Sharing a thought or two with parents – Success at KS3,  GCSE, A-level and University

Sharing a thought or two with parents of children in secondary school – Success at KS3,  GCSE, A-level and University

Before I say more about those tips, I’ll tell you a story about my own son, as I thought you may find something in it to relate to. I must warn you that it is not all positive, but there are lessons to learn.

The reason why I am using my own family as an example is that, despite the fact that I live and breathe on matters relating to teenagers’ education and I am all about aspirations, academic and sport performance and all that, I still fall short at times… Sometimes things happen, with regard to my own son and daughter’s education that still take me by surprise or for which I’m not that well-prepared for.

Here is my story…

Last summer, my son was taking end of year exams which would determine the set that he was placed in each subject when he got to the upper school area. Like many schools, the school is divided into lower/junior school and upper/senior school. He prepared quite well for his exams, but there were a couple of subject areas, in which he had not done what he specifically needed to do in order to prepare for them. English was one of them, as, in the lower school, he started from the bottom set and moved to the very top set within a year or so. For the last few years in the lower school, the only grade he ever got was an A* in English and he even wrote a poem for his teacher. Now, when he did the exam last summer, he ended up with a B grade in English and everyone was utterly shocked – including his English teacher, who adores him. He got his expected A* in Maths and even in Chemistry, but ended up with an A in Biology. The worst crime was to achieve an A instead of A* in Physics, which was a complete disaster as I am a Physics teacher and I did a little bit of revision with him. Now, we know the reason why he ended up with B and an A in two important subjects, for which A* was the expectation.


The main reasons for his poor performance are bad presentation of his work in English and failure to always show the equations for his working-out in Physics and explaining concepts using the keywords. There are two points that he was not aware of, or did not think about. The first one is that “first impression matters” and the second that the examiner who was marking his work did not know him. It is different from the lower school, in which the English teacher knew him well and was aware of what he is capable of. In a subject like English, where there are long essays and the teacher has, perhaps hundreds of exam scripts to mark, when they see scruffy looking work in front of them, they subconsciously form an opinion before they even read it. It could be something as simple as not using paragraphs correctly to make the written piece easy to digest. Or, it could be something a little more serious, like not using capital letters correctly or punctuation. Despite the disappointment we all felt for my son, we saw that situation as a wake-up call for him, as it is better to identify that issue now than to wait until when he does his GCSEs, as it will be too late.

As for my daughter, she is well above average in Maths, in the class, but when it comes to examinations, she does not usually do as well as expected of her. The consequence of poor exam performance is for her to end up in a lower set than that of which she is capable.  This is another thing that I ought to have resolved.

Working to help children is an ongoing and constant investment of time, energy and money.

What is the point of my story?

The reason why I have told you this story is that, despite the fact that I have been teaching and been completely absorbed in secondary school education in Britain since 1993, there are issues surrounding my own children’s education that I’m still not able to tackle to my satisfaction. Although my son and daughter are doing quite well in school, they could do even better, and I could be doing more to help them. 

Nurturing our teenagers to achieve highly in education is an ongoing and constant investment of time, energy and money.

Bringing up children in a way that enables them to thrive in their studies is an ongoing commitment and finding them a good school is just the start. One still needs to keep an eye out in order to ensure they are applying themselves and getting the most of their school and to step in and provide them additional support if and when necessary.

The point I am making here is that it requires a lot of effort to bring up children, especially if you want them to achieve to their full potential, either academically or in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, drama and so on. We all need some sort of support and, although there is plenty of advice and information available these days – thanks to the Internet, the reality is that there is a good and a bad side to having lots of information. It is good for the fact that we have a choice and we can find almost any type of information we seek about almost anything. However, while having a choice is good on the whole, there is also the potential for confusion and indecision.

What we all do all the time is to gather as much information as we feel is necessary about any aspect of our lives and to try and digest that information and then make a decision on what is best for us or our loved ones. Success in any aspect is always down to two things: the quality of the decision we make and the practical implementation of it. In my view, the latter is more important than the former; as this comes down to the notion of nature and nurture again. Many will suggest that the notion quality of decision is linked to intelligence and that it is the most important. Yes, I agree that intelligence matters a lot; however, a bad decision implemented well can lead to a very good result. On the other hand, an excellent decision, implemented lousily can yield an awful result. I do not completely agree that intelligence is the most important, as, like anything in life, trying and testing yield better results than making one particular decision that we think is the most brilliant and sticking to it without looking back and asking questions, at least occasionally.

It takes a village to raise a child

I can see examples in my own life where there have been times when I’ve summoned up the courage to test suggestions made by other people and which I was quite sceptical about at the start, only to try them out and discover that the result is better than what I initially had in mind.

We’ve all heard about the notion of “the wise man at the top of the mountain”. Usually, the wise man, or woman, at the top of the mountain has spent several years making observations and using what they see around them to do things in a way that helps them to get   better results. It is mainly learning from their own and other people’s successes and failures.

We’ve all heard of the quote “It takes a village to raise a child”. There is a lot of truth in that, but each parent is the head of that village when it comes to a specific child. A parent can make an informed decision from all the information, stories and practical data that are available in the global village that we now live in.

Below is a link to the Success Tips and also to a couple or so of the other blogposts that we have written in the past.  As I have said, each set of Success Tips is provided in all different forms, such as PDF, audios and videos, or you can request a printed version to be sent to you in the post.

You may want to download the mp3, for example, and listen to it while you are driving or travelling on the train or bus.

I hope you have found this writing thought-provoking and helpful. Any comment you may have would be much appreciated, as we value what you have to say.

Links to related blogposts are below

Success Tips

Academic Success nurture or nature

Exam Booster Tips: