Supporting your son or daughter on the road to exam success

Sixteen year old Adele Tumilty completed her work experience with Activate Learning. In this guest post, Adele gives us her views on how parents can support young people during the exam season.

If your son or daughter is sitting an exam any time soon, they may be feeling nervous, stressed or even angry. These emotions, although difficult to deal with, are understandable.

If they have used their time well to prepare, they are likely to get good grades. But what can you do to support them?

You probably know that as a parent or carer you have a key role in your child’s success – helping keep things in perspective, remaining positive and encouraging good study, nutrition and exercise habits.

Parents or carers want to help but sometimes it can be tricky to support young people during the exam period. With that in mind, here’s a handy list of practical tips, prepared for parents by parents:

  • Give your son or daughter access to a quiet space where they can work by themselves
  • Encourage them to start revising early to ensure they have enough time. You could offer to work with them to test their knowledge in an informal way
  • Help your son or daughter to understand the importance of hard work and revision, but also help them keep the importance of results in perspective
  • Promote sport and exercise as a healthy habit to relieve stress. For example, going for a brisk walk or playing football with some friends can help boost your son or daughter’s wellbeing
  • Let them know that you are there for them to talk to, but don’t pressure them into it.
  • Help young people explore the different options available to them. You could offer to accompany them to an Open Event or Taster Event at our colleges, or encourage them to have a chat with our impartial Careers Advice team. Learn more about their chosen career so you can help them with the choices ahead. You could also talk to them about friends or family who have develop a fulfilling career with a range of different qualifications and grades

Exams season can be a tough time, but if your son or daughter remains focused and perseveres with their learning, and with your added support, their chances of success will be greater than anticipated.

Your views matter

Activate Careers provides impartial information, advice and guidance services, to help learners and potential learners make informed decisions about their future.

We are part of Activate Learning, and also provide services to schools, colleges and other organisations beyond the group.

Young studentsWe are always looking to improve college life for our learners, their parents/ carers and the wider community.

We are keen to hear from parents/ carers on your views about the careers advice your child has received. This short survey will take less than five minutes to complete. It will help us shape our careers advice provision and continue making a difference to the lives of young people.

If you have any queries or would like to make an appointment, email

Thanks for your co-operation.

Making the most of Open Events

Open Event parents picAutumn. The season of fallen leaves, Halloween, nights drawing in and counting the sleeps till Christmas.

With the festive break around the corner, planning your son or daughter’s education may not feel like a priority right now. But trust me, September 2016 will be here before you know it. From one parent to another, time flies when you are busy. Whatever they aspire to be, researching their options and making an informed decision can make all the difference, helping to turn these into a reality.

An Open Event is an opportunity for you to find out more about the colleges that your son or daughter may be interested in attending. The format varies from college to college, but typically includes a chance to speak to staff and current students, tour the facilities and ask questions.

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Next steps after Results Day

It’s not easy being a parent – arguably the most important job in the world, and it comes with no instructions manual!

If your son or daughter is getting their GCSE or A-levels results this summer, you’ll be keen to support them as best as you can. This means you may find yourself having important conversations about their future.

We know opening the envelope with their results can be an anxious moment for many young people, with their future career aspirations dependant on their grades. We also know that on occasion their results may not be what they expected.

At Activate Learning, we support every young person to find an exciting career pathway in an industry that they’ll love.

If you want to help your child continue their career pathway, whatever their results, good careers advice and guidance is key. Why not come along to our free advice events this summer, to get dedicated careers advice, find out about sources of potential financial support and more.

The sessions are taking place at Banbury, Oxford and Reading, on:

• Thursday 13 August, 12-4pm
• Thursday 20 August, 10am-6pm
• Friday 21 August, 10am-4pm

Can’t make any of these dates? Why not come and see us later this month? We are open Monday to Friday, and will be open until later on Tuesdays and Thursdays until late September.

What next? Helping your young person at a career crossroads

Is your son or daughter in Years 9, 10 or 11 and undecided about their future? Sometimes the most exciting things may happen unexpectedly, but it’s also good to have a plan. Guide your son or daughter to the right career track, because their future starts today.

Here at Activate Learning we want to give you a helping hand, so you can better understand the options out there and how to support your teenager.


Continue reading “What next? Helping your young person at a career crossroads”

Surviving revision: tips for success

As we head towards June, it’s that time of the year when thousands of students across the country are getting ready for their exams.

If late night cramming, teenage nerves and too much coffee all sound familiar to you, chances are your son or daughter is one of them.



Want to give them a helping hand, but not sure how? Simply take two minutes off whatever you are doing now to learn how revising the Activate Learning way can make a big difference to their results:
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Should we worry about increased anxiety?

By Sally Dicketts, Chief Executive of Activate Learning

Follow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

The anxiety levels of teenagers are apparently on the rise.

Recent research suggests that young girls in particular are showing more signs of emotional distress.


Research by University College London and the Anna Freud Centre compared the mental health of more than 1,600 11 to 13-year old boys and girls in 2009 and 2014. The results found the number of girls at risk of emotional problems had increased sharply, from 13 to 20 per cent within five years. Meanwhile the level of other mental health and behavioural problems remained fairly static.

So what’s going on behind the statistics?

Although our levels of empathy decrease during adolescence, young girls are still more likely than boys to become attuned to feelings of distress in others.  They may not yet however have the capacity and skills to give support without being adversely affected themselves.

Those commenting on the research have suggested that the increasing pressure on girls to perform academically, coupled with anxiety over body image amplified by social media, could be behind the rise.

It begs the question as to whether today’s young people face more pressures than their parents’ generation did, or whether the culture in which they operate is heightening levels of stress.

As Eleanor Doughty wrote in The Telegraph online, many of the things that occupy teenage minds – exams, relationships, future ambitions – are unchanged. Social media has had a major impact on these way thoughts and feelings are shared, but that can be helpful as much as it can induce feelings of stress.

I am inclined to agree, and I don’t think there is yet sufficient research into the effects of social media to lay blame at its doors. I do however believe that children are growing up in busier homes where the growth in digital technologies makes it harder to compete for attention. We all want to be heard but we are losing the art of listening, and if you don’t feel listened to you can soon feel isolated. It is a point explored by Nancy Kline in her book, ‘Time to Think’, and an issue that educators should take notice of. We need to help young people develop good listening skills to support their social interactions and build their resilience.

I also believe that young people face a more fiercely competitive jobs market than generations before. When I grew up getting a degree set you apart from the competition. Today it has become commonplace and students are expected to achieve at least a 2:1 and must offer additional skills and experience to stand out. Candidates are competing in a global jobs market and one which offers much less job security than it did for their parents.

This research is significant for those educating young people in schools and colleges. It suggests that we need to be much better at detecting signs of emotional distress, which can get overlooked in light of more obvious behavioural problems.

It also adds weight to the argument for incorporating mindfulness techniques into our teaching and learning as we build young people’s resilience and help them take ownership of those things they can change, and let go of issues outside their control.

When I grow up…communicating the value of skilled sectors

Careers advice in schools has once again come under fire – this time for causing teenagers to underestimate what they could earn in skilled sectors.

Research by the Edge Foundation, to mark the launch of this year’s Vocational Qualification Day Awards, asked young people to predict what they could earn in technical or skilled roles. In some cases the respondents undershot average earnings by almost 40 per cent.

According to published statistics, the sector with the highest annual earnings in 2014 was electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning. But only one in six teenagers guessed it was in the top three. When quizzed, they thought average earnings in this sector would be around £23,000 when it actual fact the figure is closer to £38,000.

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Technology partners to help plug digital skills gap

Nicky Morgan this week announced that new partnerships with technology giants, including Google and O2, will help to increase digital skills in the classroom.

As part of a £3.6m drive to teach computing skills in primary schools, experts from these organisations will provide training, facilities and resources. The Education Secretary used the BETT educational technology show to outline a series of projects with schools, universities and businesses that would boost the computing curriculum.

If you want to find good examples of these types of partnerships in action, you need look no further than the further education and university technical college model. These organisations are successfully harnessing the skills and expertise of industry leaders to provide a relevant curriculum which teaches contemporary, career-focused skills.

Continue reading “Technology partners to help plug digital skills gap”