The Number One Question asked by Parents of Teenagers… Answered

a conversation with a caring parent – written in August 2021

Dear Caring Parent

I trust you and your family are making the best of the summer and that your son/daughter is looking forward to the start of the new academic year in September.

I know we are only in the first few weeks of the summer break and everyone, including we parents, and the children just want to have a rest for the time being. This is especially important given the disruption to work and education that the still ongoing pandemic has caused. That rest and relaxation is necessary, as only after that can we reenergise and be ready to face what lies ahead in the autumn and beyond.

Whatever you do, as a parent of two teenagers myself, I’m urging you to read this message and at least think about what I have to share – as it could make all the difference for your son/daughter.

I enjoy speaking to fellow parents and the best time of the year for that is later this month – in August when the GCSE and A-level exam results are released. It can be a time of anxiety and anticipation, and last year was even more so. This is due to teacher assessment being used to replace the usual summer examination as a way of awarding grades. Before I tell you a little more about how my conversations went last summer, let me first reveal the question that was the subject of this message.

The one question that parents ask me is what to do to help their son or daughter to achieve high grades and gain admission to a top university. This is more critical for at least the next couple of years, as teacher assessment caused grade inflation in 2020, and, as a result of that, all the top universities have a very long list of students deferring the offer they have for a year. It’s likely to get worse this year and the panic has already begun; as was reported in The Sunday Times last week, some schools are already writing to the top universities, begging them to consider lowering the grades on which their students’ offer of a place is based.
Granted, there is not a completely simple answer to this question, as it would be disingenuous to say that doing one specific thing will make all the difference. However, I will give you four things you should do or assist your son/daughter in doing if he or she is to achieve to his or her full potential in the core academic subjects.
a. Have clarity on the subjects in which he or she needs to do well in and the grade required.
b. Assess his/her current performance in each of those subjects to see if he/she is on course to achieving those grades. If not, how is big the gap and what can be done to get on track
c. Take concrete action by finding a way to achieve mastery of the subject content; do plenty of question practice and, very importantly, ensure that he/she gets tangible feedback – preferably from a teacher. I will dwell more on this particular point later, as it is vital
d. The last thing is an area where you as the parents have the biggest role – the nurture and support side of things. Meaning you investing the time and energy to support and reassure your teenager that you are there for him/her.
Just before I finish, I’d like to dwell a bit on the last two points above, as I’d like to try to dispel some misconceptions.
Nature or Nurture?
The first is on the issue of nurture, as I feel very strongly about this. In my 28 years of teaching or leading a group of teachers who teach high achieving teenagers, it has been revealed to me that nurture plays a much bigger role in the achievement of high GCSE and A-level grades than natural ability does. Without telling you too many stories, when the A* grade was introduced to A-level in 2010, my immediate reaction was “Oh, they’re now introducing a top grade that only the most naturally gifted can achieve.”
I was proven wrong, but pleasantly surprised that A* can be achieved with just above average intelligence, working cleverly (not hard work alone) and doing certain things in certain way. Part of those certain things include:
Exam Technique – is this the magic wand?
I deliberately did not use the phrase exam technique in the list of four things above, as I believe strongly that there is a general misconception about it. Sure, exam technique matters, but it is not sufficient on its own. Mastery of the subject content must come before it, otherwise there is a strong likeliness of disappointment.

I would like to offer you a complementary consultation in case you wish to discuss any of the points that I have made in this message – or, in fact, to ask me any question in relation to your son/daughter’s education. I am very happy to assist, share ideas and offer suggestions, using the experience I have gained of playing a small role in the lives of many successful teenagers in mainly grammar schools and private schools since 1993.
All you need to do is to send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit to complete a short form, and members of my team will be happy to arrange a consultation call with me, which can be by phone or we can have video Zoom call. You may also book directly by visiting:
Alternatively, you can call Eunice or Aimee on 020 3935 7727 or 020 3903 9310.
In my next message, I will reveal how we can help your son/daughter to make those top grades a reality.
Thank you for investing the time to read this and I look forward to speaking to you shortly.
To the Success of your Child.

Idris Musty