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What are holidays for?

What are holidays for? featured image

As we move towards the final week of term, I am sure that the majority of your sons are feeling the pace of a frenetic term. We want boys to have a variety of activities in their lives outside their academic study, so term-time is inevitably an intense experience. The longer term draws on, the accumulation of early mornings starts to take its toll, and the holidays come as a blessed relief to pupils and staff alike. Boys will deserve a rest once Thursday 4 April is upon us, but how should the two and a half weeks be used? Where does academic work fit in?

The answer to this question depends on the age of your son. I must admit to being intensely worried when parents ask me what revision their Year 7 or Year 8 son should be doing over Easter to prepare for school examinations in May. The answer is ‘nothing’! Of course, there are exceptions: a boy who has had a prolonged period of absence will have work to catch up; there may be a small amount of homework set as per the normal timetable; a boy with a specific challenge in a particular subject might have a special programme of support work.

The need to sacrifice one’s holiday to revision can be left, however, until later in the educational journey. During the final two weeks prior to the internal exams, teachers will lead our younger boys through structured revision in class and give them homework time to consolidate further. It is important for boys to learn how to revise for internal exams, but it is overkill to expect them to spend six weeks or more doing so. Ultimately, we feel that it is good for younger boys’ mental health to have a break from formal learning. Instead encourage them to read, to explore their interests, to visit new places, and to get a healthy dose of fresh air.

The earliest year group for whom I would recommend some time spent revising is Year 10, who have made considerable progress by this stage on their two-year GCSE courses. I would recommend a moderate amount of work on two or three subjects where they have been less successful. Perhaps 10-15 hours over the holiday might be a reasonable return? Although Year 12s no longer have public examinations, they will return straight after the Easter break into End of Year exams that will determine their predicted grades for university applications. They need to be well-prepared for these, and must understand that they will need to wait for May Half-Term and the Summer break to have their opportunity for a relaxing holiday.

The Easter holiday is a vital period for boys in Years 11 and 13 taking GCSE and A Level examinations, and they will already have heard about the 2/3rds rule that we suggest: working on 2/3rds of the days during the holiday and splitting these days into 3 sections (morning, afternoon, evening) and working two out of the three. Much more detailed revision guidance for those embarking on public examinations is posted on the Parents and Pupils section of our lovely new website and I encourage those of you with boys in these year groups to read it carefully. This really is the time for boys to put in the work that will help them to meet their exam goals. If they can use their revision time efficiently, they will certainly deserve the odd treat along the way.

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