Michelle McCarthy, Assistant Head Teacher for Teaching and Learning - shares some experiences of using mind mapping as a revision technique with parents. (Picture: Keith Blundy)

More than 40 parents of students in years 10 and 11 at Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy in Stockton, have been amongst the first learning how to support their children’s exam preparation and revision by going back to school to learn the latest techniques themselves.

Ian Ramsey, a Church of England Secondary Academy School in the Diocese of Durham and part of the Dayspring Trust, has set out to find new ways to support their students achieve the very best results in their year 11 GCSE’s by briefing parents on exam revision techniques and understanding how people learn.

The initiative is probably a first in the area and maybe the region.  James Walters, Assistant Head Teacher for Assessment and Curriculum at Ian Ramsey, said: “Through this academic year, we have been organising curriculum evenings for parents and carers to come in and learn more about the curriculum in the school. This is so they can help to support their children and also so they can gain a better understanding of what we do in school.

“As part of that, we are responding to a parental demand to find out more about revision techniques and how to support students in Key Stage 4 who are needing to remember more than they have ever had to before. This, with the changes in curriculum, have become ever more difficult.”

One set of parents, Mr & Mrs Alwis who have a child in year 10 and another in year 8, said: “The GCSEs are all changing and getting tougher, so we think that this kind of session can really help us support our children. As parents, we don’t know what is going on with the education system and how we can best support learning – so this is a great help for us. We are greatly appreciative of the school for organising this session.”

The session undertaken by parents included two workshops on revision techniques & revision timetables, one on general learning techniques and another on memory techniques – getting the best out of our brains. Finally, one workshop also focussed on stress and anxiety management.

Talking about the sessions, Michelle McCarthy, Assistant Head Teacher for Teaching and Learning, said: “Parents and Carers have been able to take part in sessions looking at different aspects of teaching and learning around the following topics: how to revise; what it’s like to be a student in a GCSE classroom; what topics they might be learning about, and the sheer volume of information students are required to reduce down, remember, recall and then use in an exam situation. As well as showing parents the techniques for learning and revising, one of the most important sessions is on stress and anxiety management which is about supporting young people throughout Key Stage 4 which can be a very difficult time for them.”

She added: “All of the staff involved in the sessions are delighted to be able to show parents some of the techniques as they will directly support the students and that is what we are here for.”

The sessions are focused mainly on parents of students in Year 11, but they are also open to parents with children in year 10 who have expressly asked to be involved at an early stage.

This may have been the first set of sessions, but it is unlikely to be the last. The enthusiastic response of parents learning how best to support their children was very positive.