St Thomas à Becket Catholic Secondary School

A Voluntary Academy


Helping your young person through their GCSE Years

18th Sep 2019

As you journey with your Year 11 or Year 10 through their GCSE courses, some facts and advice to reassure and support you in your crucial parenting role.


Attendance really matters

The analysis of our GCSE results from this summer is in line with national research: pupils with attendance of 91-95% (that’s only an average absence of 1 day per fortnight) in Years 10 and 11 score between one and two grades lower at the end of Year 11 across all GCSE subjects than pupils of a similar ability with attendance above 95%.  Those with attendance below 90% score at least 2 grades lower

93% attendance might sound acceptable to a teenager but the impact on their outcomes is potentially catastrophic. Making sure your young adult attends is one of the most important things you can do to help them fulfil their potential. The content of the new GCSEs is so high that a day missed can be the difference between grades.


Sleep is vital

Science and neuro-science have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that teenagers need more sleep than adults because their brain and their bodies are evolving. Your young person needs at least 8 full hours of sleep to function properly.

Young people who do not achieve this are more likely to miss school, to become ill more often, to suffer from poorer mental and emotional health and as a consequence, to underperform in examinations.

Making sure they have a good “school night” bedtime routine and that they are actually ready for sleep at least 8 hours before the alarm clock goes off is really important.

We know that the blue light emitted from gadgets such as mobile phones and ipads interferes with the brain’s sleep chemicals and doctors and scientists are clear that these gadgets should be put away an hour before we want to sleep (which means they can’t be used as an alarm clock as notifications – and that harmful blue light – continue through the night). Research and experience tells us that many teens are checking their social media through the night – causing very poor sleep, which has a huge negative impact.

Encouraging good bed time routines and discouraging electronic gadgets at bedtime and especially in the bedroom through the night, is incredibly important. You’ve been right all along, despite what your child might say – and the science backs you up!


Healthy eating

Eating well is good for the body but just as important for the brain. Your young adult’s mental and emotional wellbeing as well as their learning are directly impacted by their diet.

Breakfast – many teens are breakfast-avoiders but we know that not eating until later means that the brain isn’t functioning properly in the morning. By the time we get to break time at school, we have taught 2 of our 5 daily lessons – and they have therefore missed full engagement with 40% of that day’s learning. The last thing you or they need is to start the day with conflict, but do encourage them to have something – a piece of toast, a banana, even just a glass of milk. The worst thing they can do is buy a can of highly caffeinated drink on the way to school – it may make them feel lifted, but it’s a false sensation. There’s no real nutrition feeding their body and brain and they’ll quickly slump after the initial caffeine kick.

Healthy choices - both you and we keep telling our young people that they (and all of us) need a balanced diet. We’ve just got to keep that positive message going.


Ask about their learning day

Not only is this a signal to them of how genuinely engaged and supportive you are in their learning and a subtle reminder to them that learning is interesting and important, it’s a really good way to help them revise* and embed learning and/or to help them identify and articulate any areas of misunderstanding. NB You DO NOT need to understand or know everything they’re learning.

When you ask them what they’ve learned in maths or English or science, they need to bring that information to the surface of their brain. In itself, that’s a form of revision* and helps that learning to “stick” long term. If they can explain it to you in a little more detail, that helps even more.(*Be assured that we explicitly teach your child revision skills throughout KS4 and especially in Year 11.)

If they haven’t understood something or have already forgotten it, that’s really important to know as the next lesson will almost certainly build on this one; please encourage them to see their teacher as soon as possible when they’re back in school or contact us yourself and let us know.

Whether they’ve missed or misunderstood a point because they weren’t focused enough or because they simply haven’t been able to “get it”, we want to work with them - and you – to correct that so they can move on successfully and confidently.


Well Equipped

Perhaps the simplest support you can give is to make sure they have pens and any other basic equipment they need and to buy the (low cost - high value) revision guides we recommend (NB For those who need it we will offer financial support with this via the Pupil Premium fund)


Dealing with exam stress

Advice for students;



Advice for parents;


In all, good parenting – that precious and vital balance of love and boundaries – is the best support you can give your child to help them succeed – what you already know and do IS GOOD ENOUGH. Keep in touch with us, especially if you have any concerns about your child’s learning or emotions around exam stress or if we can work together in any other way to support your child.


Helping your young person through their GCSE Years


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A voluntary academy. A member of the Bishop Konstant Catholic Academy Trust.

The Bishop Konstant Catholic Academy Trust is an exempt charity regulated by the Secretary of State for Education. It is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, company number 8253770, whose registered office is at The Zucchi Suite, Nostell Business Estate, Nostell, Wakefield WF4 1AB.