Is a Smartphone Free Childhood the answer to our nation’s smartphone addiction? I’d say no.

Teenagers using a smartphone at school

By Mark Saxby – Positive Social When two Surrey mums made it big with their campaign to stop children and smartphones mixing, the UK’s media got very excited about it. Not that it was a new idea. One of my friends had already agreed a smartphone-free arrangement among a group ofparents in their Scottish primary school. They had all decided they would hold off giving their children devices. Wonderful. Inspired, I tried the same thing in my daughter’s primary school. The Year 5 dads were all in a WhatsApp group. I suggested us all holding off on smartphones until our children went to secondary school. I was largely met by silence except for one dad who said he and his wife had already given their nine-year-old boy his brother’s old smartphone and they were confident he’d be sensible. There lies the problem – while some parents, like the Surrey mums and my Scottish friend, recognise their children shouldn’t be on social media at such a young age, many other parentseither just don’t understand the dangers or have the capacity in their lives to even consider them. Some children will have smartphones and others won’t. And then the well-meaning parents will face immense pressure to buckle. As one mum said: “My son will be a social pariah if he doesn’t have a phone.” I’m not saying that the campaign for a Smartphone Free Childhood is a waste of time. For starters, it’s helped many parents see there is another way. And the more children without a smartphone, the better. But I believe the answer is in education, not a ban. The majority of time spent on phones by young people is spent using social media. Our charity, Positive Social, has run sessions with thousands of young people in classrooms across the country. We don’t tell the students to come off social media. Instead, we help them understand that social media is addictive; that misuse could damage their now and their future; and that they can enjoy life more if they spend less time on their phones. Ultimately, we give them the permission to make a choice – to have a different relationship with social media and their phones. And they make amazing commitments to change. They say they’ll: • Leave WhatsApp groups where they’re bullying other children. • Delete the Instagram app because it’s making them sad. • Spend more time with their parents because they’re more important. • Leave TikTok because it’s washing their mind. • Stop taking their phone to bed with them. We find that young people don’t want to be on social media as much as they are. They’ve just been allowed by their parents to spend time on their phones without boundaries. Many of them confess they just don’t feel good when spending an excessive amount of time on social media. Some schools we visit report a drop in social media issues. Other schools run our free follow-up Social Ambassadors programme so social media stays on the agenda. Of course, there are some children who won’t follow through on their commitments. Or they’ll forget about them. Or they just won’t be able to resist the pull of social media. After all, doctors liken our addiction to it as that suffered by crack cocaine users. But the childrenwill never forget our sessions – or that there’s a different way of looking at social media. Will they ever go smartphone free? I doubt it. If us adults can’t manage it, then why should we expect our children to. But it’s definitely time to empower our children to choose a different type of relationship with social media and their phones. Mark Saxby is one of the founders of the Positive Social charity, a national organisation which runs interactive classroom sessions in primary and secondary schools. You can find out more at

Barnardo’s Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies: The PATH to Success

Banardo's PATHS programme for boosting mental health

The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK/NI Version) The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK/NI Version) promotes the positive mental health and well-being of children in pre-schools and primary schools across the UK.  With its roots in the US, it’s now taking the UK by storm! Since 2008, the programme has grown from being in just 6 schools in Northern Ireland, to now being delivered in almost 500 (497) schools and pre-schools across in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.   Barnardo’s team of specialist SEL coaches support settings over a 4-year period to implement high-quality evidence based social emotional learning.  Through specialist training and ongoing coaching support, schools and pre-schools are well supported to deliver the programme with fidelity.  Key to the success and sustainability of the programme is embedding a whole-school approach to SEL; and our coaching team support schools to do just that!  From supporting classroom delivery to generating cross-curricular links; from training school staff to training parents & playground supervisors; and from supporting with SEL themes outside of the classroom (e.g. assembly, playground games etc) and within core policies – we have you covered to fully place the PATHS® Programme at the heart of your school. With positive outcomes not only for behaviour, attention & concentration, and social emotional competencies, but also improvements in the wider school ethos and environment –  it’s easy to see why teachers, parents and pupils all love the PATHS® Programme.     This year, 18 schools and 6 pre-schools across the UK have also achieved ‘SEL Worldwide Model School Status’ – an award which recognises the high-quality whole-school implementation of the programme, and their commitment to embed the programme in all aspects of the school day – and beyond!.  In total, 93 establishments have received this accolade through Barnardo’s and SEL Worldwide. “We applied to take part in the PATHS® Programme because we felt that it offered a more structured whole -school approach, especially towards dealing with emotions and anger management strategies. We wanted a programme that offered a common language and approach for everyone to use with the children i.e. teachers, non-teaching staff, lunch time supervisors etc. We also felt that the PATHS® initiative gave every child the vocabulary and opportunities to express their feelings and provided them with clear strategies to use when they were upset.” (In School Coordinator, N Ireland School) “The PATHS® Programme through Barnardo’s has brought so much to our school, and we cannot now imagine life without its principles firmly embedded into our everyday practice. Our children love the familiarity of the programme’s approach and it is an absolute joy to see them not only applying the strategies themselves, but also teaching them to their families at home.” (Head Teacher, St Helens School)  “Through the programme we have been able to empower our youngest learners to develop these key skills including social problem solving, self-control, emotional understanding, peer relations and self-esteem which will hopefully enable them to make positive choices in their future lives.” (Setting Manager, Pembrokeshire Pre-School)

Researchers find widespread support for Ofsted report card plan

Ofsted inspection

Parents and teachers want Ofsted inspections and the school accountability system to be more transparent, well-rounded, and less high-stakes, a major new report into public support for education reform has found.  And they have agreed that it is time to scrap the one word judgements that can taint schools for years. Published in the same week that Ofsted’s critical report of Caversham Primary School was named as a factor in the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, research commissioned by the Laidlaw Foundation has found that mums, dads and carers are overwhelmingly in favour of a report card-style Ofsted accountability model, along the lines of Labour’s proposed reforms. Only 6 per cent of those polled said they didn’t like the idea of doing away with the current “one-word” judgement system.  As well as conducting polling, the report’s authors, Public First, also spoke to focus groups of teachers and educationalists to explore the on-the-ground reality of meaningful reform to the education system. The parental desire for more balanced accountability is likely to be a reflection of an appetite for a broader curriculum offer. While parents want schools to maintain a focus on academic outcomes, they are also very keen to see expanded extra-curricular activities and the teaching of “life skills”, such as healthy eating and digital and financial literacy.  Parents are almost twice as likely (57%) to name preparing children for adult life as an essential task for schools compared to preparation for further academic study (32%). Some 54% of parents would prefer for their child to go to a school prioritising extra-curricular activities and life skills, versus 37% that prefer that their child goes than to a school prioritising academic achievement and exams. As a result, the report’s authors have called an extended school day, as well as an injection of funding into the system to pay for it and staff to run it. Importantly, while academy trusts and schools would be held accountable for this extended provision, it would need to be designed in such a way that it would not increase stress or workload for heads and teachers, possibly by bringing in civic groups to run the sessions. The report had 10 key findings:  The report also included nine recommendations for reform based on the views of parents, teachers and educationists.  Susanna Kempe, chief executive of the Laidlaw Foundation, said: “A third of children do not pass their English and maths GCSE at age 16; for children who have received Free School Meals at some point in the last six years, this figure rises to more than half.[1] At the same time, employers complain that new recruits lack core work skills, there is a dramatic rise in mental health issues amongst the young, teachers are leaving the profession in droves and senior leaders find the stress of Ofsted inspections beyond intolerable, with devastating consequences. The current system of accountability is not working. We can and must do better. Parents, carers and the teaching community know what matters. If we start to trust that, and measure that, education can be the extraordinary force for good it ought to be.” Ed Dorrell, partner at Public First, said: “The ultimate reward for getting this right could be the creation of a new generation of happy and healthy young people. Often acting through successful multi-academy trusts, primaries and secondaries could once again become community and civic institutions – institutions that are capable, ultimately, of playing a role in helping to rebuild our fractured society and local communities. “This research suggests that there is huge appetite both within and outside the education system for something akin to this vision, but only if the reforms needed to make it happen are conceived of, funded and delivered well.” Read more QA Education news

Editor’s blog: If AI failed to ace Year 6 SATs what chance did the kids have?

You may be aware of the controversy surrounding the recent SATs. The headteacher at my own children’s school described the reading test as the “hardest” he “could remember” and the maths papers as “challenging”. Those are strong words for teachers, who are typically trained to communicate in the most neutral ways they can. He wasn’t alone in raising concerns with the common view that the reading paper required a little too much reading and not enough time for answering. Multiple articles have emerged about children heading home in tears, with the math tests also deemed unexpectedly difficult. Interestingly, a group of MPs who took on the Year 6 SATs last December, in response to a campaign by More Than A Score to abolish them, did worse than the average 11-year-old. Now to investigate whether the test was too hard, online learning platform Atom Learning asked ChatGPT to solve the same arithmetic and reasoning questions the students solved, which the government made public briefly following the tests last month. Depending on your view of artificial intelligence (AI), the results are a little concerning. Out of 36 arithmetic questions for a total of 40 points, the AI managed to solve 32, totalling 34 points, which corresponds to 85% of the test. For the reasoning questions, the AI cracked 18 out of 25 questions, totalling 24 out of 35 points, corresponding to 68.6%. A spokesperson for Atom Learning described ChatGPT’s performance as “It’s interesting and worrying at the same time”. They added: “While we’re aware that AIs such as ChatGPT are not infallible, it’s important to remember how these questions were supposed to be tailored for Year 6 students, which would make anyone suppose that they ought to be ‘easy’ questions for the likes of adults and computers. “However, in a situation in which not even an AI can find answers to what is supposed to be basic maths, it’s hard to imagine how young students felt when these same questions were put in front of them on one of the most important days of their lives as school children.” All this controversy is sure to put pressure on the next government to revise or even scrap the SATs. After all, what’s the point of them? Selective grammar schools, both public and private, have their own tests and children’s SATs results have little to no bearing on their ability to learn at secondary school. With the majority of parents agreeing that SATs had harmed their children’s mental health, all they appear to do is heap a load of stress on youngsters at an age where they’re already having to cope with massive changes ahead.

The child mental health issues caused by isolation

No Isolation robot at the front of the class as teacher teaches children – child mental health is alleviated if children at home can experience lessons

Harriet Gridley, UK Director at No Isolation, spoke to QA Education about the child mental health issues which students are facing due to lockdown… Has No Isolation received feedback from parents about how child mental health has been affected by lockdown? For a lot of students heading back to school, the first days back were seemingly quite overwhelming and scary, especially for the younger kids who were confused by all the new rules. Whilst some kids may have really benefited from the lockdown and time out of school, others have fallen behind in their studies, at the same time becoming isolated from friends and social circles. The long-term effects of isolation during lockdown may have left many kids feeling anxious and uneasy in social settings and large groups. We at No Isolation have also heard from some families whose children are not able to go back to school right now due to ill health and health concerns. We’ve received some feedback around the educational arrangements that some schools across the UK have set up for them and, unfortunately, whilst these setups allow children suffering from serious medical conditions and with underlying health concerns to stay connected to their education, they don’t take care of the child’s emotional needs. In many cases, an iPad or tablet is being placed on the desk, so the child can dial into the lessons. Unfortunately, these kids have ended up feeling left out because they don’t feel connected to their friends, and can’t participate at lunch or break time. In addition, we have found that technology often does not work and, in fact, often interrupts the child’s education overall.   As a result, these families are looking to the use of interactive tools, such as AV1, which will allow them to actively participate and be physically in the room.  For those that are not familiar with AV1, it is a telepresence avatar that allows children to be present with their friends. It is small, lightweight and securely live-streams, thanks to an integrated 4G sim card, what it is seeing and hearing to an iPad or smartphone held by the child, who can then speak through AV1 and control its facial expressions and movement via the connected device.    Has No Isolation seen an increase in enquiries since the start of the pandemic? Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a significant rise in the number of enquiries we are receiving about AV1. Enquiries have been for a  number of different reasons and from families who are seeking a way to help their children maintain their education in a meaningful way, that previously would not need to have kept them home from school.  There are children who will be at high risk from the virus, that would not necessarily have had to be kept out of school previously, but who would now be thought of as ‘high risk’. These children need to remain connected with their education, but also with their friends, so as to keep building healthy social skills, and not feel left out.  Enquiries are also coming from families where the child is fit and well, but due to living with a vulnerable person, ie. an elderly grandparent or a family member with severe health conditions, the whole household will be continuing to shield. Again, it is imperative to these families that the children are not missing out or being cut off from social circles or their studies. We’ve not been surprised by this interest, though, and we are keen to support these children as best we can. Throughout the summer, we worked with independent researcher, Henry Peck, to better understand the effect of lockdown on educational and emotional development in school-aged children. We collected responses from 1,005 parents and carers of 1,477 children spanning primary and secondary school and found that according to our research, as much as 6% of students across the UK, or an estimated 540,000, will continue to stay at home, due to mental or physical health concerns, directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic.  When asked, the most common reason given was the risk of a healthy child contracting coronavirus and becoming ill, with the second-most common reason being the risk of a household member catching coronavirus from the child. Mental health challenges that have emerged or grown during the pandemic, such as anxiety, were also cited within our research as a key reason for students not returning to school, equating to a third of these cases. Of all the children unlikely to attend school in September, 40% lived in a house with a vulnerable family member, indicating that family vulnerability factors heavily into attitudes on whether or not a child can return to school. However, official statistics have indicated that as much as 12% of children have in fact been forced to resume at home due to the pandemic and suspected health concerns over coronavirus, double our predicted number.    Will the “rule of six” have an impact on troubled pupils?  Social isolation is best alleviated by the quality of relationships, rather than the quantity, so the rule of 6 is not likely to have a significant impact, I would think. But of course there could be instances where some children are left out of birthdays or events, which could lead to feelings of isolation. 

Hypnotherapy’s role in child mental health

Leah Walsh from Inspired Minds Hypnotherapy discusses the technique's use on child mental health

Leah Walsh, from Inspired Minds Hypnotherapy, discusses how hypnotherapy sessions for children differ from adult sessions and addresses the questions parents may have around this form of child mental health therapy… Around half of all lifetime mental health problems start by the mid-teens, and three-quarters by the mid-20s, although treatment typically does not start until a number of years later. The most recent survey of the mental health of children and young people in England found that 12.5% of 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed (2017), and 5% met the criteria for 2 or more mental disorders.  An increase in child mental health issues  The prevalence of mental health issues in children and young people has shown a slight but steady increase in the past few years but sadly the access to services has not kept up with the needs. Services such as CAMHS have lengthy waiting lists and whilst they do their best to manage the needs with the resources they have, when a family feels they have reached a crisis point, waiting for months for an appointment is not always an option and parents are looking more towards private practices for help.  Having been one of those parents, I decided when I got into hypnotherapy that one of the areas I wanted to focus on was working with children. I felt it was important that parents had another option available.  The popularity of hypnotherapy in children is on the increase and whilst it’s a specialised and challenging area to work in, it’s also greatly rewarding. Using hypnotherapy with children is a vastly different approach – they’re not mini adults and the usual rules don’t apply. Of course, hypnotherapy is not just used to tackle mental health problems and clients are often surprised what it can be used for. From fussy eating (including SED/ARFID) to bed-wetting, tics, stutters and so much more, the problems which hypnotherapy can solve are endless.  So how is it done?  Parents often have questions such as: “What’s it like for a child to be in a trance?”, “Is it like mind control?” and “Is it dangerous or harmful?” Using hypnosis with a younger child is best described as the child almost being in a daydream, similar to role playing or reading a story and encouraging their minds to wander whilst tapping into their wonderful imaginative flow.  This is the kind of activity that children are used to and comfortable with, so they immediately start to remove the barriers. There are no traditional inductions used to bring about a trance – children are fidgety and wriggly during hypnotherapy sessions and often their eyes are open and they’re very engaged. Hypnotherapy of this kind is carried out using stories and metaphors. I can put them at the centre of an adventure, use magical places they know of or characters they like.  Metaphors within hypnotherapy are much like fables and are a highly effective tool to use. Children are often primed to understand fables as they are well used at school and they find it easy to allow their mind to subconsciously seek out hidden messages and meanings. More importantly, metaphors allow a hypnotherapist to deal with an issue that might be sensitive or distressing to the child without even mentioning it. No talking about the issues, no expectations for the child to talk about their feelings or engage in talking with a therapist, just a magical escape with the most wonderful benefits.    Leah Walsh HPD PNLP MNCH (Reg.) is a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, working with both children and adults in the North West. Find out more at    

Supporting students through adverse childhood experiences

EduCare's Dawn Jotham on adverse childhood experiences

Supporting pupils’ behaviour and wellbeing is receiving more attention in education settings, in part, due to Ofsted’s new inspection framework. Amidst this, is a new approach to helping students that reframes blame in a way that looks beyond the school gates and considers why a student may be behaving a certain way. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, is a prime example of this, and here Dawn Jotham, pastoral care specialist at EduCare, provides foundational knowledge and ways in which teachers and staff can best support students.   Understanding ACEs Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, is used to describe highly stressful, and potentially traumatic events that may occur during childhood or adolescence. This can be a single event or prolonged and repeated threats and breaches of a young person’s safety, security, trust or bodily integrity. Additionally, ACEs can be experienced by a young person both directly and indirectly. Direct experiences include physical, sexual and verbal abuse as well as emotional and physical neglect, while indirect experiences can occur in environments where there is domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental illness, parental separation and/or parental imprisonment. That said, as research continues, other contributing factors have also been identified such as bereavement, bullying, poverty and racism. Adverse childhood experiences cover a broad spectrum of events however, an awareness of all triggers empowers staff to be mindful of vulnerable students and prompt the necessary safeguarding protocol. It may seem like an overwhelming list, but not educating teachers and staff of the risk factors can have significant detrimental effects. Many people who experience ACEs go on to live stable lives but providing support increases the likelihood of this outcome with those less fortunate experiencing negative flow-on effects to their education, aspirations and health.   Taking action  The most effective response to ACEs is multipronged – students need the opportunity to learn the skills that will help them overcome traumas, while teachers and staff should be taught how to best support these students.   For example, key factors involved in the development and growth of a child include: • Developing positive relationships with adults • Being encouraged to self-regulate emotions • Developing a positive sense of self and self-esteem.   Another key trait is resilience – the ability of a young person to develop and succeed in the face of stress and adversity. It is, in essence, being able to maintain positive wellbeing and when successfully developed it is often the lynchpin of healthy self-esteem, trust, and the ability to act in one’s best interest. Arguably, resilience is often best developed by witnessing it in others so it is important to provide young people with good examples of using support networks – be that family, friends, or teachers; developing strong communication skills; and an understanding that they are valued and respected by their community. Additionally, teachers and staff can provide effective support by listening to the student concerned. Listening – it sounds easy, but many people get it wrong and it is crucial in supporting providing support. With this in mind, teachers and staff are encouraged to: • Create a safe space for sharing • Listen patiently • Be empathic and calm, whilst providing an environment free from judgement.   To this end, it’s also important that staff adopt a more holistic approach to supporting students – that is a consideration of the wider issues at play. For example, consider why a student may be behaving a certain way. This approach is not only designed to reveal the causal factors but also ensures the focus remains on effectively supporting the wellbeing of students by reframing blame to position the child as someone who has endured a trauma.

Raising child self-esteem takes patience

The Unravel team help to raise child self-esteem

Andrea Chatten, the founder of mental health service Unravel, is the Lead Children’s Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist and author of The Blinks novels. Here, she discusses raising child self-esteem and its effect on behaviour… I have always been fascinated in children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties. Starting out as a teacher, I recognised that, although it was my role to educate them in maths, English and the ten plus subjects that they needed to be taught, but these children needed more. I felt passionate and committed to help these children understand some of the difficult and complex feelings that they were experiencing, and which hugely affected their well-being.  No matter how clever they had the potential to be, unless they received lots of emotional understanding and different ways of doing things, these kids could miss out on the most important thing we want for children – happiness.  When I became a parent I found myself challenged with the level of responsibility and pressure to ensure that my children did not become as emotionally vulnerable as some of the children who I had worked with for many years. Parenting was by far the most difficult job that I had done as it was the most important. Don’t get me wrong the love and commitment I had for my class really wasn’t much different to what I felt for my own children but this role was about me helping my children evolve from the blank canvas that they were born as. As parents, carers and teachers, we are fundamental in how our child’s canvas develops. How much colour is present? How much grey? How the colours are dispersed, how bright those colours are and more importantly how appealing the final product is within our culture. Raising children with good self-esteem takes patience, huge, regular bundles of patience, as children translate patience into love. Patience means being gentle. Patience makes us listen more actively. Patience means we find time in this crazy fast world to stop and just be in the moment with our children. This love then becomes locked away inside of children and activates a core message that runs through them like a stick of rock. In order for children to develop a good level of self-esteem the message needs to be positive – “I am ok. I’m not perfect, I have faults but I am ok. I am worthy of love.” Reading this may make you feel pressured as it is your job and you, like every champion of the children in your care has made mistakes. You too just need to be ok, not perfect, you have flaws and bad days too. I had to have a serious word with myself when both my children were small. Coping day to day with sleep deprivation, a hungry breastfeeding baby and a toddler was tough. Some days I was not the best Mum. As I had only ever worked with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, it seemed so easy to mess up children and damage their self-esteem. Please let me reassure you now it isn’t that easy. Long term damage to self-esteem develops over time. Not from a bad day here and there, though how we re-engage with our child afterwards is essential. Apologies and explanations mean we take responsibility for negative actions and don’t leave them with the child. It also means that we model real emotions and make mistakes a normal part of being human.  If we don’t re-connect emotionally afterwards, that can make children feel like it is their fault and they aren’t good enough. It is this internal dialogue that can begin the spiral of low self-esteem. Children’s self-esteem starts with us. We have to find as many ways to show children that we not only love them but like them. Also, it is essential that if our children have pushed us into going off them, that this stage is only ever temporary and we the adults get back on them as soon as possible. Children are highly sensitive to this emotional withdrawal and that too fosters low self-esteem. Raising children with good self-esteem is not difficult if we practise positive interactions and keep reflecting throughout the process. None us are perfect but with love, patience, and emotional warmth our children’s canvases can be bright, colourful and most of all happy.   Top tips to help support your child’s emotional well-being  1. Get in sync – emotional connection is key. It is normal to disconnect with our children, life is demanding. However, when children don’t feel positively connected to us, it impacts on their well-being which is often communicated by negative behaviours 2. Communicate as much as possible from as early as possible. Talking with each other is how we learn, and problem solve, and it starts younger than we once thought. If you want to be having meaningful conversations with your teenager’s start being open and honest when they are two or three. 3. Listen to what your children tell you – they will teach us. It can be difficult hearing hurtful things from our children, but they are telling us what they need. Don’t hear what they say actively listen. 4. Avoid general praise – be specific. Avoid using words like good and bad with kids. This can negatively impact on identity and well-being. Instead reward and praise the action, progress or value. They are less likely to reject this kind of praise and it fosters healthier self-esteem 5. Keep reflecting. The only difference between a positive parent and a negative parent is reflection. It certainly won’t stop us making mistakes, but we might make fewer mistakes and certainly not keep making the same ones! 6. Help children to name and claim emotions. Our emotions are designed to keep us alive. We must acknowledge them otherwise the brain will turn the volume up on them meaning we feel emotions much more intensely. Once we name them our brain relaxes in the hope, we will then do something about it. 7. Help your child challenge their

Exam stress in students – how to plan for success

Murray Morrison – founder of the Tassomai app, on reducing exam stress

Revision expert and founder of the Tassomai learning program, Murray Morrison has helped thousands of students to prepare for exams. Here he explains how managing stress is the key to success. If you can spot the signs early, then there’s time to make the difference… The underlying theme of nearly every revision session I taught was to emphasise the importance of knowledge. But it wasn’t knowledge of all the facts on the syllabus – it was knowledge of self. Where are your gaps? Where are your strongest topics? Which ones are the priority to fix? When – and how – are we going to tackle them? Seeing stress in students was something I was very used to: many of my students were referred to me by psychotherapists specialising in teen anxiety. My job as I saw it was not to spoon-feed them with lessons and tutoring, rather it was to show them how to self-regulate, put together a plan that was manageable, attainable and sustainable and help them to execute it by themselves.   Among the myriad troubles a teenager faces, exams or the preparation for them is a big one. At the crux of it is the issue of not knowing what they don’t know: this builds a nebulous dread, recognising that there’s work to do but not knowing where to start. Conversely, students also not knowing what they do know is a problem: they often know more than they think, and are missing out on giving themselves a little confidence-building credit. This is the foundation of the software I built, Tassomai – by using adaptive quizzing with immediate feedback, students can build a practice routine that helps them quickly find gaps and fill them – and do so without relying too much on outside help. But that’s just one part of what’s needed for a truly healthy revision program. If schools are trying to support parents in helping their children’s revision, I’d advise they give the following advice: recognise the signs, open up communications, go through the textbooks and syllabuses together to map out where the problems are, and help them to put together a plan for success. First, can parents recognise the signs of revision stress in amongst the normal behaviours of a teenager? Avoidance Students who, when exams or revision are mentioned, bury their heads in the sand are displaying classic avoidance behaviour. They might change the subject completely, or they might find a subtle excuse to get out of the room and stop the conversation. Do not waste time in confronting this behaviour. Revision-avoiders need to make a plan and they will need a bit of help to do it. Avoiding the problem means that revision work will pile up and stress will increase. Confronting it, though mildly traumatic at first, will defuse the situation and they can start to feel like their work will genuinely bear fruit. Aggression With similar motivations to the avoidance tactics, but dealing with the stress a little more aggressively, acting spikily, shouting or slamming doors and storming out. The approach must be similar – conversation, a bit of analysis together and putting a plan of work together – but proceed with caution to avoid damaging the chances of progress. Have faith however, that by doing the initial work, the underlying issues that caused the aggressive behaviour will dissolve a little, and life for all will be much more agreeable. Overworking Seeing this behaviour you might initially count yourself lucky or feel there’s no problem. Students who keep themselves busy, who are motivated and diligent and who stay up late revising with extra practice papers may seem to be on top of it all.  However, this behaviour may indicate a lack of confidence and a tendency to worry. Take time to make sure that they’re addressing everything they need to focus on. Overworkers have been known to keep revising their best subjects and hide the problem areas out of mind. Make sure also that they’re keeping things in perspective – they might benefit from limited or regulated revision times and a bit more time for R&R. Passivity  A problem among higher-achievers – some students seem to have it all under control, but whenever you look at them, they’re lying around not doing much. It can be hard, if you’ve never struggled in school to know how to ask for help – or from whom. Talk to them to find out whether they are truly feeling positive. Acknowledge that they’ve been doing very well so far, but ask if there aren’t just one or two things they’d like to get help with. If nothing else, a couple of practice papers to get them fit and ready for the big day might be positive. It could justify the confidence or reveal one or two topics for final polish. Distraction Finally, that student who spends much of their revision time on seemingly highly-productive but not-terribly-useful work. In exam stress terms, this is the student who is always very busy with superficial tasks like colouring in notes or organising files and revision plans. This feels like a combination of overworking and avoidance – but students with this profile are in a sense well ahead of the curve, because their notes will be brilliantly organised and ready. Nevertheless, they would benefit enormously from some outside help: work constructively to set a goal for each revision session, and check in regularly to track what has been achieved and how valuable the session was, and find a way to chart that information so that they can see how far they’ve come. All students, whether they conform to these examples or not, are likely to improve their psychological preparedness for exams with a few straightforward actions, and these are done most healthily if parents or friends are able to support. The single best thing to be done in dealing with exam stress is to work out quickly where the strengths and the weaknesses lie in each subject, make a plan around that analysis and constantly check and