Top Class Tuition’s Top Exam Tips


Year 11 pupils across the UK will be receiving their GCSE mock exam results this month. Some will feel confident and reassured that they are on track to achieve targets set out for them. However, others will be feeling the January blues more than ever due to shock results and possible under performance. We understand that this can be an extremely stressful time but our advice would be not to despair as it’s not too late to turn it around. There is still plenty of time to make the progress needed to achieve in the looming Summer examinations.

Schools in Blackpool are under pressure to improve results and climb the league table ladder; teachers are working tirelessly to improve grades whilst facing many other daily challenges; parents are also feeling the strain of stressed teenagers at home that they want to help so their child can gain the qualifications required to access Further Education and employment and teenagers are feeling the pressure from everyone around them.

As former secondary school teachers and GCSE examiners, we are no strangers to the stresses of the academic terms ahead.

Top Class Tuition have come up with 5 top tips for parents and carers to support teenagers with the trials and tribulations of the GCSE period:

1. Be organised -This is important both in the run up to the examinations and for the examination period itself.

*Create a revision timetable as early as possible. The average pupil sits ten GCSE subjects so if they were going to spend a week revising each, they would need a few months to complete this. It is worth remembering that homework should be revisiting topics covered in school and this also counts as revision. Find a calm space for teenagers to revise – this might be in their bedroom, a spot at the kitchen table or even in a local library. Try to keep it quiet and without any distractions.

* During the examination period, pupils need to be well equipped; it is an additional stress if they attend the examination without the correct equipment. Buy a clear pencil case and fill it with the essentials. Remember a clear bottle of water is also allowed but the label must be removed in advance.


2. Health and Wellbeing – The benefits of a healthy lifestyle should not be underestimated in the run up to the examinations.

Encourage teenagers to go to bed at a reasonable time. Avoid electronic devices in the bedroom – these are the biggest distractions and the leading cause of sleep deprivation in teenagers.

Promote healthy eating – a good breakfast will set teenagers up for the day. Try to avoid the morning trip to the corner ship for energy drinks and a packet of crisps. Have fruit readily available and remember that a banana is much more effective than a Mars bar as an energy boost before an examination.

* Encourage exercise – spending all evening behind a desk will soon get repetitive. Walking the dog, a run around the park or a kick around with friends will help teenagers to relax and also release endorphins – a stress busting tip!


3. Take advantage of the support available

There is a lot of support out there if you know where to look for it. A good start is accessing revision sites or purchasing revision guides. Be mindful that these vary in effectiveness so make sure you know that they are approved by the examination boards your child is studying. Ask your teenager’s school for any sites they have subscribed to and how to access from home; a lot of the more modern sites are available as mobile phone apps. Also, schools may offer discounts for revision guides or they might be available in the library – it is always worth asking.

Take advantage of sessions going on at school.

* Invest in a private tutor – sometimes pupils need an extra boost and work better in a small group/ one-to-one situation.


4. Be supportive

Talk about examination nerves – teenagers have a tendency to bottle up emotions and this will only increase stress levels. Make sure they know they have someone to talk to.

Help pupils to study – Parents are invaluable at helping with revision. Encourage teenagers to write cue cards which they can be tested on or to tell you about topics. Sometimes writing key words and plastering them around the house ensures that they are exposed to them throughout the day or making up rhymes or mnemonics can help to get the cogs turning.

Be Flexible – This is a key time to not sweat the small stuff – they may have an untidy bedroom or have forgotten to empty the dishwasher. Try to let these things not turn into big things – in periods of stress, things can escalate very quickly and home life needs to be as calm as possible.


5. Avoid comparisons

* Don’t add to the pressure – You may have high hopes for your child; they are lucky to have your support and they will realise it if they haven’t already. However, they may interpret aspirations for pressure – ensure that you explore ‘what if?’ situations together and have a Plan B. Don’t compare them with other pupils/siblings and encourage them not to compare their scores to classmate’s results.

5 reasons why one to one and small group tuition is beneficial to your child.

Top Class Tuition (UK) CIC have looked at some of the reasons why tutoring is becoming ever popular, not only as an add-on to teaching in schools but as a fundamental part of the education system.

1) Addresses the individual needs of pupils
Small group and one to one tuition is more personalised and targeted at a child’s specific needs. Funding for schools is limited so class sizes are increasing, making it more difficult for teachers to personalise learning. Tutoring is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it is customised to meet the individual learning styles of pupils.

2) Builds Confidence
Tutoring allows pupils who don’t have confidence within a larger setting to thrive. A lack of confidence can affect a child’s performance – a number of pupils do not feel comfortable putting their hand up in class due to peer pressure or a fear of looking ‘stupid’. Tutoring can help pupils overcome their anxieties and allow them to feel more comfortable in a smaller setting.

3) Improves Exam Performance
Education and examinations are changing and children increasingly need to gain good grades in exams, particularly GCSEs. Having a tutor who is a trained subject specialist can increase your child’s ability to perform well in examinations.

4) Flexibility
Tutoring works around your schedule. Evening and weekend time slots are allocated upon request and you can decide whether your child would benefit from one-to-one or group tuition.


5) It is Affordable
Tutoring is a cost effective way of ensuring that your child reaches their potential. For as little as £15 an hour, you can be certain your child is getting the attention they need. You also get immediate feedback so you can be assured that your hard earned money has been spent wisely.


‘Target grades maketh the child.’ It might be a misquote but certainly nowadays it seems to be one of the labels that make up a child’s identity. I don’t know if I could remember the name of every face I’ve taught but I could probably tell you whether they’re above or below their ‘aspirational’ target grade.
I understand the importance of data and I’m not disputing that figures are important. However, the whole idea of setting attainment targets as summative grades is nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything to kids and I doubt Ofsted want to hear a perfectly able child has been reduced to tears because they are told on every report and in every assessment that they are under-performing. Similarly, churning out mock papers on a weekly basis does not make a child improve. It makes them lose any of the enthusiasm they have in the subject. In short, it is the equivalent of the Bake Off contestants repeating the technical challenge every week without the blanks in the recipe being filled in.

I was lucky enough to be taught by one of the most inspirational English teachers I have ever met – I do my job because of her. The reason why is because she could share her passion of the subject without the shackles of daily data input. I had a content driven curriculum and this is what works for children.

Yesterday, the government published its league tables. Every secondary school in Blackpool is below National Average in both English and Maths attainment and Progress 8 measures. (2016-17 data) This system is not working.


If we think about it, what do target grades actually suggest to a child? Do they act like an albatross around their neck with ‘potential, potential everywhere but not the time to think’ or do they lure some kids into the idea that the bare minimum is enough? No, they generally make kids feel like failures when they can’t reach the raised targets that schools give them. Sometimes it stops them even trying at all. Then, at the other end of the scale are over ambitious targets or ’aspirational targets’; the targets that make kids recoil into staying in their room and binging on a whole series of Netflix because, ‘what’s the point?’, ‘I’m going to fail anyway’, ‘I’ll never be as good as …….’

Look at successful people – Does Harry Kane aim to score a few goals and perfect the I’m-running-but-really-walking quickly after the ball most of the time? Does Marco Pierre White do the odd fry – up and then demand his constellation of Michelin stars? And more aptly, did JK Rowling think that she’d quickly bash out a story about a wizard and live off the royalties forever? (well, no, she’s definitely miked it but that’s for another blog). Of course those who succeed try to do the best they can AND they know their stuff. The old adage, ‘if at first you don’t succeed…’ is bread and butter to the learning process. Sometimes kids might fall short of the mark, but their own ambitions should never be less than their best – regardless of how their best looks on school league tables.

Blackpool teenagers have one of the highest mental illness rates in the country and ‘young people in Blackpool are much more likely than their peers elsewhere in England to suffer from poor health and be affected by issues such as teenage pregnancy and alcohol and substance abuse.’ (


We don’t claim to have all the answers but incessant testing, pressure and labels are likely to be a contributing factor.

At TCT we understand what disillusioned, disinterested and disenchanted kids look like.
A mentor once said to me, ‘you can’t produce champions but you can produce an environment where becoming champions is inevitable’. That’s what we are trying to do. That’s what children in Blackpool need. That’s why we set up our Social Enterprise.

A Tutor – Investing in your Child’s Future

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Even before Alexander the Great became Aristotle’s prize pupil, tutoring was part of society. Formerly something for the elite, it has now become a widely utilised add-on to teaching. We, at Top Class Tuition(UK), know tutoring is not a new idea and we don’t claim to be doing anything that hasn’t been done before. We do, however, claim to know exactly what we are doing and we are experienced in getting the very best out of our pupils.

As clichéd as it sounds, we want the best for the kids that we teach in the area that we live. We don’t overcharge, as we want all parents to be able to access the service, thus we made the decision to become a Social Enterprise Company. Any profit generated by the company will go back into the community and will be invested into our local young people across Blackpool and Fylde.

Why should you pay when children should be learning in the classroom? Surely, six hours in school Monday – Friday for 39 weeks of the year and a weekly homework should be enough to get our kids the grades they need? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There’s a range of factors as to why this is and why tutoring is beneficial for your child.

Classrooms are overcrowded; government cuts in education have seen some class sizes increased to up to 36 pupils per class in our new wave of academies. How can a teacher personalise learning and differentiate for every child, whilst managing behaviour in a congested class crammed full of hormonal teens? The answer is simply – they can’t! They do, of course, try. They try to mark every book and try to plan every lesson to include all children but there’s not enough hours in the day. Children sometimes need a different environment to flourish in, where they can’t be distracted and their learning can be personalised. This is why tutoring is an excellent addition to a child’s education.

To combat the issues we face in education, we have come up with a relevant albeit unoriginal idea – tutoring. How about we introduce something in Blackpool where kids get a chance to learn in a small group, where they can feel comfortable voicing their opinion and where it’s ok to get things wrong. Of course, we will have targets (we know that parents and carers need to see progress) but these will be based on confident mastery of the skills kids need to succeed in their examinations.

What we have created is somewhere kids will want to go. Somewhere the kids who think they can get away with the bare minimum aim higher and kids who have sky high targets end up confident they can reach them. Somewhere where any profit is put back into the community to combat issues for our children, in our schools, in our town.