The Complete Parent's Guide to GCSEs

8 Ways to Help Your Child Smash Grade Expectations at School

1. Establish healthy daily habits

A healthy routine is vital for a child to be successful at school and in their GCSE exams. Encouraging positive daily habits helps children break bad habits and encourages an achievement-driven mentality. 

Some simple habits to incorporate into a child’s daily routine to improve school success include:

  • Keeping a bottle of water by their bedside.
  • Vitamin D (from sunlight) has been proven to have a significant effect on school attainment. Try to encourage walking to school vs. other transport methods.
  • Encourage your children to breathe deeply for at least two minutes, 3 times a day, focusing on each breath to help regain focus and clarity.

Fabulous is a science-based app that will help your child to build healthy rituals into their lives, just like an elite athlete.

2. Encourage optimum levels of sleep

Students are some of the most sleep-deprived demographics of our population. It’ll probably come as no surprise that sleep deprivation in young people has been linked to lower attainment in school due to the detrimental effect it has on memory, concentration, and the ability to learn.

Here are some easy steps you can take to help a student sleep better:

  • Ensure your teenager has a good sleeping environment – ideally a room that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable.
  • It might be worth investing in thicker curtains or a blackout blind to help block out early summer mornings and light evenings.
  • There are many myths floating around the internet about how much sleep you should be getting. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a 2-year study to decipher the optimum amount of sleep advisable for different age groups:

Primary school-aged children: 9 - 11 hours
Teenagers: 8 - 10 hours
Young adults: 7 - 9 hours

3. Pack the Ultimate Success Lunchbox

Healthy eating habits are especially beneficial for students taking exams or are under heightened pressure. To excel, children need to endure mentally tough challenges and maintain their positivity. 

Some healthy eating habits you could incorporate into your daily routine include: 

  • Make breakfast a necessity. This critical meal will help keep your child’s brain sharp and focused throughout the day. Eggs are always a good choice to boost protein intake, or wholegrain cereal with milk if you’re short on time.
  • Eat more fish at meal times. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy mind, and therefore success. These healthy fats help repair and support brain cell membranes.
  • Startlingly, only around 1 in 100 packed lunches in the UK meet the nutritional needs of a child. We’ve popped together our essential ingredients for the ultimate lunchbox, containing all the nutrients needed to function at your best throughout the day:

The Ultimate Success Lunchbox

Chicken and salad in a wholegrain wrap
A bag of nuts
Some popcorn
Carrots and a small pot of hummus
A bottle of water (with a squeeze of lemon)

4. Find a way technology can work with (not against) your child

In his insightful article Growing Up Digital: Wired for Distraction, Matt Richtel discovers how the digital age is affecting our children’s ability to learn. 

He summarises that young people’s minds are rewarded more readily in this digital age for the ability to switch quickly between tasks, as opposed to sticking on one task for a prolonged period of time. The latter is necessary for learning, so finding a balance is integral.

Instead of limiting use of technology, encourage ways students can use their laptops and mobile phones to benefit their grades. There are many apps you can download that can help your child organise their studies and block unnecessary distractions.

If your child should be revising, send them links to engaging educational channels on YouTube so you are taking an active interest in what they’re learning whilst encouraging meaningful uses for technology.

5. Maintain high attendance levels 

According to the UK’s Department for Education (DfE), “missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades”.

When issued, this statement prompted parents across the UK to rethink term-time holidays, but there are still steps you can take to ensure your child has great attendance levels:

  • When your child is ill, make sure they get plenty of rest and vitamin C to ensure a prompt return to school.
  • If your child doesn’t show any obvious signs of illness, explore other reasons why they could be reluctant to go. From friendship problems to anxiety, the best way to encourage your child to speak to you about other circumstances affecting attendance is to maintain an open and honest relationship. If you think your child is experiencing anxiety, we’ve got a guide to help.

6. Keep in regular contact with teachers

The key to being able to offer the best support to help your child succeed is being clued up on their academic performance throughout the year. 

If your child is on track to hit their predicted grades, that’s a sure fire way to know you’re doing something right. To make sure you know exactly how your child is performing, make sure you do the following:

  • Attend all parents and GCSE options evenings. This article is full of great questions to ask at parents evening - whatever your child's age. 
  • Email is an excellent way to keep in touch with teachers with busy schedules. Schools usually have useful email contacts on their websites. Look out for an email for your child's head of year who can forward you to the person best-placed to answer your question.

7. Champion extra-curricular activities

From archery to football to pottery, many schools offer extra-curricular clubs that you might be oblivious to. 

There are many studies that show the positive relationship between extracurricular activities and academic performance. They all conclusively show that students who participate in after-school activities achieve higher-grades, aspirations and positive feelings towards the environment.

Dinner time is your perfect moment to discuss if there are any activities your child be interested in taking up. Talk about any extra-curricular activities you took as a child, and how they have benefitted you in your life so far.

8. Accept that your child might need extra support

Did you know that 1 in 3 secondary school children has a tutor? Asking for help with your child’s education is nothing to be ashamed of and shows you are motivated to give the best support possible to help your child succeed.

An expert tutor can significantly help your child’s confidence in and out of school, motivate better revision habits and give your child that all-important boost when they need it most.

Up Next: It's Okay to Not be Okay: Supporting a Stressed and Anxious Teenager

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