Before lock-down, I’d been very reticent about online teaching – feeling that it was of a lesser quality to the ‘gold-standard’ of face-to-face tuition. However, I’ve now found myself completely sold on this new way of working.
Firstly, it must be said that our already amazing tutors have been nothing short of stunning, delivering superb lessons for our students, using the latest software and screen-sharing options. I think this is working well for the following reasons:
Many students are very happy online and we find they are more focused on the tutor, so more intensive work is completed.
Our tutors report that students are fully ready for them at the appointed time, meaning that they get more tuition in the allotted time.
We’re able to put the tutor best suited to work with the student, rather than the very best tutor who can travel to them.
Our tutors can help more students overall because they’re travelling less, so can deliver more lessons.
However, face-to-face tuition is still a great option for many students and with the appropriate social distancing is continuing to work well. In fact, for some students, for example, students who are out of school for health or behaviour reasons (alternative provision) it’s often the only option that will work effectively.
Whilst we don’t know if we’ll be faced with a national or multiple local lock-downs, moving forward, it’s reassuring for us at Tutor My Kids to know that we can accommodate most options.
Many students will be affected by the Coronavirus school shutdowns. Looking at the latest information from the government, there will be a small number of year groups (Reception, year 1 and year 6) potentially returning to school after half term in early June. And only the following on secondary students and A level students: “Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.”
Biggest Impacts – Year 10 and year 12
At Tutor My Kids, we’re looking at where we see the biggest impacts on students.
First and foremost, we foresee that the current year 10 and year 12s will be the hardest affected.
For year 10s and year 12s, at the moment they’ve missed almost a third of this academic year (getting close to 1 whole term). When you look at the entire GCSE or A level course of 5 terms, this makes 1/5th or 20% of their entire GCSE or A level courses missed.
Given the amount that has to be covered, it’s hard to ensure that all the topics are covered in a normal school year. We think this will be doubly hard with such a lot of time lost and leave massive gaps in the learning of many year 10s and year 12s.
Many schools are providing some good input for these students, but it’s not quite the same as being in school and not all students are taking advantage of the lessons and resources that are being provided. I think that there is a lack of understanding of this problem with many parents and students.
Year 5s impacted
In the same way the year 5s will be the next largest year group to be affected.
The primary school curriculum is so full that it is also tough to get children to the right level in time for year 6 SATs, especially those who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
I was surprised that the government had proposed returning year 6s to school (unless to help ‘babysit’ the reception and year 1 students). The gaps that they have, will (in most cases) be made up in year 7 as they transition into their secondary schools.
I appreciate that students in year 5 have many years to catch up, but in reality, many primary school gaps in spelling, punctuation and basic maths remain uncorrected at secondary school as the curriculum moves rapidly onto secondary topics, with the assumption that these basic topics are secure.
What can you do to help?
First and foremost, regardless of their year group, take advantage of the resources that their schools are offering – be it remote lessons, links to learning, work set. One of our tutors has been putting together some amazing resources. See Mission-to-the-moon/ This is a great multi-subject topic block for primary aged children.
I know this is incredibly difficult for parents who are juggling work, caring for younger children, so do what you can. No one is expecting you to replace 5 hours of teaching each day! However, IF you’re schedule enables it, an hour a day is a massive help. See How-much-difference-can-an-hour-of-one-to-one-tuition-make/
Can you either remotely now, or face to face later, team up with other parents who can help with the maths, whilst you help out their kids with the English?
Get a tutor – either now or after lockdown. We’re quite busy at the moment, helping out students remotely, and anticipate that we’ll be called upon to help out during the summer (hopefully face to face by then) to help fill gaps ahead of the next academic year in September. Take a look at our ‘For Parents’ page for more details – For Parents.
At Tutor My Kids, tutors in Cambridgeshire, a maths assessment is a usual part of our process of putting in the right tutor for your child. It enables us to assess your child’s abilities, their maths gaps and how they approach their work. The importance of getting the right tutor in terms of personality and approach, who will bring out the best in your child is, in our opinion, an integral part of getting the best tutor for your child.
Whether your child is struggling with the basics or the more advanced work makes a huge difference in finding the best maths tutor for them. A strong mathematician may benefit from a tutor who can really question and stretch them, whilst an underconfident student needs a much more gentle, encouraging approach. Establishing this can make the all the difference between ‘ok’ tutoring and exceptional tutoring.
Establishing where your child is with their learning
How confident a student is with their maths is a key determiner to the kind of tutor who will work best with them. Students who are working on the higher paper and are looking to get the best grades for sixth form, invariably need a supportive approach, but one which challenges them to think strategically to tackle the type of questions at level 8/9. A student who has always thought of themselves as a weak mathematician will need someone who can fill in missing gaps, gently, to raise their confidence and enable them to gain the marks they need to pass their GCSE maths. The new GCSE exams need a particular set of skills – see What’s different about the new GCSEs and what skills are needed? Whilst dyscalculia is rare, it can be a problem. At Tutor My Kids, we do offer dyscalculia screening. Take a look at How dyscalculia screening helped a parent. So, it’s absolutely key to establish where your child is with their learning. Then we can look at the personality match between the student and the tutor.
Getting the personality match right
At Tutor My Kids, we think that getting the right personality match for your child is absolutely key to great tuition. We always meet you and your child in your home, to get a feel for your home ‘culture’ and your child’s personality. We establish what kind of approach will best support your child. We meet all our tutors at Tutor My Kids face to face and know the kind of students that they most prefer to work with – some love pushing the most able students, others simply adore helping the students that don’t ‘get’ maths. This joint knowledge and personal approach helps us to get the best possible match of tutor for your child and your family.
Putting it all together
This is where the magic happens. We put together your child’s level, approach to learning, confidence and personality and bingo we get a great tutor matched to your child to help and support them in their goals. It’s brilliant when we get this right! Student’s simply fly! See our client testimonials and tutor testimonials for a taste of this.
If you’d like more information on tutors in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket and Huntingdon, take a look at our For Parents page, email Rachel or call Rachel on 01223 858421.
If you’re a teacher interested in finding out how to join our amazing team and working with really well assessed students, please take a look at our For Tutors page, email Rachel or give her a call on 01223 858421.
There are several differences to the new GCSEs. Aside from the new grading system, they’re harder, require students to learn the whole curriculum for the end exams, need students to apply their knowledge to problems and remember quotes, technical terms and formulae. This needs a different set of skills from the old GCSEs.
Memory and retention
The new GCSEs require students to use the correct technical vocabulary for the subject, as well as remembering quotes and formulae. A mark would be awarded for correctly using the term osmosis or reacting, whereas more general terms such as mixing, combining would not score. Fomulae for maths and science equations (such as an area of a circle) are no longer provided, so students need to learn these by heart. Quotes from books must also be learnt verbatim for English and history. This requires students to have strategies and study skills that will help them commit these elements to memory.
Resilience and repetition
The new exams have end exams which tests all the knowledge learnt across the whole GCSE course. Previously, many subjects had end of unit tests – several tests across the year testing a specific block of learning, which required less information to be learnt for each test. This means that students are expected to know topics that they learnt in Sept of year 10 as well as those taught just before the exam. This approach also expects that students will be able to use and apply their knowledge across topics in one problem, so a question may require students to demonstrate a knowledge of trigonometry and ratio within one question. Students need to have the discipline and techniques to ensure that they’re revisiting and revising topics as they progress through the curriculum.
More advanced skills
Without doubt, the new exams are harder. There is content in the higher maths tier that was previously in the A level syllabus and topics in the foundation tier that were in the higher tier of the old GCSEs. For the new English GCSE, students are expected to be able to discuss why the author has used certain techniques – this is a completely new skill to students, never tested before. Understanding the historical context of books studied is expected to be at a higher level than previously needed. All these require students to be able to take on board this higher level of thinking and analysis.
Applying the knowledge
Learning the topics well, however, certainly is not enough – the new GCSEs require students to demonstrate that they can apply their knowledge to problems set in the questions. Students are expected to be able to discuss why Priestley set An Inspector Calls before the first world war, when it was written after and how his political viewpoint informed his writing. Maths students are needed to be able to apply the fomulae that they’ve learnt to worded problems, such as Calculate the height of a building, given various angles and distances, without explicitly being told to use trigonometry. Science students need to demonstrate how science applies to real-life issues such as the environment. This is a step on and above from students learning and recalling key facts.
How can I help my child?
There are several key areas that can help your child succeed at the new GCSEs. Firstly, really good subject knowledge is absolutely key – encourage your kids to do their homework to ensure understanding of topics and take advantage of any after-school or lunchtime drop-in sessions. Relearning and revisiting of a topic – essentially making revision notes can become a great resource to refresh learning and ensure topics are not forgotten. Look at techniques for committing quotes, formuale and technical vocab to memory – whatever works for your child – mind mapping, revision cards etc. Reading around the topic, taking full advantage of any supplementary materials from school and practice papers can help with applying the knowledge. There’s a lot to fit in, so encourage and help your kids to start with some of these techniques early.
Would a tutor help?
At Tutor My Kids, our tutors in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket, St Ives and Huntingdon, support students in many ways, but almost always include subject knowledge, help to apply that knowledge and study skills. For more info on GCSE exams and tuition in Cambridgeshire, please click the link, email Rachel or call her on 01223 858421 for an informal chat.
The new GCSEs are now in place. The new exams and grading system for maths, English Language and Literature was introduced for the exams in summer 2017. The remained subjects joined them for 2018.
The exams are new and having a new grading system helps employers to identify that students have studied this more challenging exam. It’s a very visual way of signalling this change in the education system.
Grades 9 is there to show the students who have exceeded the old A* grade. Grade 7 is an A, grade 8 a strong A.
Grade 6 is a B
Grade 4 is a C – a standard pass, with grade 5 being a strong pass.
Grade 3 is between a D and an E, grade 2 between an E and an F, grade 1 between an F and a G. Grade U (ungraded) remains unchanged.
So, a grade 4 and above is a pass.
At the moment, grade 4 is a pass and I think it’s realistic to expect it to stay so for the moment, but given the focus on improving our rankings in the international edcuational league tables, I think it’s entirely possible that this may change and 5 may become the official pass mark. However, given the movement of grade boundaries in 2018 to ensure pass rates remain consistent with previous years whilst the new exams bed in, I think this will be some years hence.
It can be quite difficult to spot that your child needs help coming up to their GCSEs or A levels; they want to be independent and frankly don’t always know they need help. Tutor My Kids offers some pointers to help decide.
Ask the question.
It’s always worth asking your teenager which subjects they’re finding hard – it may be the subject matter, the way it’s taught or how well they get on with their teacher. It’s worth asking the question of school too. Schools and colleges are pretty direct these days – many teachers will say if they think a private tutor may help.
Mock results are invariably below the grades your child will get, because they’ve got another 6 months+ to go at this point, but if they’re significantly different from the result they were expecting, it could be helpful to get a private tutor to help with GCSEs or A levels. If your child has any learning difficulties, it’s also worth asking if they can get extra time in the exams. Take a look at Could my child get extra time for GCSEs and A levels?
What grades do they need?
The government are now insisting all students get GCSE maths and English and it certainly easier to get these done in year 11 with the other GCSEs, than have them hanging over into year 12 or 13. Take a look at the new GCSE grades for information on the new grading systems.
Does your child need a specific grade to get into their sixth form, university or apprenticeship choice?
How can a private tutor help?
A private GCSE or A level tutor can help in all sorts of ways. Firstly they can help with subject knowledge – filling in any gaps which your child has not fully understood. Secondly, they can advise on where to pick up marks. Many of our tutors also mark or set exam papers, so have a really good understanding of where marks can be gained and lost. Finally, confidence should not be underestimated, a student who is confident of his or her abilities is invariably calmer and more relaxed going into the exams, which means they’ll suffer less from exam anxiety and perform better.
When is the right time to get help from a private tutor?
Whilst it is always good to be guided by your child and by school, as a provider of private A level and GCSE tutors in Cambridge and surrounding areas, at Tutor My Kids we’re also aware that availability of good tutors drops rapidly the closer it gets to the exams.
They’re in year 10 – is this too early?
This depends on your child. If they’re very far behind the grade that they need in year 11, they may well be value in finding a private tutor in year 10.
How do I find a good tutor?
At Tutor My Kids we’re biased, but we think that teachers make the best private tutors. Almost all our private tutors in the Cambridgeshire area are teachers. Teachers know how to put across the information well; it’s what they do everyday. We also believe that the personality fit between the tutor and student is as important as their subject knowledge, so we always visit our clients personally and always interview our tutors face to face to ensure a great match. Personal recommendation is always a good way to find a good tutor and we’re always delighted by how many of our clients recommend us to their friends and colleagues. And of course, our tutors are all DBS checked.
If you’re sourcing a tutor yourself, do ask for testimonials from present or previous clients and check them out.
For more information, please email Rachel Law or call her for an informal chat on 01223 858421.
Since September 2014, a new curriculum has been taught in our primary schools which is requiring children to know more maths at an earlier age.
Maths is sequential
Because maths builds upon what children already know, kids without a thorough grasp of the earlier facts and calculation strategies are finding it hard to keep up.
For example, multiplication is being taught much earlier, with children needing to know their multiplication tables. For those children who are not yet absolutely sure on addition, moving onto repeated addition (multiplication) is proving very tough. There are children who know their times tables but lack the understanding that multiplication is about groups or sets of objects and therefore are at a disadvantage in applying this times table knowledge.
The present year 2 and year 6 (as of writing in March 15) are being examined on the old curriculum, so it’s the year 1s and 5s that are having the biggest adjustment with the other years having more time to learn the new material.
At Tutor My Kids, our maths tutors in Ely and Cambridge are helping children to fill in these gaps and enable children to learn better at school.