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Archive for May, 2012

All change for A Level

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Hot on the heels of planned reforms at GCSE level (discussed on our blog last month) there are now rumours of changes at A Level. This is an often see pattern in educational reform, changes are made at school level and then followed by changes at sixth form/college/A Level. The suggested changes seem to be as a result of the continual rise of pass rates at GCSE and A Level over the last few years and the implication that the system has been dumbed down. Many educators now want to see a return to a more academically rigorous system where there are less modules and more end of year/course exams.

This summer Ofqual (regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England) will consult on moving away from the A Level modular system. Recently Ofqaul compared exam papers over the last ten years and found they were easier – there are now fewer essay questions and more multiple choice (often referred to a multiple guess) questions.

So what might exam reform at A Level look like?

  • It might involve a return to traditional end of course exams which means slow and steady progress will be needed throughout the whole of the course.
  • The type of questions in exam papers may be changed to involve more essays and critical thinking.
  • There may be the introduction of other qualifications alongside the A Level including Diplomas.
  • There may be more focus on children learning independent study skills – this is where a private tutor can really help embed those skills.

If you need help with A Level study (English, Maths, Biology, and Psychology and other subjects ) in Manchester and Cheshire (including Stockport, Bramhall and Wilmslow) then contact us.



Summer study schools

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

With the summer holidays fast approaching (just a couple of months away)  you might be thinking about how you can encourage your child to keep on studying, stay ahead of the crowd or catch up on a subject they have struggled with during the academic year.

If you are doing A Level or at University, you may want to use this time to find your feet with new topics or build up your confidence before you go back in September. Summer is also a key time to begin preparation for the 11+ (eleven plus). If you already work with a private tutor then you might be familiar with the idea of summer schools. At 121 Home Tutors we are planning a series of small group summer schools in the Manchester and Cheshire areas over the summer period. Here’s a rundown of what will be on offer (we can also design and deliver something specific for your child or a group of friends or in a one to one setting).

  •  11+ summer school. Preparing for studying and taking the 11+ exam and the very specific set of skills required to pass this exam.
  • Primary to KS3 summer school (age appropriate groups). A mix of Maths, English, Science and activities.
  •  Your child can attend for 1 day or up to 3 weeks.
  •  Prices start at £25 per child per day including lunch for 10am-3pm. There are opportunities for you to extend the days at an additional £5 per hour.
  •  The schools will take place in a central location easily accessed from Altrincham, Didsbury, Chorlton, Sale and Trafford areas.

Demand is already high for these courses and places are limited so if you are interested then do contact us soon.

Please help me revise! Part 2

Friday, May 18th, 2012

In Part 1 of this blog we dealt with some of the common reasons that our students get fed up with revising. We know now  is a really important time for revision and so we’ll tackle some of the other problems we hear our students are having with exam revision motivation.

I’m finding revision boring so always find better things to do

Yes, revision can be boring (shush – don’t tell your teachers), especially if its a subject you have less enthusiasm for or don’t understand as well. And it’s especially boring if you do it all day, everyday, in exactly the same way. How about mixing things up – using different techniques such as mindmaps, games, revision cards or getting someone to ask you questions. There’s also a whole world of other people revising on the internet and you can use forums and social networking to get hints and tips. Our final tip in this section is to focus on the big picture – imagine yourself opening your exam results or getting that university place or one day landing your perfect job. You’ll be amazed how motivating positive thinking can be.

This far into the year I’ve just lost my motivation

It’s been a long term and everyone is tired – that’s true. It’s also true that if you’re doing GCSE, A2 or A Levels then this is a high pressure year for you. A lack of motivation could be down to tiredness (or boredom) so it’s important to recognise when you’re tired and give yourself a break (even if it’s a short one) to recharge your batteries and also when your routine has become boring (see above hints).

We often recommend our students take time off. Forget school, forget revision, have fun and then come back refreshed and raring to go. But it’s also about keeping things in perspective – the end of the year and the next step of your life is just a few weeks away and it would be a shame to waste the year and your effort so far because you are tired. Make sure you’ve sat down and planned your revision to include lots of breaks, get enough sleep and eat well – they’ll all help to keep your energy levels up.

I just don’t get it/understand

Revision is much more difficult if you don’t understand the subject matter. Our advice is don’t be afraid to ask – ask your teachers, tutors, family, friends or use the internet.  Many student forums are available and they could provide the answers you are looking for and help clear up a misunderstanding. 

The exams still seem quite far off and I’m not worried

We hear this a lot and yes it can be hard to sit down and revise when exams seem weeks or months off. But think about it – it’s taken you months or years to learn a subject so why would you be able to revise it in just a few days? The clearest way to see this is to write down everything (and we mean everything) you need to revise – each subject, each topic, each chapter. Then figure out how much you could do in a day (for example, how long will it take you to read a chapter, make notes, revise the notes until you know them). Then calculate the number of days until your exam. Suddenly becoming clear? Don’t panic because you’ve now got a revision plan.

The exams seem really close and I’m panicking and it’s stopping me working

Being frozen with fear is really common. Many of our students panic at the prospect of all the work they have to do. Stop. Take a breath. Most people panic because they don’t really know what they need to revise and they don’t have a plan. Get the information you need – ask your teacher exactly what you need to revise, check the syllabus to ensure you’re covering the topics you need. Then follow our steps for making a revision plan:

1.       Break down what you need to revise in manageable chunks (1-2 hours)

2.       Plan each day until your exam with revision time and break times.

3.       If you think you have too much to learn or not enough time talk to your parents, friends or teachers – they can help you prioritise.

4.       Start – with something, anything. Pick up one book, read it and make notes.

If you’d like to know how you deal with the most common revision problems then check out the first part of our blog – Please help me revise.

If you’re struggling with revision for exams and you’re looking for a tutor in Manchester, Stockport or Wilmslow &  Cheshire areas (we cover areas including Altrincham, Didsbury and Hale) then contact 121 Home Tutors.

Please help me revise! Part 1.

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

This month we hit exams and it’s serious revision time for all students especially GCSE, A2 and A Level students. But it’s also the time of year when most people struggle with revision. We asked some of our students why they find revising particularly hard – do you relate to any of these answers?

–          My friends seem to have everything under control and want me to go out

–          I’m tired and feel I need a break [always!]

–          It’s great now the weather’s getting better, but I don’t want to be stuck indoors

–          I’m finding revision boring so always find better things to do

–          This far into the year I’ve just lost my motivation

–          I don’t get it/understand the subject(s)         

–         The exams are still a few days/weeks off and I’m not worried

–          The exams are really close and I’m panicking and it’s stopping me working

Because these are the most common problems (or excuses!) we hear at 121 Home Tutors we thought we’d tackle each one.

My friends seem to have everything under control and want me to go out

Chances are they aren’t being wholly truthful with you and are just as scared as you. Maybe they are burying their hand in the sand a bit? If you need to revise then you need to stand strong – but there’s no reason you can’t plan your social life into your revision schedule, in fact breaks are incredibly important. Or how about suggesting a study group with friends?

I’m tired and feel I need a break [always!]

We’ll admit things can get a bit tricky when exams approach and the days merge into one with nothing other than revision and more revision to do but it’s ok to have some time off, the trick is not to let things slide so much you end up having two weeks off and then trying to cram all the work into the weekend before an exam. Think about setting a small amount of time aside each day (how about an hour in the evening when everyone is winding down?) or schedule time off in your plan and then stick to it.

It’s great now the weather’s getting better, but I don’t want to be stuck indoors

There’s no rule which says you have to revise indoors or at a desk. Grab your books or laptop and find yourself a sunny spot in the garden or park. Taking any form of exercise will help to keep you mentally fresh so ensure you’ve got outside breaks planned into your revision days. Remember you don’t have to be stuck to a book the whole time, you could put notes on your ipod and listen while you walk or invest in downloads from itunes. If you need more maths revision tips have a look here.

If you’d like to know how you deal with the most common revision problems then watch out for the second part of the Please help me revise blog (please help me revise part 2).

If you’re struggling with revision for exams and you’re looking for a tutor in Manchester, Stockport or Wilmslow Cheshire areas (we cover areas including Altrincham, Stretford, Didsbury and Hale) then contact 121 Home Tutors.

Should our history lessons be history?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Last month Professor Robert Tombs, a history fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge, dammed history teaching in England and Wales. His report said history teaching in our schools is fragmented and misses out swathes of important information. The reported pointed out gaps in knowledge, particularly in historical education pre 1870. The main concerns raised were that compared to their European counterparts our children leave school with knowledge of obscure topics and focus on the wrong kind of skills such as evaluating sources rather than focussing on gaining knowledge.

Whether or not we agree with the views in the report, history is fundamental to our understanding of the present world. It shows us how our current political and cultural landscapes have developed and gives us insights into human nature.  So what can you do as a parent to help your child understand history and what it means in their world?

  •  Make history fun. It’s often seen as a dry, boring subject so find ways to make it interesting and interactive. Trips to places like the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and Liverpool Docks can provide real insight in a fun way.
  • Ask your children to question what they are taught. We don’t want children to be disruptive in school but history taught in the classroom is just one interpretation. If your child questions this knowledge then don’t be afraid to explore alternatives with them, check out the library and internet for the other side of historical accounts.
  • Chuck the textbooks out. Alternatively, hide them in a cupboard for a few hours!  How about watching historical videos on you tube? Or comedy sketches about historical events? Look at the Horrible Histories series of books or turn a history lesson into a craft session.
  • Know what your child is being taught. Speak to your child and their teacher so you know what they are learning in the classroom. That then gives you the opportunity to enhance that learning (if you and your child want to). A private history tutor can help your child with their school-based work but also explore other areas of history if they are particularly interested.

If you need help finding a private history tutor for primary and secondary level in Manchester and Cheshire (Stretford, Hale, Didsbury, Heaton Moor, Altrincham) then contact us.