Your burning education questions answered by those in the know
Q: What’s the best way to help with homework?
A: Many teachers would say homework is designed for your child to practise what they have learnt at school independently in order to embed their learning. However, it is right to help enable your child with their homework. This does not mean completing it for them or correcting every mistake. Instead, see homework as your child’s chance to share with you what they have learnt or experienced at school. Avoid using this as an opportunity to share with them how you learnt at school. This will merely confuse your child and give them yet another set of expectations and methods to remember.
For children who are disorganised or struggle due to dyslexia, help with the practicalities. Have an identical pencil case for home and one that remains at school. Then there can be no anxiety over forgotten kit or writing with a pen that isn’t as comfortable. Also establish a routine – for example, home, snack, homework, chill, dinner, bed. Decide what works for your family and stick to it.
At St Catherine’s, we encourage the use of iPads as an organisational tool. If your child uses an iPad at school, remember they can take a photo of their homework task written on the board, or examples shared by teachers. Nothing makes a child more anxious than having written out their homework but not quite remembering what it was meant to say.
If homework becomes a struggle, consider leaving your child at school to complete it in a supervised homework club.
Naomi Bartholomew, headmistress at St Catherine’s Prep School
Q: We’re considering weekly boarding in a school outside of the capital – what are the benefits?
A: Designed with families in mind, weekly boarding has increased in popularity in recent years because of a number of factors. At St Swithun’s, it has been because of the high quality of our accommodation; the variety of our co-curricular programme, which offers more than 60 activities in the evenings for our pupils; our bus service, which makes logistics easier for London families; our location, in 40 acres on the South Downs National Park, and our excellent pastoral support. Our proximity to Winchester College also allows the pupils to combine forces for social events.
Weekly boarders may also stay for the weekend if they have sports matches or choose to take part in trips usually put on for full boarders. The fact that we are seeing more weekly boarders choosing to do this is a strong indication that the modern take on boarding serves pupils and their families well.
Jane Gandee, headmistress at St Swithun’s Prep School
Q: How can we ensure the school we choose will bring out the best in our child?
A: Albert Einstein wrote that, ‘everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree then it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’. What he seemed to be saying is that every child has the potential to be brilliant but not every child will show that brilliance in the same field of activity. When choosing a school, it is important to ensure that a broad curriculum is offered so your child can discover his or her own talents. After-school clubs will also help your child broaden his or her educational experience.
It may be that your child has already shown potential in a particular discipline, so you should ask what extra provision will be offered. Are pupils who are working above their age-expected levels challenged sufficiently? If not, they can quickly become bored and demotivated. When children are taught in a fun and engaging way by teachers who believe in the abilities of their pupils, they can achieve extraordinary results.
Hilary Wyatt, headmistress at Hyde Park Prep School