School life seems to be more and more focused on exams.  GCSEs are the golden apples students need to achieve to have a chance of a getting a job, then there are A levels and University ahead. But now SATs are becoming more and more important – not only to the pupils, but to the schools too, as they affect the school’s status. Children are sitting in classrooms cramming instead of outside playing in the sunshine.  But with increasing global competition from fast growing Asian nations who prize education highly and the ever more competitive jobs market, there is a certain inevitability about some of this.

‘The best days of your life’

This maxim was coined when children spent much of their time playing, there was little pressure at primary school and they learned by experiences. Although Wellbeing and Mental Health are hot topics, exams are stressful for many, but not all, children.  Learning about exams and how to approach them is useful, as they can’t be avoided, but perhaps parents could find alternatives to high-pressure revision schedules and high expectations of 10 and 11-year olds, which can be counterproductive. Of course, education is essential, it prepares children for life-long learning and gives them important tools for exploring, research and feeds their natural curiosity.  Given that pupils don’t all perform to their full potential in the exam room as nerves affect every student differently, careful preparation that’s tailored to the child is needed and a calm, confidence-boosting start to each exam day from their parents is essential.

Exam tips for parents

If your child is facing exam pressure, what can you do to support them? Be available to listen to them – whether it’s about understanding a concept they’re struggling with or just letting them talk about their nerves. Help your child to prepare, but not at the cost of them not getting any leisure time. Build revision into daily life, times tables on the ride to school, games to test vocabulary and get them to join the ‘punctuation police’ to encourage them to learn accurate uses of punctuation marks. If you’re calm about the exams and treat them as a normal part of school, then your child will learn to have a more positive attitude to them. Know they will do their best and praise their efforts.