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Why we Need to Guide Even the Most Able Students’ GCSE Revision

Left to their own devices, even the most able students can struggle with revision – which is why it’s our job to guide them every step of the way...

  • Why we Need to Guide Even the Most Able Students’ GCSE Revision

Recently, I’ve had an interesting awakening about revision and the support we give our young people in the build up to exams. This year, you see, I am a Y11 dad; and I mean in the real world, not just how it feels when you’ve worked with learners for five years!

Before Christmas, like many students around the country, our son had mock exams and quite rightly, his school wanted him to produce a revision plan.

He duly arrived home with the blank form to fill in and sat to do it. But when he showed me the finished article it was, frankly, rubbish.

It was far too broad and unrealistic, as many are that I have seen in the past – because he had not used all the information he had at his disposal to make it specific to him and his strengths/weaknesses.

This got me thinking. My son is a hard-working young man. He wants to be successful at school in all aspects, including academically. My family is fairly full with teachers and positive role models for him in this regard.

His school has done a good job in stretching him to reach his potential and inspiring him to pursue his ambitions. Yet still he struggled to come up with a suitable, and most importantly, effective, revision plan.

Planned out

So what chance do the parents and carers of our school’s young people have, when the exam requirements have little resemblance to the ones they sat and we now know so much more about the best and most effective revision strategies?

I am sure, like us, you have always supported year 11/13 students in structuring their revision – but I am now strongly of the opinion that we have severely underestimated the amount of preparation and knowledge required even to write a good revision plan in the first place.

Especially if you think about all the different resources available to students – in our case, things like Tassomai for science, HegartyMaths and Century (Tech) – and how much time could easily be wasted doing things that will have little impact on improvement.

This is why, after a Twitter appeal for information, we have gone down the route of producing revision plans for each young person that continue until their last exam is finished.

The departments have entered revision activities that cover all of the core knowledge/skills required and, using a great piece of software (imaginatively called revisionplan.com), spread them logically over the weeks remaining.

We have also been able to apply knowledge we have now gained about brain functioning, from organisations like The Learning Scientists, to make the activities as likely to improve their outcomes as possible.

Of course the plans we’ve given them are just the starting point for our students, and they need to reflect on how much they already know and to not waste their time on activities if they are not needed. They must also reflect on their own commitments and alter the plan to suit.

Welcome support

However, the biggest and best impact has been on our parents and carers.

We held a parent information evening to explain the plans and how each family can use them to support their young person; and it was without doubt the most universally well received thing we’ve done to support both our learners and the adults that are so desperate to help them.

Obviously, we now want to develop this idea further down the school. Students will do some sort of group of assessments every year and we can therefore start getting them to organise their time and revision right back to Y7.

The issue of staff workload was one that I was worried about, of course; but their response has been positive and interesting.

I know how hard they work, and how much support they already offer – however, they agree that the missing ingredient has always been what revision our young people do when we are not standing over them!

What they’ve put together for this set of students can be tinkered with for next year – and maybe, if we get it right in the earlier years, our learners’ organisational skills could even improve to the point where, by Y11, we won’t need to do it all.


Follow Vic Goddard on Twitter at @vicgoddard.

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