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Archive for April, 2012

Helping your child with phonics

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

In the next few weeks 5 and 6 year olds across England will be tested to check their phonics reading ability. One of the leading teaching unions is calling for a boycott of the tests saying that it might make 5 year olds feel like they are a failure and devastate their confidence at an early age.

The Government wants all children to be taught to read by using phonics (which is already happening in most schools). This is where children learn sounds and groups of letter sounds. The test is being used to identify children who need more support but teachers think it won’t tell them anything they don’t already know.  Every child at the end of Year One will take the 10 minute test which will check their understanding of 20 ‘normal’ words and 20 ‘made up’ words. If your child is struggling with phonics and reading then how can you help them?

–          If you don’t know what phonics is then arm yourself with some information – ask school for the basics or track down a good phonics based book. It’s a good idea to try and find a book that marries up with the way in which your child’s school teaches phonics.

–          Start at the beginning. Children sometimes struggle with phonics and reading because they haven’t grapsed the basic letter sounds or groups of letters. It’s worth revisiting the basics first.

–          Throw the books away. Sometimes the pressure of constantly reading books can hinder a child’s progress. Instead think about reading comics, books on a kindle, magazines, cereal packets or road signs. Make things fun.

–          Don’t compare. Children progress at different rates and there is often a gender difference. If you are worried about your child’s progress then it’s best to discuss it with their teacher rather than another parent.

–          Look into specialised one to one tutors who can help build your child’s confidence and ability in an environment where they feel safe and supported.

If you need help with phonics and reading help for your primary aged child in Manchester including areas such as Sale, Didsbury, Trafford and Urmston then contact 121 Home Tutors.



Universities setting A Level content

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

In the last couple of weeks Michael Gove, Education Secretary, said he is worried that A Levels do not sufficiently prepare young adults for university. In a letter to Ofqual, the university regulator, he said universities should decide what is in A Level exams and review them each year. This news came at the same time as a study by Cambridge Assessment found many university lecturers thought their students arrived at university under prepared for degree work. Whatever of the outcome of Michael Gove’s suggestions how can you ensure you make the transition from A Level to University as smooth as possible?

–          One of the biggest shifts from A Level to University is around the way you tackle the information you are given. At A Level there is less emphasis on critical thinking and opinion – this is an area you could concentrate on before you go to University.

–          At University you are expected to think and study independently, you need to question and dig for information from day one.

–          Your university tutors will be available and helpful but will not chase you for work and manage your deadlines – it’s a good idea to have a time and work management system from the beginning, even if it’s just a notebook.

–          Remember is most cases the first year of your degree doesn’t count towards your final mark so you have a year to adjust. If you are struggling then approach your tutors who will be able to offer guidance and additional support. Alternatively consider a tutor who is a specialist in your subject area.

If you have started university in Manchester and need help and support with a subject area, essay writing or time and work management 121 Home Tutors can help. Contact 121 Home Tutors.

Changes to GCSE

Monday, April 16th, 2012

This year we will start to see changes to GCSEs, moving away from modular schemes and the opportunity for multiple resits back to a linear (terminal) exam system where all exams are taken in one sitting at the end of the course.

These changes have come out a lack of confidence in the GCSE qualification and a perception that they were becoming too easy.  Last year there was a consultation on possible changes and various reforms will now take place based on that information. The first change will be that for all two year GCSE courses starting in September 2012 exams will happen at the end of the course. That means students will be able to resit full GCSEs but not modules.

The hope is that these changes will improve the quality of the course and ensure a rigorous education and testing system for all pupils. It does mean some students may struggle more and that is when one to one tutoring may be a good option. Removing the modules does mean a longer period of time for slow and steady study rather than a panicked rush to the finish line.

The second element of the changes will be more emphasis on accurate spelling, punctuation and use of grammar. We’re really pleased to see a restoration of this part of the GCSE structure as we think it underpins a child’s ability to communicate well.

What are our top three tips for preparing for the changes to GCSEs?

  • Think long term – you need to focus on steady progress and working continually throughout the year rather than slacking off and then rushing at the end.

  • Get the basics right – spelling, punctuation and grammar are important in subject areas which have an element of English. If you are struggling then talk to your parents or teacher and think about a tutor who can help build your confidence.

  • Learn some exam skills. 

If you need helping preparing for GCSEs and you live in Manchester or Cheshire (Heaton Moor, Northenden, Chorlton) then call 121 Home Tutors.