Preparing for School Closures?

Although schools currently remain open,  the UK Government is warning parents that its policy may change as Covid-19 virus outbreak worsens.

With GCSE and A Levels starting in May, anxieties are growing amongst parents and students about the consequences of such measures in the short term for students preparing for and sitting exams.  For A level students, these worries are even greater due to the potential impact of A level results on student prospects and careers in the longer term.

As school closures could take place with little notice, it’s essential both students and their parents are prepared and armed with knowledge and support during this highly stressful time.

To help parents support their children through this period of significant uncertainty, we have prepared a brief Q&A on:

  1. How schools are preparing to support students
  2. How parents can prepare for school closures, including questions to ask teachers NOW
  3. Tactics to help students minimise the impact on their revision and exam results

SCHOOL PREPARATIONS

If my child’s school closes, how will they revise for their GCSE’s or A Levels without their teachers?

To find out more about the sort of planning issues and options that schools are considering, this recent article from The Times Education Supplement (TES) may be of interest.

For secondary school students, there are lots of opportunities that schools are considering to help them learn from home autonomously. For some children, however, there is a risk they will not engage in remote learning or may struggle without the structure that school provides.  For these students, just getting into a habit of spending time each day on steady practice, quizzing and using resources online will really help.  Tips to help your child revise for their exams are discussed further below.

The other alternative is extra tuition, either with a private tutor or with a specialist tuition company, such as ourselves. Read more about Justin Craig’s Revision Courses and how we are dealing with Coronavirus.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR SCHOOL CLOSURES

How can parents prepare for the possibility of their child’s school closing down?

The first thing is to consider how you can manage your child being at home. Talk to your employer to see what provision can be made for you to work from home while your child’s school is closed. It may be a case of getting a few families together to have a rotating revision club/hang-out, so that other parents can continue to work on other days. If that can happen, then a shared plan of revision and other work might really help – if everyone can be doing the same exam question at the same time, they can mark them together and increase the benefit of the practice and feedback.  It’s also worth discussing with your child whether there are any particular topics/subjects that they are particularly worried about and would want extra help from their school/teacher.

What questions should I be asking my child’s school and teachers NOW?

The prospect of school closure, and staffing issues caused by teachers being absent due to coronavirus, is likely to place untold stress on schools and staff. Nevertheless, there are a number of questions that parents should be asking now:

  • What is the policy on using predicted grades in the event the exams are cancelled completely? In particular, will your school be willing to make any modification to predicted grades if your child has shown significant improvement since their mocks?
  • What home-learning support will the school provide in terms of quizzing/practice software, knowledge organisers or other resources?
  • Will there be any provision for remote tutorials or classes, including whether students will be able to talk to teachers over video conferencing?
  • For subjects/topics of particular concern or where there is no clear policy from the school, would any of the teachers be willing to consider private arrangements? For example, you could ask  whether your child’s teacher would be willing to look through past paper answers or do the odd phone call to check in on what your child is doing .

TACTICS TO MINIMISE THE IMPACT OF SCHOOL CLOSURES

What can parents do to slow the spread of Covid-19 so that it’s less likely to have an impact on education and exams?

The most important and up to date advice is on the NHS website. At the moment, the main things parents can do are to ensure their family adopts the current Public Health guidelines regarding hygiene and self-isolation in the event of symptoms.  With the introduction of social distancing, it’s also time to have an open discussion with your child about options to reduce risk eg avoiding large groups and minimising physical contact by not hugging or kissing people in a ‘social’ way. As the NHS advice is likely to continue changing,  it’s worth checking regularly.

If schools are closed, how can I help my child in the weeks running up to his/her exams?

Organising and planning aren’t usually a teenager’s strong suit, so parents can make a big contribution when it comes to mapping out the required revision work, breaking the time down, and checking that they are making good progress through their revision.

Parental support, encouragement and interest can also make a spectacular difference to your child’s motivation and ability to cope. With the added uncertainty arising from Covid-19, this is even more important and we would recommend that parents:

  • Discuss a rough framework to help their child strike a sensible “work/life” balance” in the run up to exams, including discussion of the potential impact of social distancing
  • Be supportive and pragmatic about their “work/life” balance. For example, agreeing to a special night out /event can be a great “reward” and doesn’t need to be detrimental to revision if you help them work out how to catch up
  • Rather than berating your child if he/she feels demotivated or struggles with balancing all the demands on their time, talk to them about the issues, acknowledge their feelings and help them find a sensible solution
  • Teenagers often take an all or nothing ‘catastrophic’ approach to difficulties so if your child asks for your support, encourage them by helping them to see the difficulties in perspective. Exams aren’t everything! Whatever happens in the exams, you can still be successful in life afterwards. It’s natural for students to worry about their exams, so encourage them to stay positive by thinking about how far they have come already rather than catastrophising or worrying about things they cannot control.

What can parents do to keep their child on track with their studies and revision?

It’s really important that students don’t get distracted from their studies by anxieties about the coronavirus and the impact on their exam preparation.  Whilst these worries are completely understandable, the key is to help them focus on things they can control and to encourage them to be prepared for all eventualities by staying on track with their revision.

This is particularly important in the event that your child might get ill. If they’re on track now, or right up until the time when they get ill, there will be much less to catch-up on afterwards.

If your child is easily distracted, struggling to focus or feeling overwhelmed due to the uncertainty arising from coronavirus, the following may help:

  • Creating a revision timetable to help stay on track
  • Writing daily to-do lists about revision priorities
  • Breaking work down into smaller, achievable chunks and tasks
  • Trying things like mindfulness meditation to help manage thoughts and feelings
  • Keeping the overall “prize” in mind, whether that be a University offer or the desire to study particular A level subjects

Read our revision tips for students preparing for exams independently here 

Another option to explore is specialist, small group revision courses. These are proven to be a highly effective way for students to make significant progress with their revision in a short period of time. Read more about Justin Craig’s Revision Courses and how we are dealing with Coronavirus.