Time for GCSE Maths mocks

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Yes, it is that time of year isn’t it? Most schools will be holding the mock exams for Year 11 in December. Some will already have taken them and I know that there are schools that will have mock exams in January.

It doesn’t really matter which of these dates the schools hold their mocks on for the purpose of this article. I am going to focus on the mock exam, Mathematics in particular and the actions that arise from this event.

First of all let’s look at the purpose of mock exams.

As a student it tells me how I am doing and gives me the experience of sitting in an exam hall. During the build up I may have revised and it will give me an opportunity to evaluate how effective this has been.

As a teacher it is a very powerful way of assessing where the individual is and where my class on the whole are in their application of the learning. It will show me in general where there are common points for improvement and where the strengths are. I can focus on any misconceptions that have arisen and work at sorting them out.

As a Head of Maths mocks give me an insight into how the whole year are doing and if we are likely to achieve our target. I have time to put support into place for those students and teachers who may need it.

As an Assistant Headteacher the results of the mocks would form a basis for my line management meetings with the Head of Maths. We would form a strategy for achieving our target and this action plan would be a working document that would be monitored.

This is a brief guide and I could add lots more. Of course it may be different in many schools. This paints a picture of how it has been or should have been in schools that I have known or worked in. I must add that schools have much more data on their children to inform their judgements.

Now, I am a parent and I see my child in the run up to the mocks. I know when they are because I have a copy of the school calendar. The school also send me emails and texts to remind me. I ask about the mocks and my child reassures me. There can be many reasons here that may range from going to revision classes, working with a friend to working in their room every evening. The level of engagement will vary according to the individual.

Year 11 can be such a stressful time for parents. You want your child to do well and can only go off the information that you are given at that time.

Mock results day. Some schools will give results out just as if the exams were the real thing. Time for joy or tears? Joy is good – remember that feeling and don’t become complacent. I always say that complacency is like a sleeping crocodile. It can bit you when you are not prepared. I believe that crocodiles sleep with one eye open. Tears are sad. The job now is to find out why and to move on looking for improvement as we go.

Often a Parents’ Evening will follow and it is your chance to meet the Teacher. How long do you get? Five minutes? There could be a class of 30 students so work out 30 multiplied by 5 minutes. Well, I work it out to be 150 minutes or 2 hours 30 minutes. If the Parents’ Evening starts at 4pm then it will end at 6:30pm. This is not at all realistic because some Parents will take up more than 5 minutes. The teacher may also have two Year 11 classes. I have had many late Parents’ Evenings, which have been great but exhausting.

The teacher will try to tell you as much as they can within the 5 minute slot and you will ask questions. What do you want to know? Write down questions before hand. You may ask how you can support your child with their Maths. Many Parents will ask this knowing full well that they may not have the subject knowledge. Even when they do I have heard, “They do Maths differently to when I was at school”. Despair can quickly set in and Parents can feel totally helpless. This can be an awful feeling.

Many schools do a great job and I have met so many dedicated Teachers who don’t just do their job. They go the extra mile and will support their students so that they do achieve their potential. I have done this as a Teacher, a Head of Maths and an Assistant Headteacher. I always believed that ‘Every Lesson Matters’, and ‘Every Minute Matters’. The education of every student is a partnership and Parents do want to be involved. Schools do involve Parents in this journey to success, so what more can be done?

One thing that I have always encouraged is when a child gets a tutor. When this has happened to me as a Teacher I have welcomed it because it shows a statement of intent  by Parents. Of course I need to know that the tutor is going to reinforce the work that I am doing and will not undermine me. That has never happened. I have also wanted to know that the tutor has qualifications because any bad education can do damage and I care about my students. I have been able to send tests home with the student and the tutors have worked with me to improve understanding.

The point to make now is, “Why wait until the mocks?

The sooner that you start with tuition the better. When I tutor someone I can give feedback whenever the Parent wants it. I can highlight areas that need to be built up and we can practise those difficult topics. In the space of one hour I can cover much more than a Teacher will do because we will be focussed for the duration of the lesson. If I detect a misunderstanding then I will correct it and keep checking to see that it stays corrected.

All of my students increase in confidence and many start to enjoy doing the Maths. As they find their understanding improving they see their test results improve and this has such a positive effect. I have had students who are exceptional and even they benefit by the challenges that I set them.

I do advocate tuition, which is why I am now a Maths Tutor. However, I am a Maths Tutor with a difference. I am an Online Maths Tutor which means that I can tutor anyone in the world. All that they need is a computer with a webcam and a mouse. The mouse is used for writing on my electronic paper and some students may use a drawing tablet. Headphones would be good because they will stop any distracting noises. Finally they will need a good internet connection, otherwise we can get crackling on the audio.

I believe that tuition gets results and what better way to do it than online? No one has to travel anywhere and I have so may online resources that help me, which I would not have if I traveled to students’ houses. I can copy and paste work into the electronic paper and see the student write on the paper. The whole session can then be saved as a pdf and emailed to them.

Why wait for the mocks? Be proactive and contact me know. Join me in the future of Global Online Maths Tutoring.

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