Here Sarah Gordon, Signature Tuition director and English specialist has kindly provided some key words of wisdom to parents as they prepare their children for the new school year.

What would you suggest are the three best ways in which a parent can support their child in beginning the new school year? 

Communicate.  Regularly!  This is my absolute number one tip!  I really do advise opening the lines of communication with all educational professionals that your child works with.  This may include their teachers, tutors, heads of year, learning support assistants and pastoral heads.  It ensures that any problems that may crop up in the school year can be resolved swiftly.  This is crucial as it’s much easier to nip problems in the bud earlier, rather than giving them chance to grow into a ‘real’ problem later.


Have a copy of your child’s timetable pinned somewhere visible.  Whilst supporting your child in building their own sense of independence in bag-packing, completion of homework for particular lessons etc, you can also subtly over-see how well this is going.

One of the biggest headaches for teachers – and thus parents and students – is a student who isn’t organised.  Whilst it sounds small-fry, repeatedly forgetting essentials (home-works, pens, books) can lead to falling behind in learning and lessons.  Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to barriers to progression in learning!


Devise a homework ‘hour’ (that’s an hour at least – depending on age and school-year).  This is an agreed upon hour (a day / every two days / twice a week) where there will be no mobile devices about and no big distractions.

It means homework is given the time and focus needed to support your child’s independent learning effectively.  Building this in, in advance, and around activities such sports classes, hobbies, socialising and dinner-times really does help to reduce any homework-conflict or upset.  A clear set of expectations set early on really is the secret to learning success – without strife!

As an English specialist, what tips would you give parents whose students struggle in this subject?

Two of the best things that a parent can do to support students who are less confident in English and find it a struggle are to firstly, take the heat off.  For example, if your child is not good at spelling, as long as you know they are trying their hardest and are using the resources available and they have to hand – Google is a good one (and pretty much leaves the ‘I didn’t know how to spell it’ excuse high and dry when it comes to proof-reading), then don’t make it into a big issue.  Yes, spelling is important, but English is so much more than that.  Which brings me to my next tip.  Encourage your child to read.  But don’t tell them what to read!  To nurture and encourage a real love of reading, it needs to be something they choose – with some careful direction, of course.  This may mean accepting that your child may never (or for now) enjoy reading the literary classics, but would love getting stuck into a Tom Gates or Harry Potter!  It could mean that they just don’t choose to read books.  No problem!  Yes, in an ideal world, this is what we want to foster in students – a love of literature and reading, but for success in literacy, reading pretty much anything will have some benefit.  Websites, magazines, blogs – they all offer rich experiences in terms of exposing your child to new vocabulary, new styles of writing and certainly support their awareness of how writer’s write to achieve different aims and effects.  It’s proven that the more a child reads the higher their literacy ability is and the greater their life-chances become!

If you find that you need more support, find a great English Tutor who can help tailor a learning pathway that works.

What two tips would you give parents who find their children reluctant to do reading or writing?

Lead by example and watch your words!  If your child thinks you find reading ‘boring’ (something we hear too many students say about the world of books!), it’s nigh on certain they will take this on board and avoid reading! 

Talk about books.  Watch the movies of books – then suggest them reading the book-version if they enjoyed the film.  Don’t make reading the be-all-and-end-all and remember that reading isn’t just about books. It’s about all types of media – see above!

Do you have any favourite books that you would consider a great cross-over between the subjects (English and Maths)? 

For me, this has to be Haddon’s The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-time.  I love the way Christopher makes sense of the world through his reliance on the fact that numbers are ‘solid’, dependable and reliable.

Finally, what’s your motto for life?

Take every opportunity that comes your way – you never know what amazing places it will take you!

Thank you Sarah.  And you can see my answers to these questions on Sarah’s blog here.  I love the fact we both focus on knowing the your child’s timetable, helping them to be organised with their equipment and we both chose the same book!!  I also strongly echo Sarah’s words regarding ‘lead by example and watch your words’.   Great minds think alike, great cross-curricular.

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