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13 June 2022

The Monday Briefing: Show You the Way to Go

The Monday Briefing: Show You the Way to Go

Coming into the last two weeks of term at the College, it would be rather easy to fall into a mindset where one watches the clock: the seconds ticking away towards the commencement of the summer holidays; procrastination leading to the loss of critical learning time; students contemplating anything but the here and now.

This has never been our strategy at Ealing.

With Year 11 and 13 students now on full study leave and working their way through their formal exams, this is no better time for all other students in the College to be put through their paces in a similar manner.

Year 12 will be sitting a full exam series in the next six days, with two papers in each subject. These exams truly matter, with results forming a substantial pointer towards UCAS predictions, along with the identification of misconceptions in A Level Year One learning and problem areas for students to plan for and attend to over the summer.

In the three days following this, they will be attending Futures Week - a conference where a range of sessions will begin to prepare them for life after the College. The programme is filled with valuable presentations aimed at empowering students to consider and identify their next steps in deciding on destinations and courses which will make possible the careers they are planning on moving towards. Not only will students be given comprehensive guidance on university life in and out of the books, including financial management, but they will be directed with regards to developing a strength focused mindset, enhancing their employability through social media and in potential approaches to entrepreneurship. It’s an incredibly useful schedule, which, I hope, will motivate our Year 12s to commence their UCAS applications with vigour.

Year 9 and 10 students will be going through similar challenges. Assessments in all of the subjects close out the year, giving a clear indication of current progress, as well as advising probable specification requirements for the future - whether students will take Triple or Double Science, whether students will sit Higher or Foundation Mathematics. 

I spoke with all students last week in assembly, and urged them to consider this the start of the next academic year rather than the end of this one. It would be very easy to view these assessments as the end of the learning process for this particular time - but the best students don’t see it that way. Acting upon guidance towards continual improvement is a trait which we try to instil in all students here. Though these are end of year exams, we are very much in the middle of courses for the students involved - they should treat them as ‘midterms.’ As such, they are formative assessments at this stage, and not summative - therefore, the key considerations from these examinations are how to maximise performance moving forward.

In the week after the assessments, our Year 9 and 10s will enjoy Activities Week: a range of trips and excursions to reward them for their hard work this term, and, indeed, this academic year. Following bowling and pizza, students will be venturing to the London Dungeons for an educational tour containing live actors, special effects and entertaining rides. The week will then culminate in a trip to Thorpe Park. All of these trips are subsidised and allow students a much needed chance to ‘let their hair down’ at the end of a rigorous year of lessons, learning and assessments.

For all students, the last day of term, on the 24th of June, is also very meaningful. It’s a day where they collect exam results, have a chance to discuss their performance with their teachers and attend rewards assemblies where strong performances in several categories are congratulated: excellence; improvement; conduct; contribution to the College.

Rather than a ‘wind down’ - something which I always felt was the case during my time in state schools - we try to use every available moment of learning time with which to drive our students on to self-improvement. This means that the last few weeks always take on somewhat of a ‘work hard, play hard’ image - and that is exactly what we want them to get used to.

Of course, alongside this particular mantra, it’s important that they learn to ‘rest hard’ - such a demanding period, with a heatwave also in the offing, requires personal management from students to get the very best from themselves. High on the list of reasons why students struggle with exams, or even performing reasonably well during a normal school day, is an inadequate sleep pattern.

 

Having a disrupted sleep pattern can lead to several issues:

-Decreased attention

-Impaired memory

-Slowed processing

-Reduced creativity

-Worsened sequential thinking

 

Alongside these traits are the impacts on mood:

-Increased irritability and aggression

-Lethargy

-Hyperactivity

-Depression and anxiety

 

I was always advised to get at least 8 hours of rest a night, and this is something which I’m done my very best to keep to. Anything less leads to a lack of sharpness which frustrates me - as I know I could do better with sufficient sleep. It’s also important to stress the word ‘pattern’ within the phrase. Simply getting one ‘good night’s rest’ before an intensive period of demand will make little difference. Good habits are just that - habits - which must be fully embedded to enable their benefits. 

An informative article by the Sleep Foundation brings some valuable information on good practice for parents to instil. 

The analogy I often use with students for revision, or indeed any activity which should become a habit rather than a ‘one-off’ is in preparation for going to the dentist. It would be ridiculous to spend every available hour cramming in almost constant teeth brushing before the appointment, particularly when regular, daily brushing for two minutes at the right times would be an approach which yields far more success. This ‘little and often’ rule is also true of revision - and students need to be in prime condition to make this all work.

A regular and consistent approach requires dedication, but the benefits of ‘work hard, play hard and rest hard’ go far beyond school years - and make a balanced recipe for fulfilled lives. 

The earlier such an approach is adopted, the better. 

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