Support for Year 11 pupils

Tonight, you’ve guessed it, we’ve been to an information evening at school, to prepare us all for Year 11 (my eldest son). We weren’t too sure what to expect, and there’s certainly a lot of information available to pupils and parents to support year 11 pupils make the best they can of the year ahead.

Parklands High SchoolMy son, I have to say, is already fed up with teachers telling him that this year is important, and “you know you’ve got exams coming up soon”. His reaction yesterday, on day 1, was, “do they really think we’re stupid and don’t know we’ve got GCSEs this year?”. I take his point!

Whilst I’m all for preparation, and understanding the process to give confidence to our young people, there’s also a point at which too much information, advice and support could tip the balance the other way. At the end of day 2, my son is at risk of ‘switching off’ from messages from his teachers, which I know isn’t their intention!

Far from it. Tonight the focus was all about support. The teachers were focused on the growth mindset, (again, this is a term my sons roll their eyes at, but they do understand the intention behind it), focusing on the year 11’s goals, and how best to study for maximum results.

The teachers openly told us that some year 11s are already telling teachers they are worried about the exams. They told us they have support in place to help those who feel pressured, or stressed this year; those who seem not to be taking GCSEs seriously at all, and all those in the middle. I believe them. The results the school achieved this year were excellent – English and Maths results were all above the national average. The school has confidence, and this is rubbing off on the young people.

We were pleased to see that when devising a study timetable that Extra-Curricular activities came top of the list, and to put those in the planner first. Yay! We’re on the same wavelength with school on that one.

The other really pleasing point, which my son won’t be happy about as it’s been an underlying point of dispute this last year, is that of the use of technology, particularly before bedtime. Despite all the research papers we’ve shown him, this backup from school, and their partner organisation Elevate Educate, can’t be ignored. Getting 8.5 hours sleep was seen as really important, and NOT drinking energy drinks. The speaker gave the statistic that if you drink an energy drink you’ll only retain 10% of the information you’re trying to learn….not worth the effort then?

Following on from yesterday’s post, the Greatest gift you can give your child, it’s great to see this support from school, supporting year 11 in a broader way than simply teaching subjects, and learning facts. I understand the new GCSEs are more about applying knowledge, rather than just being able to regurgitate information, and this wider support from school will help the young people to have the confidence to practice their understanding in new ways.

So, whilst no 1 son may feel there’s a lot of focus on “it’s an important year”, at home, we want to ensure he has the right support. The fact that school said, ” use any member of staff you feel happy and confident talking to”, if you have a concern, means the school are working together to offer a caring environment for the children there.

We hope all schools have this approach, or similar, to supporting year 11 pupils, prepare themselves for the year ahead. And we hope it’s a fun year for them all, and gives them lots of happy memories.

Any other advice or suggestions for supporting Year 11 pupils this year?

The greatest gift you can give your child

supporting your talented childI’m not always a facebook fan, but today they reminded me of this photo I’d taken 2 years ago at the TIPS programme, which is part of the School Games.

My eldest son is a talented athlete, and is currently training to be a Decathlete (athletics track and field – remember Daley Thompson? Or you’ve probably heard of Jess Ennis-Hill? Women do 7 events, and men do 10 events). Two years ago he was selected by his county to take part in the Talent Inspiration Programme, as part of the national School Games event.

As part of the 3 day event, parents were invited to attend a workshop, led by Olympian Miriam Luke, who is also now a Mum of 2. She was fabulous, and helped us understand what the young people had been discovering during their time on the programme – namely, that school work is more important than sport, and even though they may be top achievers in their teens, not many young people will go on and be top achievers in that sport in their adult life. [Obviously all sports are different, with elite gymasts being a lot younger, but you get the idea]. She herself didn’t take up her sport until University.

At the time, I took it all in, and as a family we learnt a lot, and have continued to maintain a balanced life and outlook on life.

Today it struck me, as a lot of children return to school, that these principles should be what all parents should be striving for anyway, isn’t it? Why are parents of other children, who aren’t labelled gifted and talented,  not given this same advice on how to best help our young people? Surely, if we re-wrote this as,

The greatest gift you can give your child is to give them your support, help them take responsibility, keep their life in balance and support their success.

The greatest gift you can give your child

The greatest gift you can give your childWould anyone argue with having a balanced life?

Would anyone argue with helping our young people take responsibility?

Is there anytime we wouldn’t celebrate their success?

I don’t think so. I think this should be a mantra for all parents to take on at the start of this new school year.

Is this the greatest gift you can give to your child?

My sportsman is growing up

We’ve just come back from a lovely family weekend, supporting no1 son at an athletics event. He competed in three events over the two days, and I was amazed at his maturity, which I want to share.

He’s always been a keen sportsman, and I’m sure his school friends will remember him as the one who always won things. We do have a plethora of medals, trophies and certificates, but we’ve always tried not to focus on that. It’s always been about the “taking part”, and “being part of a team”. However, as he gets older, and is focusing on one or two sports, it’s starting to get a bit more serious.

For someone who is used to winning things, he’s always struggled when he comes second, or doesn’t get through to a final. He will choose not to take part in something, rather than ‘know’ he can’t win it. I’m sure he’s not alone in this, but we still encourage being part of school teams, even in sports he doesn’t excel in. He’s even like this when we play Pass the Pigs, or Monopoly!

Daley Thompson and my sonHis main sport is athletics. Decathlon to be precise. Yes, that’s the 10 track and field events which Daley Thompson brought to our attention back in the 1980s. The thing with no1, is that he’s always been an all round sportsman. Good at everything, which is perfect for a combined eventer.

So, this weekend, having moved to a new age group, U17, his coach wanted him to compete in three individual events. He’s shown us that he’s growing up, and can see the long term picture. This is a new development for us to see from him, and I wanted to share that it can, and obviously does happen to our children, even when we doubt they’ll get there, let alone quickly, (in our eyes).

How do we know he’s growing up?

As usual, no1 set himself some goals for the events he was competing in. On day one, he didn’t achieve his goal for long jump, but what he did do, he decided, and then told us, was that he found some fairly consistent technique. From what we saw, he looked more relaxed overall.

Day 2, today, he competed in 200m, which he doesn’t have to do in his combined events. It was simply a training session, and he got a personal best, even with slowing down towards the line. He literally went straight from the end of the race to the high jump, where he achieved a personal best, a height higher than his goal for this event.

His telling comment when we left this afternoon, was, “no medals, but I’m happy”. Wow! That’s a big turn up for us all. He’s looking at each event as a stepping stone for his goal of getting to the Olympics in 2024. He knows he doesn’t need to win things now. As we were all reminded on Saturday, when Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill was presented with a momento by Northern Athletics, she came 15th in her first big competition. Yes, she went on to get lots of podium positions, and win lots of events, but not whilst she was learning her craft.

We believe, no1 is growing up, as he’s realising that everything he’s doing now is helping him to learn his craft. He has to learn to control his mind, and believe he can achieve. He has to learn how to cope when he doesn’t win everything, as it’s highly unlikely he’ll be the best at all 10 events in a decathlon. He has to learn that things don’t always go your way. You may not get the best preparation for one event. You may even have an injury, (we’ve been lucky up until now, and hope to remain injury free).

Helping our young people growing up

I’m sure there are numerous ways we can support our young people whilst they’re growing up. I know there’s a balance between boundaries and freedom to explore. We have to let our young people set their own goals, and believe in themselves. We always have to believe in them, and know that they are growing up. They are all learning from the world around them, those of us close by, and what they see and hear in the world.

We can’t protect our young people, but we can love them and care for them. We can help them realise their dreams, and believe in them. We must not put barriers in their way, but work with them to overcome any obstacles which may be perceived.

Let’s just hope this new found maturity spills over to all areas of no1 life, and what he learns from his sport, can be put into practice in other areas, where he doesn’t come first, but he can still succeed. If he believes in himself, and if he puts his mind to it.

I’d love to know what you see in the young people growing up near you. Do they believe in themselves?


Supporting our children to believe in themselves

Those of you who know me well, know that supporting children to believe in themselves is one of my mantras. Not just my own children, but all children I come across.

I’m proud to say I was instrumental in developing a Junior Triathlon section in my local athletic and triathlon club, where I learnt so much about people, both parents and children. The ethos of the club was very much about involvement and taking part. All children were encouraged to believe in themselves, and be the best they could be, whatever activity they were taking part in.

Talented athletes

Daley Thompson and my sonSome of you may know that I have two very talented sporty sons. The eldest, now 15, has always had an amazing aptitude in any sport he tried, and has been outstanding at many of them. He’s currently focusing on athletics, and Decathlon in particular. Yes, that’s right. That 10 eventer that Daley Thompson is famous for. Wow! Just training and learning all those different activities is amazing to me.

My youngest, almost 13, has sort of hidden himself in the shadows of his older brother. When he was choosing secondary school, I believe he wanted to go somewhere else as he didn’t want to always be “No1 brother”. He did chose the same school as no1, and has carved his own narrative at school.

However, it’s taken him longer to work out his own sporting loves. No2 is talented in different ways. Whereas no1 wants a quick win (with 10 events, they tend to be short and snappy), no2 much prefers endurance events. He loves cross country in all the mud, and has decided to do more triathlons again this year.

The reason this post is being written, is that no2 took part in the county Cross Country running championships yesterday. He came 12th in his age group. He was disappointed.

Now, whilst not everyone does cross country, or loves it like no2, he came 12th in the county out of 44 entrants. We cross country racedon’t believe he should be disappointed. However, he was working off previous race results, including a recent series in which he came 6th overall. Children look at previous results, and the people around them, rather than running their own race, or doing their own thing, and enjoying it.

Today, no1 son took part in an open athletics meeting today. It wasn’t a competition as such, but all athletes want to do their best, whenever they compete. He was disappointed too in his performance. Maybe it’s because they’re both perfectionists that they become disappointed? Or they always want to do well? Is that a concern? Well, it’s not, but it’s not always easy to live with!

How do we support children to believe in themselves?

Whilst supporting children to believe in themselves is not just about sport, or music, or academia, or whatever talent and skills they have, cracking their belief in themselves in one area, will help this skill transfer to other areas of their lives.

This weekend, all we’ve done is told our boys that they’ve done their best, and to learn from the experience. Each competition, test at school, or question in class is all about preparing them isn’t it. It’s not the be all and end all. Within sport, each training session, event, and competition is part of the pathway to a long term goal. For no1 he has his sights set on the Olympics in 2024. If he continues his current pathway, injury free, then that may be a possibilty for him. So today’s disappointments are simply there to help him learn how to forget about a bad throw and put all his knowledge and training into the next one.

Our children go through so many changes too. Schools, teachers, friendships are big. But their body changes and hormones have a massive effect on them. No2 has had a big growth spurt this last month, and he hasn’t found his natural running rhythm again yet. He may not find it for a while, as many children don’t. It takes time for them to grow into their bodies.

No1 has had many instances already where his growth spurts cause confusion for his sport. It doesn’t matter. Learning how to deal with it, and look at the long term goal is the most important thing. Boys, I understand, can continue to grow and develop until they’re about 21, so we’ve got a lot of learning to do over the next few years.

Encouragement, love and support are the main things we can do as parents and supporters. Helping our children understand that they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do, “when they grow up”, and not limit them in any way.

Supporting our children isn’t easy. I also know that not everyone can support talented children to achieve. It takes whole family effort and support. Our WhatsApp group is called Team Hughes, and we talk about being a team the whole time. They need support from us, and we need support from them.

I’m sure there are lots of ways we can support our children believe in themselves. This is simply my personal experience, which may be helpful to others.

I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions below.




My child is a teenager – what now?

My teenager

My teenager

Today, my eldest becomes a teenager. I clearly remember the day he came into this world, and still feel very blessed by his presence. He’s made us so proud already, I sometimes feel I will burst with pride.  So, what now?

Whilst we know that babies don’t come with manuals, that we have to learn how to parent, love and nuture, the same is true as children get older. The challenges get different within the family, not necessarily more difficult, but sometimes they are. We’ve learnt together how to deal with situations and set boundaries together. We’ve asked friends how to deal with certain issues. We’ve searched online for answers, and found some great places to read and share, including BeTeenUs.

What now?

We’ll I for one aren’t expecting behaviour, atttitude, or interests to change today. My youngest son would say the elder has been a teenager for a while now in outlook and attitude. So, what now?

  • Enjoy being with him as much as possible
  • Support him to use the talents he’s been given
  • Challenge his behaviour and attitude when it’s outside the framework we expect
  • Love him
  • Cuddle him as much as he’ll let me
  • Watch him grow up to be a lovely young man

What would you do/have you done with your teenage children?