Never thought I’d have to revise for an exam again

A youngster solves a problem
A youngster solves a problem

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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As parents we need to learn a whole new vocabulary in order to communicate and understand our children.

No longer can we say ‘that’s cool and hip’ or ‘hey, what’s top of the hit parade?’ unless we are happy to see our children shrivelling like a prune with embarrassment, pulling a face like a terrified chimp and retreating to their rooms to seek solace with their Nintendo DS.

When I was a child the concept of a remote control seemed as space age as hover boards and eating meal pills instead of proper food.

So discussions about analogue sticks and multi-player server issues can send me into a downward spiral of technological depression.

And, to top it all, I don’t even find it very interesting.

But something that I am interested in and want to be a part of is how my children are getting on at school.

I have only just about figured out the national curriculum assessment levels (although my son’s school has chosen to use a completely different system, just to confuse me) so when I hear the words ‘course work’, ‘controlled assessment’ and ‘GCSEs’ I start to panic.

I am old enough to have taken O Levels and back then, through my rose-tinted spectacles, it seemed so much more straightforward.

You turned up for school for a couple of years, took mock exams to scare you into doing some work, then either bought the Letts Revision Guide to Jane Eyre or crammed the information in the two weeks before the actual exam.

Someone I know revised for their geography O Level on the bus on the way to the exam (although I would not recommend this as good exam practice).

You knew where you were with this system. And so did our parents.

They could put a mild amount of pressure on us to do homework throughout the year, or at least to spend less time poring over Smash Hits magazine, and then at the crucial exam time would scream at us ‘get on with some work or you’ll end up working at the pick ‘n’ mix at Woolworths’.

This usually did the trick, but at least the pressure, although intense, was for a much shorter period of time. And then we could get back to Smash Hits.

However I was shocked to discover just three weeks before the event that my daughter had to take a GCSE maths exam equating to a third of her total mark.

This was after just about nine weeks into her Year 10 year. Turns out that she also had an English exam the following day.

Now I wouldn’t normally advocate a policy of ‘more letters from schools’ but in this case I felt woefully under-informed about it, and had to rely upon the teenage mutterings of a 14-year-old girl who was under immense pressure to understand simultaneous equations and Gothic literature.

Of course then the horrendous moment occurred when I was asked to help her.

What? It was 25 years since I took my O Level maths and even then I wasn’t a mathematical genius!

Luckily, there is still a burgeoning market in revision guides so, for the second time in my life, I set about cramming.