Getting ready for the upcoming school season. | Julie Holdsworth

Over the next few weeks my focus will be to encourage the students I come in contact with to make the most of the forth coming academic year. Making this their best year yet.
IGCSE and A level results will be issued within the next week, I heard on the news this morning Scottish children are eagerly awaiting their results today.

For many it will be a time of jubilation, but of course for some disappointment. This year particularly will be quite stressful as the results will be based on predicted grades and not always a true reflection of what you could have done on the day.

For all students the new term is beckoning and thoughts are turning to the next steps. Most students will return to school or move on to university. Whatever their choice there is more work ahead and many have so many concerns because of what this year has thrown at us.

At Mallorca Tutoring Academy we have seen some outstanding results for the students we have helped over the years, however as the new academic year beckons our message to everyone returning to school in September is one of focus and determination. Our guidance to all students is that now is the time to refocus and make this year count. For all students there is a 9 month window of opportunity. Do not waste it!!
So, as parents and tutors how do we actually help our children make the next academic year be their best year yet?

We need to start now!
· Firstly parents matter; a point made clear over many years of studies. Key research concluded that a major part of academic advantage is held by children from families where parents are involved in their educational programme. Further research also reveals something else; that parents don’t need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge. Discussion and interest in a child’s education makes a difference.

It is this kind of interaction which fosters children’s success at school. Two way adult child conversations are six times as potent in promoting language development as those ‘discussions’ where the adult does most of the talking. We adults need to learn the art of open questions: ‘what, when, why, how and who’, together encouraging the ‘tell me more’ statement. Engaging in a reciprocal back-and-forth interaction gives children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter. As children grow older, this feeling helps them develop into assertive advocates for their own interests.

From my point of view I would dearly love it if parents would promote a change of mind set to students from before the start of term; particularly this year.

It’s a marathon not a sprint!
· Ongoing and continued practise and preparation are the key to success.
If there was one thing I could change would be to get all of our students practising with us from today, mid-August and throughout the academic year. Slow but sure and not leaving it until it is too late. I say this to parents and students alike when they rush in with about 6 weeks to go before the examinations and expect a miracle to happen. It doesn’t cost anymore plus the stress levels and time commitments are significantly less.
As for the students themselves here are my top tips to make the next 9 months effective and rewarding.

Take good notes in class. Getting all the main points and making them as detailed as time allows. Writing clearly so they can be read later with written examples, case studies and other specific details. Finally, if there’s anything that’s unclear, don’t just leave it. Students should ask the teacher before the day is out or they will still be wondering about it when the examination starts.

Review your notes quickly after each lesson making revision cards as part of an ongoing, long term revision programme. No homework from the subject doesn’t mean no work.

Get into the right zone physically and mentally. Find a great study spot that is quiet, has enough light, is clutter-free and doesn’t have distractions like TV, computer or phone. Plan the year ahead month by month and understand what is needed to be done to ensure that their study time is effective.

Breaks are a necessity, not a luxury. However you need to be realistic - about 1 hour of study to 15 minutes of break seems to be the norm. Make sure the break is going to help the brain - this means doing something completely different to studying (i.e. not reading). Getting outside is good because some fresh air and sunshine wakes up those weary brain cells.

Review, practise, repeat and link to learning style. Review notes from class, what’s in the text book and finally write out new study-specific notes. These should be summaries that help recall more in-depth knowledge at a later date. Getting friendly with bullet points, headings, highlighting, different coloured pens, page tabs and anything else that makes notes both organised and engaging.

Once a student has succinct study notes it’s time to actually get that information off the page and into their memory. Auditory learners (these students learn best when they hear things) should read notes out loud or record their voice and play it back.
Visual learners should use drawings, mind maps and diagrams.

Kinaesthetic learners (learning from physical actions) should review their notes while doing something active – walking around the room or throwing a ball. Engaging multiple senses really gets the brain working. For the complicated bits, memory-joggers like acronyms or acrostics are great.

Practise recall in context. There is no substitute for practise. Recalling the information and putting it into the context of an actual written exam, doing the exercises from text books or some practice papers and questions.

We do recommend that students practise in exam conditions - time limits and creepy silence included!

All that’s left is to keep reviewing their notes, doing practice exams and building a set of revision cards over the medium to long term!

So in summary for both student and parents focus on the next nine months in good time and leave nothing to chance.

There is no substitute for starting early, building an effective study programme and not leaving everything until there is no time left.