  1. Basic Skills Maths                                           Lleweynne & A Greer
  2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey

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