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Supporting Our Academic Athletes

05 November 2015

We are now very much into the middle of the second term. In an earlier blog I described the analogy of ‘Take-Off’ to describe the first few weeks of term as students settled back into school and discovered new challenges both within the curriculum and through all of the activities offered in the ECA programme.

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The opportunities continue during this term – last week saw our Year 11 geographers conduct urban fieldwork in the city, our Silver International Award students travel to Ninghai, Zhejiang province over the weekend and all of our sporting teams in action across the city.  Students across the school continued to support the Indochina Starfish Organisation as Year 12 students raised money through the sale of Halloween accessories, in preparation for their visit to Cambodia next year.

As the title of the blog suggests, we see our students as academic athletes.  Later this month, our Year 11 and Year 13 students will be taking their mock examinations.  These are in preparation for their externally validated exams in the summer of 2016.  They need to be taken seriously and students are busy preparing for them through revision in lessons and their homework. However, it is important for teachers, parents and students themselves to recognise that this can be an anxious time for them.  We must remember that adolescence is not an easy time for anyone and academic pressures can seem overwhelming at times for young adults.  I firmly believe that keeping lines of communications open between students, parents and teachers can help to alleviate stress in the face of public exams. 

It’s important to remember that students have successfully navigated this path in previous years and have faced the same issues with which our Year 11 and 13 students are now challenged.

With this in mind, we have a number of structures set up at the school to help them over the next few months.  As parents, we can firstly share our own experiences and let them know that we understand the challenges that they face.  Simply spending time discussing this at home with them, or in a different environment such as a café, can be very reassuring. 

Helping them to structure their time effectively by discussing their revision plans allows our children to express any anxieties and we can guide and help them.  I recently sent out a guide via email to parents and students in Year 11 with some very helpful tips on how to manage revision at home. 

At the school, as a staffing body, we have reviewed the commitments that we know our students make to activities outside of their academic studies, to make allowances for Year 11 and 13 students to revise effectively.  We are building revision techniques and topic reviews into both lessons and homework activities to ensure that time is given to supporting individual preparation in subjects.  Each of our students has the support of their tutor or another expert as a mentor, giving them the opportunity to discuss any difficulties within a subject.  This allows form tutors to closely monitor their well-being and guide them through the process.  They spend each morning with tutees on preparation and if you wish to find out more about this, then please contact them.  Keeping communication channels open and raising concerns helps all of us to support our children.  The school has access to a network of experts who can offer additional pastoral care when necessary.

We’ve made students in Year 11 aware of this through assembly this week and will continue to work with them in the near future.  In the next two weeks, we have an outside visitor leading a workshop on ways of developing resilience in Year 11. Next year Clive Leach will be returning to continue supporting students on techniques that focus upon well-being and mind-set.

There is plenty of literature available on how to support students, dealing with examinations that can be downloaded below. The first is about self-esteem, the second about relaxed breathing and the third about progressive muscle relaxation.

The goals that lie ahead for our academic athletes are ambitious, but they are attainable.   But we must be mindful and keep communication channels open between home and school – if you have any concerns then please do get in touch via form tutors, year leaders or Mr Kelly, our Deputy Head of Secondary.  Thank you in for all of your support in this process.

Andrew Lancaster, Head of Secondary

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