Exam revision: pizza, sport and sleep help pupils in Wales

Comment on the photo, Pupils at Islwyn High School, Caerphilly, prepare for their GCSE exams

  • author, Bethan Lewis
  • Role, BBC Wales education and family correspondent

Thousands of students and their families are counting down to the start of summer exams.

At Islwyn High School in Caerphilly, wellbeing and revision support is provided through breakfast and after-school sessions as well as online teaching for students who find it difficult to attend.

For the first time since 2019, there will be no additional support to address the impact of the pandemic.

One teacher said that the students were “severely affected” by the effects and repercussions of Covid-19.

GCSE exams start on May 9, and Oliver and Josh, both 15, will sit around 15 papers.

“You just have to make sure you’re not constantly revising. If you do too much it adds stress,” Josh said.

Comment on the photo, Breakfast revision sessions are on the menu to prepare pupils for exams

Oliver said some friends were finding this period stressful, and he thought there would be “a little more pressure than last year” when they sat down for some papers in Year 10.

Josh finds the tests “almost exciting”, but they are both looking forward to finishing them.

Looking forward to “one of the longest summers” is what motivates Oliver ahead of six weeks of hard work.

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What can parents do?

Students are not the only ones who feel the pressure of exams.

Charlotte Campbelljohn, who shares parenting tips on her blog, Mummy feverShe lives near Mold, Flintshire, and is the mother of four children.

One of her children is taking her high school exams this summer and another level.

Charlotte said she could help by “making sure they are well fed, not eating rubbish, and that they are well hydrated.”

She added that sleep is another essential element.

Image source, Charlotte Campbelljohn

Comment on the photo, Charlotte’s daughter Megan is studying A-levels this summer and her son is sitting his GCSE exams

Megan, who swims competitively, completed her GCSEs two years ago, and Charlotte said one lesson she learned was that exercise helps.

“I know some parents tend to pull kids out of those activities because they need review,” she said.

“From our experience, that’s kind of counterproductive – actually, keeping that routine and keeping them focused on things, especially if it’s sports, is actually very important.

“It keeps them disciplined.”

How do you deal with exam stress?

  • Get organized the night before: Prepare your things. Check when and where the test is performed. Leave plenty of time to get there
  • Try relaxation techniques: Avoid crowds at the last minute. Focus on staying calm. Breathing exercises can help
  • Don’t compare your answers: Try to give up talking about the exam after you finish it
  • Reward yourself: Do something nice afterwards to help you stop smoking

Megan, 17, said swimming was a “mental break” from revision.

The course content was taken when Megan took her GCSE exams, after exams were canceled due to the pandemic.

This year, none of the content has been removed, and unlike last year, there is no advance information on what might appear in the papers.

“There seems to be a lot more knowledge and a lot more pressure this year,” she said.

Pupils ‘hit hard’

There is revision help before and after school, at lunchtime and during holidays at Islwyn High School, near Blackwood.

Deputy headteacher Owen Williams said: “We will be offering, especially at half term, pizza and things like that to get that incentive to come to school to revise for the exam.”

For students who are reluctant to go to school, there is still help through online tutoring.

Mr Williams added: “We have teams of staff who are in regular contact with pupils who we know are struggling at this time of year.”

Their aim is to support them to get into the building and “make sure they attend exams”.

Comment on the photo, The deputy headteacher at Islwyn High School says the impact of the pandemic on pupils is still evident, especially at exam time

Year 11 pupils sitting their GCSE exams were now in their first year of secondary school when Covid hit, which is a “very important time”, Williams said.

He added that they were “hard hit by the pandemic.”

This year exams have returned to normal after two years of additional support due to Covid.

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