15th February, 2024. That is a date that will have greater importance to some than others. For some, it is the Thursday after the Carnival holiday. For our Y11s, it is the date of their first mock exam. They are here. In 2 weeks, the mocks begin and our Y11s (and Y13s) embark on a taxing two and a half week schedule. I am very glad I completed my GCSEs long ago…
Today a session was held for the entire Y11 community. The focus was on the upcoming exams and the impact that the relationship between students, teachers and parents can have on students and their examination experience. It was really encouraging to see so many parents taking time to come into school and show their support, not only for their own children, but recognising we are a community and we are in this together, as illustrated by The Triangle of Student Success.
We all have a part to play in the examination period and the way that parents encourage students and communicate with teachers enables teachers to better support and feedback with students. One of the key ways parents can support students is by being aware of the stress that students (and teachers too…) experience during exams. The point was made that exam stress and anxiety is a normal and healthy response to a new situation.
Recognising this stress and how we cope with it is just one of the benefits of having mock exams. There are many techniques to help us cope with anxiety, either in the moment or longer term coping strategies. Being as prepared as you realistically can be goes a long way to helping reduce anxiety. This starts with planning. Our students have access to a plethora of revision strategies and it is up to them to find what works best for them. If, after the mocks, they don't feel a particular technique has been successful for them, that is great as it means they are closer to finding what does work for them.
This point was repeated and emphasised by two of our Y12, Isabelle and Ciao. They sat their IGCSEs last year and shared their experience with the Y11 community. I think it really helped to hear from students who had been through it, and they both articulated openly and honestly about the process, sharing how they felt before, during and after the exams, giving tips on how they revised, and highlighting the need to prioritise wellbeing. Some of the suggestions they gave for how parents could help, were greatly received.
Little habits, like not asking about studying at the dinner table, co-creating an exam timetable or encouraging breaks away from the books may seem simple, but they do go a long way to helping. They both offered examples of how and when to revise subjects and ended by saying that they and the rest of the Y12 were available to help, be it with revision ideas or pointers on how to cope with exam pressure. I think this further highlights the strength that is in our BCB community, even though they have 'finished' their exams, Y12 are more than willing to contribute to the success and wellbeing of the students who follow them.
I would like to finish by talking about communication. Arguably, this is one of the key aspects
for everyone during the exam period. Mistakes may happen and there will be occasions when things are challenging, for students, parents and teachers,and that is ok. The most important thing is that we work together and communicate with each other when things are tough. As many of you are aware, none of us are mind-readers, and we cannot help and support each other if we do not communicate openly and positively. This applies to all three sides of the triangle. To paraphrase someone much wiser than myself: Triangles are the most stable shape in the universe, but remove any one of the three sides and the triangle falls apart. That's why we cut pizza the way we do.
Very much food for thought.
Please do reach out if you have any questions, that goes for all three sides; teachers, parents and students.