The following information is intended to help new parents establish the best routines and structures to help their child succeed at Archbishop Holgate’s.
Before your child starts
- Time the journey to school or bus-stop.
- Be sure your child is clear about what time they are expected to be home and what to do if they are held up for any reason.
- Make sure they know/have your contact numbers.
- Buy an alarm clock and make sure your child knows how it works. Test run it before the first day at school.
- Work out with your child what time they will need to get up to get to school on time. Work backwards from the time they need to be at school. Include all the things they will need to do.
- Agree a routine for the mornings and after school. Will they shower/bath in the morning or the evening? Will they get their school bag ready the night before or in the morning? Who will make the packed lunch? When?
- Agree a bedtime for schooldays with your child that will ensure they get enough sleep.
- Have a couple of practice runs… set your child the challenge of getting up at the correct time and getting ready.
- Does anything need changing?
When they start
- If possible, be around for your child for the first few days/weeks and ‘supervise’. Praise and encourage independence but be ready to offer a helping hand.
- Keep to your side of the bargain – if you have arranged to leave dinner money on top of the fridge make sure it is there!
- Go through the routine regularly with your child if necessary provide a tick-list to help them.
- Insist on the routine being kept to – it will save you hours in the long run!
Before your child starts
- Check the uniform requirements including rules regarding make-up and jewellery (Schools will normally send out a list of regulations regarding dress and where it can be obtained).
- Ring the school if you may be entitled to financial support for buying school uniform.
- Beware cast-offs. Children are very sensitive about wearing ‘hand-me-downs’ (but this will usually wear off after a while as they become more confident).
- Name everything, even shoes – you would not believe what children lose! A marker pen is as good as labels.
- Have spares of essentials at home if possible, it prevents panic when things get mislaid at 7.30am (as they do).
When they start
- Encourage your child to hang up their uniform straight away after school.
- Decide on responsibilities – who irons the shirts, when/who puts them away, etc.
- If your child is very disorganised check items one by one, or give a checklist at first.
- Encourage your child to put everything out (including shoes, socks or tights and underwear) the night before (there’s much more time in the evening for finding odd socks etc).
- Have a system for making sure that clothes are clean and ready – the earlier children start to take responsibility the better, but whoever does it both parties need to know ‘the system’.
- If your child regularly loses or forgets essential items, give spares to the Form Tutor to keep at school (e.g. PE shorts, tie, trainers).
- If you have a timetable displayed for your child (a good idea) colour the days when your child has PE so they can see each day if they need to take their PE kit.
Organising books and equipment
Before your child starts
- Help your child organise their living space so that they have a place for everything to do with school. Try to make sure they have access to a desk, good light and storage space for their school books.
- Equip them with the tools they will need at home (it’s best to keep two sets of everything – one for school and one for home so that losing a pen at school does not stop them doing their homework). A useful home ‘tool kit’ consists of: pencils, pens, rubber, sharpener, crayons, felt-pens, whitener, ruler, maths equipment (protractor, compass, set-square and calculator), sellotape, glue-stick, paper (lined and plain) and plastic wallets.
- A box-file or stacking system is useful for students with organisational problems – each file can be labelled with the subject and all books, worksheets etc can be kept ready to pull out and put in the school-bag when required.
- A labelled A4 plastic or card folder to take to school for each subject is useful – students are given lots of worksheets which they are not used to organising. Folders can hold all work sheets, books, etc.
- An office two-tier ‘in-tray’ is useful for ‘homework to be done’ and ‘homework completed’.
- An additional A4 plastic or card folder for finished homework is useful for children with poor memories – they can check it each lesson to see if there is homework to be given in.
When your child starts
- Teach a routine for ‘emptying the bag’. The subject folders or books are replaced in the system. Any subjects for which homework is required are placed in the ‘homework to be done’ in-tray. Do this with your child to begin with if necessary, then gradually let them take over. Even when your child has ‘got it’ do ‘spot checks’ every so often.
- Encourage your child to glue any worksheet/odd bits of paper into their workbook if possible every night – otherwise the sheer volume of ‘bits of paper’ becomes impossible.
- When homework is completed (see section on homework) supervise the ‘packing of the bag’. This is best done the night before.
- The displayed timetable can be used as a checklist for subject folders and equipment. Write the equipment needed at the top of each day.
- Encourage your child to check their planner for any reminders/notes each night. It’s usually worth double checking.
- If you know your child has Food Technology (‘cooking’ to you and me) on a certain day, check at the beginning of the week if they need ingredients – searching through cupboards on the morning ten minutes before the bus leaves is not to be recommended!
Key tasks for students
- Writing down your ‘homework timetable’ – what homework you get on which days.
- Understanding how your planner works – make sure you use the correct week to record your homework.
- Writing down your homework in lessons (write exactly what you have to do). If none is set, write this down with the reason why, e.g. supply teacher.
- Recording when it has to be done for.
- Asking if you are not sure what the task means and checking with the teacher if you are not sure what books you will need etc.
- Making sure you bring home everything you need to do the homework.
- When you get home, use your planner to remind you of what you have to do.
- Working by yourself to complete tasks, spending the correct amount of time. Doing your best without someone standing over you!
- Asking for help if it is difficult, or you don’t understand something.
- Ticking the ‘done’ column in your planner when completed.
- Taking your completed homework to school on the correct day.
- Remembering to give it in!
- Try to do homework on the night it is set – not the night before it is due in (you may get three other pieces of homework on that night).
Before your child starts
- Agree a routine for homework with your child. Life can become a constant ‘nag’ if you don’t start this from the beginning. Homework becomes an increasingly important part of the curriculum as your child goes through school – what he or she starts off doing is what they will do until they leave!
- A good time for homework is after a short break when your child returns from school, get it out of the way early, leaving the rest of the evening free – who wants to start work at 7.00pm?
- Agree with your child that TV, other activities, phone-calls etc will only be possible after homework is done.
- Many children will say that listening to music helps them concentrate and do their work. Agree whether this is allowed. Personally, I think that if your attention is on your favourite song, it can’t also be on your homework (and more so for the television!) but the important thing is to make an agreement and stick to it.
- Be prepared to invest time at first – for example be available for a set time each day to help with homework until the routine is established – it will be time well spent.
- Using the ideas in ‘organising books and equipment’ will help enormously – make sure your child has a comfortable place to work (with as few distractions as possible); set up a double ‘in tray’ and label it ‘homework to be done’ and ‘homework completed’. Provide a ‘finished homework’ folder for your child to take to school.
- Check in the school’s prospectus or speak to the school about how long children are expected to spend on homework each night. Check also what you can do if your child is having difficulty.
When your child starts
- Stick to the agreed routine whenever possible.
- Try to ensure that homework is done on the night it is set to prevent ‘build-up’.
- Spend time with your child in the first few weeks establishing a routine.
- Encourage your child to unpack their bag in an organised way, placing homework to be done in their tray. Check the planner with your child for what homework needs to be done, and when it is to be done by. Check they have everything they need to complete the tasks (ask them to tell you what they will need, to encourage independence).
- Recognise how hard it is to work unsupervised. Help your child structure their time and use it usefully – provide a clock or timer and agree the tasks that should be done in each e.g. half hour period. Try to be available to do ‘progress checks’ – have they completed the task in the set time? (But otherwise leave them to do it – don’t establish a pattern of always doing homework with them – it’s unsustainable and they won’t learn to work independently.)
- Make sure your child always writes the date and title, and clearly labels it as homework (either in their book, on a worksheet or computer print out).
- Point out the rewards of working in this way – homework doesn’t drag on all night, it feels good to have completed tasks etc.
- Don’t let children struggle on for longer than the recommended time – if they have done half an hour and only answered half the questions, let them stop. (If they are worried about the consequences, write a note on the homework, confirming that the correct amount of time was spent on the task.)
- If children are stuck – either because they don’t understand the task they have written down or because they ‘can’t do it’, offer support but don’t ‘do it for them’.
- Encourage your child to check in the lesson if they haven’t understood what the task means – it’s too late by the time they get home.
- Encourage them to write down exactly what the teacher says (not ‘finish stuff in book’ – they’ll have forgotten what ‘stuff’ is by the time they get home). If you and your child really cannot work out what has to be done, try ringing a friend in the same group, or, as a last resort, write a note to the teacher asking for clarification and explaining that the homework will be done as soon as possible.
- If there is a problem with the level of work, it is important that the teacher knows this. If work is consistently too difficult or too easy, it is important to let the teacher know (see ‘contacting the school’).
- Check that your child has given homework in and, if they have not, check why (they may have had a supply teacher) and encourage them to write in their planner when they will give it in.
- Take an interest in the marks and comments on the homework your child gets back – celebrate success and give the clear message that homework is valuable and important.
- Homework may not be automatically valued by the children in school. Many will never do it and appear to ‘get away with it’. Be very wary of excuses your child will use (see list – they will accumulate many from their peers over the first few weeks and only some will be genuine!) and try to ensure that, if an excuse is given, you check it out and that your child still does the homework as soon as the problem is sorted out. If you do this the first few times, the ‘excuses’ will lessen, but if they are successful in getting out of homework in this way to start with, they will carry on and it becomes very hard to re-establish good patterns later on when homework becomes crucial to examination grades.
- If your child is consistently not getting homework when they should (according to the homework timetable), do contact the school.