Education Quandary

My daughter's school has packed off A2 pupils on study leave. How can I be expected to supervise her?
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The Independent Online

My daughter's school has packed off A2 pupils on study leave. How can I be expected to supervise her?

Hilary's advice

It is true that schools "pack off" pupils at this time of year for their own convenience, rather than anyone else's - they have an insane number of exams to organise and timetable.

But your daughter is probably old enough to drive and vote, so surely old enough to take charge of her own learning? And if she hasn't yet acquired the self-discipline to study, or the ability to plan her work, whose fault is that? The school's? Or your own?

It is far too late in the day for you to start fostering qualities of responsibility and self-management in her - parents of younger children take note - but there still might be practical things you can do.

Talk to her and ask how you can help. Try to agree some ground rules on bed-times, work times and staying in. Encourage her to eat well, drink water, take exercise breaks and remove distractions such as her mobile phone. Then encourage her to plan her work, splitting her day into time periods and knowing what topics she wants to cover and what her learning goals are. It may be that her school has already told her all this. Some equip their students with booklets of study tips and techniques.

A good one compiled by Malvern Girls' College includes hints for beating stress, alongside suggested ways of revising, including writing down key points, writing a summary, highlighting the main points of notes, developing memory techniques, practising answering exam questions and drawing mind maps.

You could run over some of these with her. You could also offer to test her. But avoid unproductive nagging. It only makes things worse.

Readers' advice

I am a teacher of A-level students and a parent with one son at university and one who has just finished AS levels. Over the past two years, your daughter's teachers will have worked hard to deliver the necessary syllabus contents to her, and ensured she has the skills to approach exams. If she has not yet absorbed the necessary skills required for independent learning she should not be going to university.

Paula Saunders, Hertfordshire

For my daughters, the ground rules for study leave were made clear months before it started:

1. No sleeping in.

2. No going out during the day on study leave days, except to revision classes, which we had a list of.

3. No going out in the evening during study leave more than once a week.

4. No sleepovers.

5. Computer use, except for revision sites, controlled. My husband set up bars to certain websites and MSN.

We explained that it was just for a few weeks of their lives, and that we didn't mind what grades they got as long as they did their best.

Lesley White, Berkshire

In post-16 education it is completely down to the individual to decide what to do. Many of your daughter's peers will be in the world of work, where every employee has a choice to make every morning about whether to get up and clock in. How little or much work she does is up to her.

Stephen Blaney, A2 student, Essex

Next quandary

My son is finishing his first year at a secondary school where the policy on setting and marking homework seems completely erratic. Some teachers set regular homework and mark it promptly, some don't return work for weeks, and others just seem to say : "Finish off what you were doing in class." This isn't right. What can we do?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce at The Independent, Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020 7005 2143; or e-mail to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack with cartridge pen and handwriting pen

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