A Level alert: walking on eggshells

Helping young people through exam season can be a tricky business…

It’s A Level season and parents have to tread carefully. In our house, the mocks have begun. I have to admit there were no visible signs of revision being done in the early part of the Christmas holidays. A lot of Netflix was consumed, however. I totally get the value of distraction and Christmas is a bad time of year for our family. I ventured a question about revision. Bad move. “Don’t you think my teachers put enough pressure on me already?” came the reply. I have changed tactic therefore and it’s all about tea and sympathy, with the least mention of exams possible. I’m talking a lot about the summer rather than my previous attempts to galvanise action by focusing on the need for a short burst of activity now to avoid having to resit the exams at some future date.

Parents do not come equipped with a psychology degree, but psychological nous is definitely an advantage. It’s not just about knowing what might work on some people. You have to know and try every tactic. Sometimes one tactic works at one time, but never again. Flexibility – as in work – matters.

On some days daughter three doesn’t utter a word [except to her peers who sit on her laptop for hours on end]. On other days she is very chatty and wants to talk excitedly about existentialism. On other days she feels like there is no point to anything at all. You need to gauge the mood very, very carefully.

Yesterday she phoned me from her room. “Can you bring my laptop up?” she asked. Normally, I would say get off your phone and get your own laptop [it is in fact her brother’s as her cast-off one broke down months ago and he is not too happy about her using it]. But she has been looking like a dark cloud is hanging over her for the last few days and has indeed started making revision notes. I took it up to her room. She was lying in bed looking grim. “Cup of tea?” I asked.

I went up later to tell her the news that Rishi Sunak would like her to do maths until she is 18. I thought it might provide a comedy moment. None of my kids likes maths. Daughter two asked to go to the secondary school that doesn’t do maths. I can see that, theoretically, understanding numbers and stuff could be useful for data analysis and financial planning, but I’ve glimpsed the GCSE maths syllabus and it doesn’t look like it would help with that stuff. Plus it seems like they are kind of suggesting that the cost of living crisis is due to people not being able to add up properly rather than not being paid enough to cover the basics or things like childcare.

Daughter three was not impressed, though slightly relieved that she would be long gone from school before that policy, if passed, ever sees the light of day. Only son, meanwhile, just can’t understand why adults are in charge of anything since they’ve screwed everything up so far.

Daughter three’s first mock was yesterday. It was one of her favourite subjects – sociology. Next week things go up a notch and all three subjects come into play. Daughter three says it doesn’t matter really because she has no idea what she wants to do and even if there’s going to be a world to do it in. In the meantime, I’m on tea duty.

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