Ask Brian: How can I ensure my child won’t lose out due to teacher strikes?
Try to mimic the structure and variety of a typical school day at home
Many parents are concerned that their children may lose out due to industrial action. Above, teachers on strike outside a secondary school. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Question: What can I do to ensure that my children do not fall behind in their studies while their schools are closed due to the industrial action?
Answer: It is perfectly understandable that many parents are concerned that their children – particularly those with State exams next June – do not fall behind in their studies and put their preferred college places at risk. The fact that some schools are more likely to stay open – such as those managed by Education Training Boards – only adds to the sense that some students may feel disadvantaged.
Clearly, the ideal way to ensure students can continue their studies with minimum disruption is for an adult to be present at home.
With most parents working, this may be difficult to organise but not impossible. One option, for example, is for students to work out of one house where an adult is present.
As adults, we enter a particular mindset for work; school children are no different. They should sit down to work at the normal school opening times and put in a normal school day’s activities. Many senior students may be able to plan this programme of work on their own. In the case of junior cycle students, parents should agree a timetable of tasks across all exam subjects for each day.
For some parents this may seem overwhelming, particularly in subjects they have no familiarity with. But if you sit down with your sons and daughters for half an hour and discuss each subject in turn, you will very quickly generate a definite programme of work. This schedule should be put up on a poster on their wall and ticked off as each task is completed.
Our brains begin to tire after a single topic is studies for more than 45 minutes, so it is important to take a short break of 10 minutes and a breath of fresh air once an hour. It’s worth following a subject with a lot of reading by a mathematical or scientific one to give students a fresh challenge.
The State Exams Commission (www.examinations.ie) has previous past papers and marking schemes on all Leaving and Junior Cert examination on its website, so it is possible to attempt a whole series of previous exam questions each day.
There is also a wide range of free exam supports online across all subjects, which students working away from their teachers for a period of time can access.
Alison, for example, has a Maths support section on its website (www.alison.com) which students can access at no cost.
Try and set this whole process up as a challenge and always have a review at the end of each day to see what your son or daughter has achieved.
We all know how important affirmation is in generating motivation. Rewards in the form of favourite activities or treats can be organised in the evening time as a reward for the challenge of working without teacher support for a period of time.