Chocolate biscuits, nagging and getting through exams

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 12th May 2011

Revision fever is rife at House with No Name towers. With two teenagers working towards exams, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Desperate to help (something they don’t want at all!), I appealed for advice on Twitter. Answers came back thick and fast, ranging from “nag them about tidying their rooms – they’ll prefer to revise” to “don’t insist that they can revise continuously – build in plenty of proper breaks” to “stock up with chocolate biscuits and other treats.”

I also looked back at my files and found a dreaded exams piece I wrote this time last year. It cheered me up no end so I’ve reprinted it here.

Teenager Ned gazes unhappily at the bright sunshine and blue sky and says for the umpteenth time: “I can’t wait for two weeks on Thursday.”

Yes, the dreaded exams have begun and the house is filled with dog-eared files, text books and timetables. Ned’s at the top of the house, where no one can monitor precisely how much work he’s doing, while Lottie’s working in the kitchen to escape the temptations of Facebook and Twitter. The only trouble is that every time I tiptoe in to make cups of tea she asks me to test her on the radicalisation of the army in 1647. You what?

Then an email from pops into my inbox. It’s an excellent website, aimed at giving information and advice on “raising and educating happy, fulfilled girls.” With the exam season in full swing, the latest edition includes a raft of advice from leading headteachers on exam stress and how parents can help their daughters revise. There’s just one problem. If I dared try any of the heads’ suggestions in our house Lottie would soon tell me where to go.

“Rather than banning her use of the computer and mobile,” reads one tip, “encourage her to negotiate a communication contract with her friends where they all agree which 20 minutes they will all go online/communicate with each other …. and make her stick to it.”

I’m obviously a completely ineffectual parent but if I dared to mention the idea of drawing up a “communication contract” Lottie would laugh hysterically. The moment I offer any advice at all, she says “I’ll sort myself out” or, more crushingly, “that’s the last thing I’d do.” And do you know what? She’s absolutely right. Her exams are her business, and she’ll do them her way.

PS: If your children are revising for GCSEs, take a look at some of the innovative ideas devised by the seven winners of Britain’s Dream Teachers, a competition launched by YouTube and TV chef Jamie Oliver to find the most inspiring teachers in the country. See

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