Talking Heads

Exam season can be a stressful time for students, so we asked three local school heads how they help them to achieve their best results, while also looking after their wellbeing. Here’s what they had to say

AARON LENNON HEADMASTER, BEECHWOOD SACRED HEART SCHOOL TUNBRIDGE WELLS, KENT

Time wasted is time lost, so begin now! Revision starts as soon as you begin your course. Get into a habit of writing up and filing your notes, and looking and thinking over what you’ve learned each day. This will save you time in the long run. Know exactly what your syllabus requires you to learn and understand. You can print the syllabus from the exam board websites, and your teachers should give you an overview.
Minutes after a lesson or study session, the knowledge you’ve acquired is already leaking away. If you don’t return to the topic for days or even weeks, you’ll have to work hard again to reinforce that knowledge. However, don’t panic – if you revisit it later the same day, look over it a week later, and then again a couple of weeks after that, you’ll retain the knowledge, and when you come to the exam period, you’ll have to spend less time revising, and will have more time to practise answering past questions. Past papers and mark schemes can also be downloaded from the exam board websites.
When you’re revising, give yourself rest breaks of about five minutes in every 30 minutes. You could go outside, have a drink, or listen to some music. You’ll work more efficiently and remember more by doing this, rather than by studying for a whole hour without a break. We remember best what we started within any session, so by giving yourself two starting points in an hour, you’ll retain much more. Finally, look after yourself. Eat well, get out in the fresh air, do some exercise, socialise, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.

Beechwood Sacred Heart School
ADDRESS: 12 Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN2 3QD
TEL: 01892 532 747
WEB: www.beechwood.org.uk
EMAIL: bsh@beechwood.org.uk

JULIE LODRICK HEADMISTRESS, KENT COLLEGE PEMBURY, TUNBRIDGE WELLS, KENT

Spring might be around the corner, but for some, this can be a tough time of year. As I write, our Year 11 and Upper Sixth Formers are trooping nervously into the exam hall to sit their mock exams. For parents too, this can be an anxious time. Again, all we can do is hope that we’ve prepared our children well, giving them the tools to cope with challenge.
When revising, there’s a temptation for students to focus initially on the things they find easy. This makes sense, as they’re telling themselves that they need the self-esteem boost before they come to the difficult content. Instead, encourage your child to start with the most challenging ideas. They may struggle at first, but even if they can’t master the material straightaway, when they return to it, their brains will have been processing things behind the scenes. We can all relate to how a problem can seem easier once we’ve left it alone for a bit. Engaging with a challenge in this manner also teaches resilience and the mental toughness that examinations demand.
In addition, help your child understand that true effort requires focus and determination; this is a real challenge for any of us. A student might do an hour of revision after breakfast (possibly after 10am), and then congratulate themselves enormously for making a start. They may feel a break is then in order, which will then overrun, leaving it only a short time until lunch, so they might as well wait, and then after lunch, their phone rings… Effective revision, like any form of practice, needs the student to be a tough taskmaster. The Pomodoro Technique of 25 minutes of revision, followed by a five-minute break, offers a practical solution. Some students prefer 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes’ break. This gives time to get a drink and do some of that vital mental processing.

Kent College Pembury
ADDRESS: Old Church Road, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN2 4AX
TEL: 01892 820 204
WEB: www.kent-college.co.uk
EMAIL: prepschool@kentcollege.kent.sch.uk

MARTYN WARD HEADMASTER, MARLBOROUGH HOUSE SCHOOL HAWKHURST, CRANBROOK, KENT
Experience has taught us that happy children succeed! As teachers, we know only too well how exam pressure and the prospect of not quite making the grade can be the perfect recipe for sleepless nights, poor eating habits, and lack of focus in the classroom. Investment in a private tutor can help to reinforce what a child learns at school, but for some, ‘over-learning’ can hinder their ability to show an examiner exactly what they’re capable of when the day comes.
Continuous assessment of pupils’ progress across the whole curriculum enables us to design individually tailored learning and revision plans, which, with the ongoing support of our parents at home, makes the process of exam preparation personalised, logical and even fun! Our Character Education programme enables children to develop key life skills, such as resilience, drive, initiative, self-assurance and reflectiveness from the outset, so by the time they reach the examination room, they’re not only ready to turn over that paper, but are genuinely excited by the challenge. Our children can also pay a visit to ‘The Harbour’ (a safe, calm place with soothing music, activities to stimulate mindfulness, and some very comfy sofas), if they feel they need time away from their books, to talk through their worries, or to simply rediscover the simple pleasure of just ‘being’.
Our examination results and the many scholarships awarded each year speak for themselves, but we teach that exams are just a part of life – not life itself. Our broad curriculum gives children many opportunities to shine, so when they leave us in Year 8, not only will they have had the very best education, but take with them a ‘life toolbox’ of skills that will help them to stay happy, and thrive in Senior School and the ever-changing world beyond.

Marlborough House School
ADDRESS: Hawkhurst, Cranbrook, Kent TN18 4PY
TEL: 01580 753 555
WEB: www.marlboroughhouseschool.co.uk
EMAIL: frontoffice@marlboroughhouseschool.co.uk