Happy Vs Flourishing episode18 with Paul & Emily Hughes who run a company named “Parents guide to GCSE” which arms parents of children taking their GCSE exams with the ammunition required to be able to assist their children in getting through this stressful time for both the child and the parents.
Half of your child’s learning time is spent at home. Emily and Paul help make it less #sendwine and more #winning.
Parents naturally want to help their child succeed, but it’s been a while since we all did our exams and the 5 minute chat at a parents’ evening is nowhere near sufficient, so if you knew exactly what your child should do and when; it would be easier to support them, that’s where Paul and Emily save parents.
- Topics discussed:
Why you can’t rely on school to communicate every little thing.
- Don’t bank on your teenager telling you… well, anything. (There’s a limit to how much information you can communicate using only grunts, shrugs or eye-rolls.)
- The enormous stress teachers are under at the moment
- The vague government announcements that leave headteachers, teachers, school staff, parents and the children confused
- Learning techniques
- How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected school children
- The school curriculum is vastly different to how it was for the parents of most school children, making it extremely difficult for them to even understand some homework their children are struggling with
- The course that Emily and Paul have that helps parents through this stressful period
- How they help both the children and the parents with so much more than just their schoolwork, but also teach them vital life schools that schools are not giving them such as finance
“If you’re unwilling to learn, no one can teach you. If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you” – Zig Ziglar
“Knowledge beats nagging”
Other books mentioned in this episode:
Happy Vs Flourishing links:
Tony Winyard 0:00
Happy versus flourishing Episode 18. Welcome to the podcast where we give you ideas on how to improve your quality of life in some way. This episode is slightly different, we go into the realms of education, and it's much more focused on the education system in the UK. So this may be of less interest to some of our international audience and people without kids because this is really going to be relevant to anyone who has children probably 12 years to around 16 years old; especially for those children who are 15 and 16 and will be doing their GCSE's. We speak to Paul and Emily Hughes, who run a company called a Parent's Guide to GCSE. And they've developed a course and a system where they help parents who have children going through their GCSE exams, which will be next year. It's a real minefield, because there's so many things that the children are given, where they often are in need of help from their parents, but the parents don't know how to help them. And this is where Paul and Emily come in. And they've developed all sorts of different materials to help the parents helping the children. So we're going to find out a lot more about that coming up. If you do like this podcast, it would really be helpful for us if you do leave a review, because a lot more people get to find out about the podcast when you leave a review. Please just be honest with how you find it. If there's any room for improvement, then let us know in your review. Why not subscribe while you're there? So you get to know about the podcast every week, when it's released on a Tuesday lunchtime. Right now. It is time for this week's show. Happiness versus flourishing. My guests today are Emily and Paul Hughes. How are you?
Emily Hughes 1:58
Good. Thank you very much.
Paul Hughes 1:59
Very good. Thank you.
Tony Winyard 2:01
I'm pretty good. Apart from I was saying to you just now that I've got no heating and hot water! But other than that life is fabulous. We find you in is it Peterborough today?
Paul Hughes 2:16
Beautiful and sunny, but is Peterborough.
Tony Winyard 2:21
You've been living there for quite a while.
Emily Hughes 2:23
Yeah, I've been here for the vast majority of my life. And when did you move?
Paul Hughes 2:29
I think I went travelling when I was about 27. And when I came back, I started my first real job in Peterborough. I've never really left since.
Tony Winyard 2:41
We have quite a few listeners in other countries. And so for those people who maybe aren't familiar with Peterborough can you explain where it is?
Emily Hughes 2:50
We are about an hour north of London.
Paul Hughes 2:53
Anyone who's ever gotten a train to go north from London to Edinburgh, will know where Peterborough is, it is the first big stop basically.
Tony Winyard 3:03
And you're involved in education?
Paul Hughes 3:09
Well, we both been teachers for forever, it seems like we did 31 years between us in the classroom. But Emily gave up about three years ago; well didn't give up, that's the wrong word, decided to change career. And I only resigned last year. But we now run the Parents Guide to GCSE and the Parent Guide to Post-16.
Emily Hughes 3:31
So taken what we know from our years in teaching, and what we know from our joyful experiences of parenting teenagers, and combine the two to then support parents. So we're kind of working from the outside in now, rather than from inside schools.
Tony Winyard 3:48
And when you say to support parents, so what do you mean by that? What was it that you felt parents really needed guidance with?
Emily Hughes 3:56
The epiphany for me came when our daughter was in primary school. And we were part of a Facebook group for parents. And one of the parents posted on the Facebook group. Can anyone help with this maths homework, it's bar modelling, and I've got no idea. And as a math teacher, I sort of went ding I know this, but that's because I've been trained in it. That's because it's a new thing that we've taken from Singapore. And so parents will never have met it at school. totally new method. And if your child doesn't understand it, there's no way they can explain it to you. So there's not a lot of ways that you can help them with that stuff. And that made me realise that there really just isn't anything out there to support parents. Because what you want as a parent is just to be able to help your children. You don't want to watch them struggle, you want to be able to give them the right not just in the right direction, so that they can get more and more independence so you can let them go off and be an adult when they're ready. And trust that they'll be okay but you just Want to support them in the meantime, and, and there just wasn't anything, just nothing. There's bajillions of pounds being spent on tutors and revision guides and all sorts of things. But there's nothing that helps parents to understand what's going on in schools, and what they need to do to help their children make the most of their study time. So particularly heading into GCS as we talk, you know, mindset and study skills, because those are the two big things that make the biggest difference. And if you don't know what effective revision looks like, then odds are you fall into the trap that we fell in with with one of the kids
Tony Winyard 5:37
I guess this year with the whole pandemic, and homeschooling and everything, you must have been just inundated?
Paul Hughes 5:47
I think right place at the right time. But it's still been tricky because with everything we try to do is built towards GCSE exams, when all of a sudden GCSE exams are cancelled. That wasn't ideal. And there's just so much confusion for parents, which I suppose in a way worked in our favour because we did a stellar job of essentially interpreting all the vague government announcements via our Facebook page and explaining what it actually meant in terms of to parents, this is what they're trying to say, rather than this sort of fairly convoluted language that they would use to, you know, try and explain a situation.
Emily Hughes 6:28
Yeah, so it's just been about being there for people and helping them figure out, you know, what, what this means for them, we've started up, it's been a year and a half now. So we've started with the academic year that ended with then exams being cancelled. So we didn't even get through a full year as we'd planned. And we had to very much change up what we were doing. So we run basically a membership for parents. So the idea is, as a parent, you sign up, you get then weekly emails with bite sized chunks of information to help you help your child with like a one thing to do this week that will make a difference. So when exams were then cancelled, that kind of threw our, our timetable out of the window, just a tad. And we had to rethink. And I think actually, it was it was one of the one of the best things that could have happened in terms of making us think outside the box, because we got to be a lot more creative with the stuff that we covered. So we did things like financial education, so covered payslips, and savings and credit cards. Yeah, all of the stuff Hello, loans, yes, all the stuff that you wish your child knew more about. But, you know, it doesn't get taught in schools, particularly because there isn't time in the curriculum. And so we were able to go off on a bit of a tangent and do some really useful life skills with with parents and help prepare children for forget wealth, which, which then made a difference. So we were very, very lucky that our parents believed in what we were doing, and and stuck with us through it. And, yeah, it could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn't.
Paul Hughes 8:06
It also made us think about because we had year 11 parents, we only so in our first year, we only, essentially were open to having parents, because we're now in our second year, those European parents know your parents. So parent guide to post 16 was born pretty much made lockdown, because we're thinking about how the direction that the business was going to take. And it gave us the sort of the time to sit down and plan a really sort of good, strong membership for the utopia 13. So yeah.
Tony Winyard 8:38
The parents that you're helping, so how, how much time would they typically need to be looking at this material each week?
Paul Hughes 8:46
It's actually designed to be really small chunks, as Emily just said. So the email is also videoed, so they can either watch or read. And it's generally about five, six minutes long. So it's small. And it's time to be, you know, the right point of whichever year group their child is in. So it really doesn't take an awful lot of time. But it's it's information they probably need to know about, specifically, for example, as they're approaching mocks, which they're probably doing, at the moment, we do a big section on the build up to mocks and what to take from mocks and how to deal with, you know, the feedback and the pressures etc. So it's it really is not designed to be anything arduous. It's just small bite sized, but targeted. And parents have more than enough on their plates at
Emily Hughes 9:36
the moment, particularly right now. And so we wanted it to be something that was really simple, but really effective. And the best advice we can give is that parents sit down and actually either read or watch the advice each week with their child because then you kind of two birds with one stone. What's the advice you have a quick conversation about whatever it's about, leading into possibly conversation about school. Because for those of you listening with teenagers, you're probably familiar with the grunting and the eye rolling that you normally get when you ask about school, teenagers to switch off when it's their parents trying to give them advice and think they know everything. And so finding that little workaround for parents whereby you're actually getting advice from experts, instead, let's sit down and watch this together and figure out what we're supposed to do this week. That takes away those those barriers from the teenagers. So it makes a big difference in helping to get through to your child and have productive conversations about school rather than arguments about school, which is more normal.
Tony Winyard 10:42
And what kind of feedback have you been getting?
Emily Hughes 10:45
it's been overwhelmingly positive. I think, my my favourite was when I was described as someone's rock through the entire situation, which obviously won't happen. I don't think not during normal years, but this year, I think there's just been so much, not not misinformation, but so much fakeness. Certainly differing viewpoints, and something will happen. And depending on which newspaper you read, will decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. And that isn't helping, because it's just stressing parents out more. So being able to be there and be that voice of reason in the middle. This is what it actually means for you. That's, that's been a massive deal to a lot of parents. That's what we're what we're hearing. So we're a bit sad that we didn't get the official results day in results, because they didn't do proper in inverted commas exams last year, because we were looking forward to getting all of those smiley pictures of parents with like their child and their results clutched in their hands and big grins on their faces. So we still got that to look forward to when we have a normal year.
Paul Hughes 11:51
Definitely on the plan for this year at the moment, but we're only in sort of early on in the year. So who knows what will happen with the government as we go through the rest of the year. Indeed,
Tony Winyard 12:01
You mentioned just then about the feedback you got from some of the parents; I wondered if any of the kids; have they ever been in contact with you?
Emily Hughes 12:08
what we have done. So Denise, and her daughter, Amy, was some of our original members. And then they've now carried through to year 12. And we asked for, you know, if anybody had any feedback, and she wrote us a lovely little story, her testimonial, you know, here's how it was for me. I knew that I wanted to be able to help her. And it been so long since I did my GCSEs it didn't really know how. And then Amy chimes in and has written her own little thing. When mum told me she'd signed up for this. I was like, seriously, I need you getting involved. I'm okay, I'm on track. I've got this, she said, but I'm so glad she did. Because they were just it's little things like the websites that we recommend that she hadn't heard of. And the fact that it stopped them from arguing about revision and things, or at least, you know, much less arguing because they're teenagers, there's always going to be something I think she actually
Paul Hughes 13:01
valued that 10 minutes a day sits in 10 minutes or weeks or on a Sunday, probably when the email lands, sitting there discussing with the moment open the lines of communication and and i think made a huge difference. That's one, one family. But that's the story of being generally hearing across all by members.
Emily Hughes 13:19
Yeah, we like to have zoom chats wherever possible with members and their children just have a bit of a catch up, sometimes just children, sometimes just members. And I've had comments like, and she seems really nice and funny, not like a teacher at all. I'm not quite sure what to make of that. But I'm taking it as a compliment!
Tony Winyard 13:42
There's a possibility that the parents looking at these emails, videos on a weekly basis. In some ways it's gonna be a help to them, maybe in their own business or whatever work it is they're in?
Emily Hughes 13:57
not totally, we do a lot of mindset stuff. Very much so because it is all about, you know, the way that you approach things and whether you look at these things as an opportunity or as a threat, things like mocs in particular. And yeah, I think there are a lot of lessons that can be extrapolated. I know we've had some really positive feedback from parents about our goal setting masterclass. So we always start off with students with trying to get them to go through this to help them clarify what they want their future to look like. So they go through, basically, a series of different little activities to draw out what life could look like for them in 10 years time, just in terms of where they're living, on what salary they therefore need to be earning. So they get to do about house shopping. So we're popular, and then we took them through, you know, what are your skills? If you want that amount of money each month? What would you do with your day if you didn't have to work? How would you choose to spend your time? Is there a way you can turn that into To a job, here are some suggestions. So that they can start to design what their life is going to look like in 10 years. because too many of us fall into a job when we leave school or uni. And it's, you know, it's what's available at the time, or it seems like a good plan, or, oh my gosh, they're paying me lots of money, which seems like a fortune when you just come from being a student. But then, you know, 20 years later, you realise you're still in the same job. I mean, Paul retrained as a teacher, he had a career beforehand, before the boys were born. And yet, when he started teaching, he ended up staying in the same school for 16 years, and was not entirely happy at that school, let's say by the end of it, but you stay there because it's, it's easier, and it's convenient, and you newest, scary. So if you design for 10 years ahead, and you you have that big goal in mind, not only does it help you get there, and help get you to a job that you love, it stops you from just focusing on the exams, because the exams aren't a big motivator. Particularly, it's all about what happens next. And what doors the exams open. So it's about looking at the bigger picture and going Yep, short term. This is painful, I've got to do the revision. But look what's coming next. And it's the same principle. As long as I've
Paul Hughes 16:22
got there. Why, why it's important to do it, it makes the there's no hack to revision, it's got to be done. If you want to get the results, you're going to have to sit down and just put the hours in, but knowing what can be at the end of it from why you're doing it just makes makes it so much easier for them to sit down and do do the time as it were, yeah, my parents have said is
Emily Hughes 16:41
like I, I sat down and did this with my child. Because I thought it was really interesting. And oh my gosh, I'm seriously thinking I need a career change now, because I'm seeing all these doors open all these possibilities that I hadn't thought about before.
Paul Hughes 16:53
Instead, it turns out that house shopping is very popular with teenagers and parents.
Tony Winyard 17:00
You mentioned that you'd been helping them on topics, including budgeting and credit cards and so on. And as far as I'm aware that's nothing that's ever covered in school, unless things have changed?
Paul Hughes 17:15
No, absolutely not. I mean, it's so such an important life skill. There was a little bit of maths involved in compound interest and what have you that gets maybe one two lessons across the entire GCSE, two years of GCSE. But things like, as we say, credit cards, I mean, there's so many people who get into massive problems, because they don't know how to manage their money, they don't know, they don't understand what that means. And if they get too far into their earnings, how they probably can't ever repay it. And we gave some in the course we gave some very good examples about if you owe a particular amount, showing how much interest is on that how much you then have to repay how much it doesn't take off the actual chunk that you owe. And there comes a point where you actually never pay it back, you're literally just always just above keeping your head above water. So without knowing that kids may go into and get a credit card and just end up in huge debt. Yes, much easier.
Tony Winyard 18:21
They'll do what their parents have done, that's what kids tend to do.
Paul Hughes 18:24
we also did, this was quite scary to both of us actually did the thing about savings. It's really easy for parents say oh, you should save money. And I'm sure my parents did it. I'm sure Emily's did as well. But we've we've always earn good money, we've been very fortunate. But we have always kind of always spent spiders. And there's no easy way of saying this. But we haven't been as sensible as we could have been. So when I was doing this, how to save money, I was talking about putting about 10% of your paycheck to one side, which is fairly standard. I think if you read enough books about it, which we have done, but I worked out how much that would have been for us over the last 15 years or so. And it was it was a Crazy, Stupid amount of money that would pay our mortgage off. And that 10% we wouldn't have missed it because you know, we we just enjoy ourselves too much. You know, too many holidays too many, you know, costers too many Starbucks, it wouldn't have been a big sacrifice to put that money to one side and we will never be mortgage free. So it's, it's quite scary to look at. And I think as a teenager, knowing knowing how that could work out for them would have like a big difference.
Tony Winyard 19:35
And I imagine if you were to do a survey in an average supermarket and ask 100 people what APR is, for example, probably 95% of them will get it wrong.
Paul Hughes 19:46
Yeah. Yeah. Because it's just not covered ever kind of school. Yeah.
Emily Hughes 19:54
Regardless, you can compare rates but nobody really understands what it means and the power The effect that it then has on your debt. So yeah.
Tony Winyard 20:03
And something you mentioned just now, Paul, it's a vital life skill. It's not just important, it's so huge for your whole life,
Paul Hughes 20:13
where it can define families, if they're living in debt, it's so difficult to ever get out of it. If you can avoid putting yourself in that position in the first place, then then that's that's got to be the way forward things like payday loans, again, we covered you know, you borrow 400 quid, it's not a lot of money, but you have to pay back for example, 480 credit doesn't sound like a lot of money. But most people stats which show having researched it, most people don't pay back in that first end of that first month. So that then have to go into another agreement. And it just, it just completely absolutely snowballs to a point where they are beholden to the company, for every penny they ever earned. This is so scary
Tony Winyard 20:57
But more than just that, one of the things that's in my mind is, I'm sure I've heard one of the biggest arguments in most relationships is normally around finances. So it's even gonna affect them in that way is going to help their relationships as well.
Emily Hughes 21:12
Yeah, definitely, we, we are very big believers in the fact that it's not just about grades on a piece of paper at the end of the course, whether that's GCSE or post 16. It's about helping your child to be that well rounded, young adult, so that whatever they face next be that me apprenticeships, jobs, whatever, they're ready for it. And so we do like to throw in opposite ends of other stuff, things like we're looking at learning to learn. And that's my my next project. Because things like learning to speed read is a skill that can be taught and makes a massive difference. We talked a lot in in March, when schools were first closed, to everyone except keyworker. Children, we talked a lot about doing important things like learning to touch type, pretty much every job everywhere, or at least every life involves having to type at some point or another. There's a lot of things, you know, whether that's just writing emails to people or typing in your status update on Facebook, learning to touch type speeds everything up. But it's not taught in schools anymore. And there are plenty of free programmes out there that do it. And typing club comm I think was the one we found. But we were getting our daughter to learn because it just it genuinely makes a difference, particularly at school, when you then have to hand in essays and things. So little tips and tricks like that memory tips and tricks because you, you can make sure that your brain is becoming stronger and faster and more efficient, all the way through your life. Because neuroplasticity means you can every new thing that you learn every new link that you make in your brain makes it stronger and better. But if you don't know that, and you don't understand that concept, then you can either write yourself off as I'm not smart enough to do that. Lots of people do. And or you can do no not, not push yourself not discover what you're actually capable of, because you don't try enough stuff. So when learning those those tips, those techniques, those tricks, that can make a massive difference as well to being a lifelong learner. And I think that's vital, particularly in business is to always be learning. Always. I'm an avid reader of business books. And I think it makes a massive difference to what we do.
Tony Winyard 23:44
A couple of years ago, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover my daughter who at the time, I think she was about eight or nine. And I found out that in her school, they were doing some Growth Mindset, and I was so happy to discover that, but I wondered whether that was something that was done in all schools or if it was just her school, do you know much about that?
Emily Hughes 24:12
was very popular. At one point I got sent on a training course I was head of mass at the time. And I was asked to run a whole staff training session on growth mindset. And they sent me off on a seminar and I got to hear Carol Dweck, who basically created the whole theory. Got to hear her talk about it, which was amazing. And yeah, it was it was one of the fads that has been gone through and some schools are still doing bits and bobs with it. Some schools haven't. It's down to the level of training that teachers got and how comfortable they felt with it. I think at the
Paul Hughes 24:44
time. Yes, one of the massive frustrations about schools is they have fantasies and he says something will come in and schools will absolutely run with it. They'll put huge amounts of money into it for a year or so. And then probably not just not see it through not maybe It is embedded within their students. And nationally that growth mindset is huge if you can get that, right, it makes such a difference to the learning culture of a school. But a lot of schools one didn't engage in the first place. And two just simply didn't see it through and now, I think is starting to die of death. But it's not as it's not as popular as it used to be, even though it's very difficult to argue how really powerful it is. Yeah,
Emily Hughes 25:27
it's about the consistency, it's very much like in business, if you have a fat way or all, I'm going to be on social media all of the time. And then that you don't stay and do that consistently, then it doesn't have a long term impact, because you haven't been doing it consistently. It's not that it wouldn't have worked is that you didn't give it long enough. And we, I think, are all guilty of going through fads, just schools.
Tony Winyard 25:51
You mentioned just now about teaching kids things like speed reading and about learning and would you be covering things along the lines of Spaced Repetition and so on to help them to learn things, so it stays in their mind?
Paul Hughes 26:05
Yes, something that we're quite big on is just making sure that if if students have to revise, which they do, we're huge fans are making sure it's really effective. So something like Spaced Repetition is just absolutely vital to making sure those long term memory bonds are formed. So we plan that into all of our, the various years that we cover through from year 1011 to currently year, 12. Year 13 next year, but Spaced Repetition does occur in all of our programmes, because it is so important.
Tony Winyard 26:40
Are you both familiar with the concept of memory palaces?
Emily Hughes 26:44
vaguely, but not familiar? familiar. I've looked into more Dominic O'Brien stuff, and then Jack Black and his... mind something...
Tony Winyard 26:57
I've read a couple of Dominic O'Brien books. There's a 52 week something. Yeah, he's got some great memory techniques. And he talks a lot in some of his books about memory palaces, which is essentially is just a way of remembering huge chunks of information. Like it could be you could actually use a memory palace, for example, to memorise a book, not word by word, but all of the key concepts in a particular book, or whatever.
Emily Hughes 27:28
Yeah, Mindstore for the record, Jack Black. Similar sort of process. It's more about training your brain to look at different ways that things could be, look for the positives and so on, then, vast quantities of stuff. But yes, I should, I should add that to my research list.
Tony Winyard 27:51
The reason for bringing that up. Because you talked about learning to learn, which isn't something as far as I'm aware that kids generally are doing and even learning how to think more effectively. So I just wonder how concepts like that. And as you said, speed reading and Spaced Repetition, rather than just rote learning, which.... Sometimes it seems like there's no point in it because you do the rote learning just to get past an exam now and then in a year's time, they don't remember anything about that. So what was the point?
Paul Hughes 28:19
Yeah, absolutely. It's not lifelong learning. It's learning to the end of June, probably, just to get you through the exam.
Emily Hughes 28:28
I mean, teachers are wonderfully creative, coming up with different ways of remembering things, particularly linking concepts together, which obviously really helps with memory. And, but in terms of the GCSE ease, because a large chunks of them are things that let's let's take an individual student who wants to go on and do a particular thing, half their GCSE is going to be things they never think about again, just because unless they go on a quiz show, that's the only time they would want to be thinking about that kind of stuff. If you're not going on study maths after GCSE. You are Let's face it, never going to use simultaneous equations again, for example. So I think it's it's more the psychology of kids writing stuff off as I don't need to know this after the exams, that causes that issue. There isn't particularly rote learning in schools anymore. Just because, you know, it doesn't work. It's dull for everyone. It's, it's frustrating. It's just, I think, is that the challenges that are put upon schools that's, that's the bigger issue for me, the constant pressure in terms of league tables and Ofsted and the totally subjective nature of an Ofsted inspection, where, you know, it depends on what they think is good as to whether they think your lesson is good. Again, depending on which fab they've bought into. You can do an amazing lesson but if they think group learning is everything and you don't see your kids in groups, You're not going to do so well, and vice versa. So and So yeah, they, I think teachers would like to have a little bit more freedom to be more creative. But they do a fantastic job within the constraints that they have
Tony Winyard 30:23
Last week, I attended a zoom online parents evening, because obviously, we can't have face to face parent sessions at the moment. And I was thinking about it that the number of kids in my daughter's year, I was thinking, there must have been hours, they were just on zoom calls with parents...
Paul Hughes 30:45
But that's no different to most parents evenings, where it's generally. So anywhere between three and four hours, maybe with a break in between just to do five minutes with each parent. And and that was one of our, one of the reasons we thought, in the first instance, about parent guide to GCM post 16 is that parents get so little time with the teachers, it's, it's just that five minutes, 10 minutes, if you're really, really lucky, is not enough time to get the information across about how that child can improve what they need to do to improve. how better to revise for exams, how better to prepare for inter topic tests. And the five minutes just simply isn't enough. So we're hoping to bridge some of that gap.
Tony Winyard 31:31
Is it customizable? Say, for example, one particular parent comes in and their kid has decided this is the direction they want to go in. So when would you customise material for that?
Paul Hughes 31:42
we get lots of requests by email from our members. And if they need something specific to their child, then most of the time, we can accommodate quite easily.
Emily Hughes 31:52
And one of the things that we do is for each group, we have once a fortnight, a dropping q&a session on our Facebook, about private member's Facebook group. So we'll just hop on live and answer any questions that anyone submitted beforehand or has on the day. And so if they've got particular questions about, you know, something specific to their child, which is usually what we get. And that's the time that they can get those answers. So two of those a month means that most of that is covered, it's just when there's something I don't know, something that's maybe a little more personal, or something that is a bit more urgent than people paying us an email. And we often get questions like, you know, I'm still having a little bit of trouble getting through to my child, they're a bit stressed about this, or they've got a revision plan, but they're not really using it could talk to them, and then we'll hop on a zoom and have a little chat and see if we can help to bridge that gap of communication and, and help them get on the right track. So
Tony Winyard 32:55
You mentioned just then about the child may be stressed about whatever. I wondered this year with all that is going on. And there's obviously a lot of people who are extremely stressed about everything that's been going on, I wonder how the kids have been dealing with it would you know much about; certainly with the kids that you've been working with, how they've been?
Emily Hughes 33:15
I everyone is massively struggling with it. Kids are really, really, to how to no stress frustrated and panicky, anxious, and it's to do with the uncertainty. So at this point, as we record, and Scotland have said no GCSE exams, they're going to do something equivalent, but no final exams. Wales have also said the same thing about GCSE exams and a levels. And yet, we're still saying no B exams, they've pushed it back three weeks, which really is not a lot of time. In fact, the English language exam has been brought forward from where it would normally be, so it's earlier. And and because kids aren't daft. They're looking at the various u turns that have already happened. And thinking well hang on a minute, I'm working my socks off to get this organised and ready for exams, they're they're just gonna U turn again. And that level of uncertainty is causing a lot of stress.
Paul Hughes 34:19
And it's basically meaning that students are looking at the each test that they do and the topic test, mock exam, whatever it is thinking this could be something that is going to be used by the government or by my teachers to to determine my try setting that to determine their final grades. So it's almost like having GCSEs every month, that pressure that stress, every single test that thinking it really could be something that is absolutely vital to their overall final grade, whereas actually it's just a teacher checking in on their understanding of a particular topic or particular point in the course.
Emily Hughes 34:54
Yeah, and then given that, everyone's pretty much deadlocks around this period. Some are waiting until January, but Many are in not in sort of November time, or early December. There are then I mean, one in five kids at the moment is off. Because they're isolating either because they're ill or because they've been in contact with someone. One in five kids is currently missing up to two weeks of school depending on whether they're able to get tests and things. And so as a year 11 student, if that happens to you a couple of weeks before, you're supposed to be doing your mocks, you can imagine the panic that kicks in. And then there's the whole Can I actually access the online stuff that school is setting because schools are doing their best. But if kids don't have access to the technology or the the Wi Fi at home, then that's, you know, that's something that we can't do an awful lot about. And the government laptops haven't really materialised at all, and have been cut dramatically, very quietly. And schools are really struggling to support students, I mean, schools, massive staff shortages as well, at the moment, it's something that's not been particularly reported in the media. But if you think about a snow day, snow days, get called in to the local radio station, usually, shortly before kids would have to set off for school, for the most part. And that's because head teachers don't call a snow day, until they've had a certain percentage of staff phone in and say I can't make it because of the snow. Because the reason schools closed is because they can't provide enough staff to legally look after those children. At the moment, there are a lot of stuff that are having to go off isolating. And there isn't the supply stuff, kind of there isn't the budget, because that's already spent supply stuff for the year, I think in most schools has already spent if if schools can't come provide the staffing levels, for students, there's a lot of cover lessons happening. You know, if kids don't have their proper teacher, it makes a difference. And that's something that schools aren't really being allowed to have control over. Because the DFE have stepped in and said schools may not close under any circumstances, it's a national decision that we make. And schools aren't being allowed to make that judgement call about when they can safely provide education for students in school, and when it has to be remotely. And that's a huge challenge at the moment. And again, it's adding to everyone's stress levels. Teachers at the moment, are ridiculously stressed. I think, I've just read it read something this morning, about the majority of teachers seem to be reporting suffering from insomnia, because their stress levels are through the roof at the moment. And you wouldn't believe it reading the papers, because apparently, all teachers are super lazy, and only work 39 weeks a year and then have all of the weekends off. That's not really the case at all. And teachers are on their knees at the moment.
Paul Hughes 37:51
We've got a text message from a friend, middle of last week. He's a math teacher. And it basically said, How do I go about setting myself up as not as a as a math tutor? I think somewhere in between what he was trying to say was I can't deal with this anymore, I need to get out.
Emily Hughes 38:06
I need to do something different. It's just too much for him. And students can see all this happening. And so they're they're taking on everybody else's stress. Because it is I mean, stress is infectious. If somebody in your house is stressed out, they snap at you, you get stressed out. And so it continues. So yeah, I think mental health is the biggest concern at the moment. The students, and if the teachers are stressed,
Tony Winyard 38:32
and naturally that's going to impact on what they're able to teach to the kids, so the kids are going to be affected as well. So it's just everyone loses
Paul Hughes 38:42
Yeah. And then most classes across most subjects are way behind on the content that should have been delivered by now. And that all comes back to the teacher again to try and squeeze everything in. So how do you teach topic, but do it as quickly as possible. And you can't check that the students have understood it. But you got to move on to the next topic, because it's on the schedule you and your schedule has been condensed hugely, is it's just it's so difficult. It's not a great situation. But teachers are doing absolutely the best they possibly can do and
Emily Hughes 39:17
twice a lot of the time because they're teaching the students in their classroom in front of them. And they're having to set work and potentially teach via online students that are isolating. So it's two jobs and one at the moment. It's madness.
Tony Winyard 39:31
You mentioned before about a lot of this is because of Ofsted targets and so on. Which countries do you think are handling this... or have got a much better approach to education in general?
Emily Hughes 39:48
Many of them, I don't know. And I find that reading about other countries and how they handle education so much better than us tends to just depress me. So I think there are, there are places who equally, you know, test kids half to death. But it's cultural differences that I think don't get included in the stats a lot there isn't. There isn't anyone I can pick out that.
Tony Winyard 40:21
Okay, well, let me put it a different way than. If you had the power now to change what happens in the education system. What changes do you think should be made?
Emily Hughes 40:34
Put a group of teachers in charge of education policy, rather than a government committee, who changes every four years. And whenever we get a new government, they feel the need to stamp their mark on education. Look at us, we're making a difference. I think it changed. Just when we're starting as teachers to get our heads around the new system. It's all pulled out from under us. And we have to start again. So I think if people were in charge of the situation, who had actually worked in a classroom, being at the talk face, so to speak, rather than just people who think they understand how education works, because they went to Eton once, I think
Paul Hughes 41:18
that would help. And really good example of that is when there was the issue about exam grades being used. So exams not being the SATs and mock exam grades were going to be used, that was an announcement, sort of midnight from the Secretary of State for education and teachers across the land. We're like, well, we can't use mock exams, because they're all set at different times. They're not the same paper. Some do exams in early November, some do them in late February. And some do them in the in the exam hall, some do them at the back of the classroom, some do them for homework is it there's just no kind of level playing field at all. But it was the education secretary said this. And it was very, very clear from the announcement, he had no idea what mock exams were and how they worked and how they're administered across different schools, different different settings. And it was just really frustrating. And not helpful, frankly.
Tony Winyard 42:15
It's a long time since I was at school, and I was wondering how the exam system that we have in place in the UK, do you think it it meets its goal? Or is there a better way of testing kids or trying to help kids to succeed in later life?
Emily Hughes 42:38
I think there's got to be a better way. Because at the moment, the system that we have is designed to, to get kids I know skills that aren't necessarily quite so relevant. Nowadays, creativity is far more important as a skill nowadays than knowing certain facts about certain things. And it's something that hasn't had the same emphasis placed on it. In fact, they're forever cutting funding to arts subjects. If you think about most jobs, they involve some form of creativity, particularly in business. And, you know, creating creative writing, when you're writing your marketing emails and things, you know, design stuff when you're creating materials, or websites or whatever. All of that stuff isn't covered in the same way at the moment and the exam system. We went away from the modular stuff and from coursework, for good reasons have the time. You know, coursework has always been a little bit iffy in terms of how how well kids are supported at home, and helped along. And but um, but at the moment, the exam system tests, do you have a good memory? And can you express yourself on paper really well haven't helped you. If you are dyslexic, for example, you get a little bit of extra time, but still, you're going to really struggle because it's all about writing and reading and not not allowing us said that creativity to shine through. I think there are arguments for and against the current exam system, I would probably suggest that against would be where I would learn. But I'm not sure I know what the right answer is.
Paul Hughes 44:31
The frustrating things we talked about governments and I think it was four or five years ago, maybe a bit longer, were they the changes that were announced a change from the grading, eighth, eighth, A to F for the number system nine to one and I don't think as far as we're aware, teachers were really consulted about how to make the changes effective, or what was in the best interest of our students and teachers. Just to make sure it's a good system that could be supported for years and years to come as a one government, we need to make a change, this is what we're going to do. And it just didn't seem particularly well thought through. Why start with a nine rather than a 10 watts? Who came out with that?
Emily Hughes 45:16
And what's the point? It's, you're still grading them in predefined chunks? What's the point in changing it from between nine and one and A's and G's that everyone understands. And then to go nine to one, where the old Oh level system was one to nine, so it was the other way around? So a lot of employers will be looking at one and going, that's amazing. No, that's not amazing. A nine is no amazing. And it's just unnecessarily confusing. And the, with my conspiracy theory hat on, I'm going to say, one to nine, with nine being the highest is probably so that at some point, we can move the goalposts again and I didn't attend. Because nine is what an A star star ish.
Paul Hughes 46:01
And I'll give you an example, when our twins went through and did their GCSEs. Their results looked what they got great results. However, the actual piece of paper showed that they got eights and nines for some subjects, they got A's, B's, and C's for other subjects, and they got distinction passes on merits. For other subjects, there's three different grading systems on one piece of paper, which as an employee, you look at it thinking, Well, I'm going to flip and then you get it. It's a mess.
Emily Hughes 46:31
Yes, it will be a change for changes sake, which is what we've been plagued with for quite some time. Hence, the desire to put some teachers in charge rather than just the at the whim of somebody else. Who doesn't really understand
Tony Winyard 46:47
The programme you've got going on now with the parents you're working with, have you had any parents contacting you from kids in younger age groups?
Emily Hughes 46:56
we have some people on the on the list, their mailing list, and on the Facebook group, that kind of general Facebook group who are trying to get ahead of the curve and stuff out early. And we have someone joined this morning, in fact, who'd put in the comments that their oldest had just gone through that GCSEs, but it was last year, so they didn't really get to do it properly. And now they've got a child in year 19, who will be starting their GCSEs next year. And so they they just want the extra support, because they don't know what to expect. Yeah, we're, we're, we're not quite geared up yet to support the younger students, we're trying to not bite off more than we can chew so that we can make sure we support everybody properly. And but at some stage, so the plan is,
Paul Hughes 47:43
I think the plan is we're certainly going to go to year 13 for next year. So we've got year 12 members at the moment, he'll graduate to year 13 next year, obviously. And once we've done that, then we're going to start looking at Key Stage Three, starting in year seven, and probably starting with that learning to learn that and we talked about if students know how their brain can take on information better, they're going to be better at their whole way through the school life school career.
Tony Winyard 48:14
If everything goes well, and you're getting great feedback from parents and really helping the kids. Can you see a situation where maybe you're taking on other former teachers or training people or whatever the case might be, and then expanding over more school years?
Paul Hughes 48:30
that we've had lots of requests from people we used to work with saying? Yeah, almost in order of when they contacted us saying, Oh, please, can you I think rescue me was the phrase that a few of them have used. We you know, we have fabulous plans for the parent guide to education brand. And it hopefully will require taking on additional staff additional skill sets to help us achieve them. Yeah,
Emily Hughes 48:57
definitely. Particularly if we end up going back more towards primary age because again, with SATs and things that kids are working towards parents could use the support. There's a lot of stuff that they're being taught. I mean, you know, I have a degree Paul has a degree but when she was doing what was it? fronted adverbials in year four or five, it just wants to cry. I don't know what those are. I understand the rules of grammar, I can write very eloquently. But oh my goodness, if you asked me to find you a fronted adverbial unless it literally kicked me in the face. I'm not sure I could.
Paul Hughes 49:33
I dare say cuz it's been six months since she did it. And so she can't remember fronted adverbial is either because it really isn't something that's going to help her and lead to
Emily Hughes 49:41
lightning. But yeah, if we if we expand backwards as well, then we'll definitely need to take on subject experts because again, we don't want to be in charge not knowing what we're talking about. So we need to make sure that the advice we're giving is the right stuff that comes from people with experience. So yeah, that said, that's the plan.
Tony Winyard 50:01
I would imagine that when you first started thinking about this, and you first started putting this in place, and that's when things were still normal, before this whole pandemic started; there was a clear summer break where yourselves could have time off. But I'm guessing;... did you really get time to have a have a break?
Paul Hughes 50:26
No, this is a fairly mad summer. But we did have, because it was out of lockdown wasn't. So we did have a couple of weeks where we were on holiday. But unfortunately, our holidays now require us to take laptops and everything with us, just in case. So Emily was doing live Facebook broadcasts, when the latest bit of government disinformation information came out to her to help our parents at that particular they gone period, video bombed by several people while trying to do it, which was quite entertaining. We were actually on holiday when the results came out, or results came out. And then were rescinded. And then they went to Central assess grades. So yeah, that was and that was our twins getting their results. So that was not a great, not a great week, to be honest. Yes, we
Emily Hughes 51:15
Yeah, we got a bit of a break. I mean, largely that was that was our choosing, we chose to push forward with Paragon 16, because we knew that this year's year 12 needed us way too much to delay and not be able to help them. So when so we were pushing through a launch for them to separate groups of people, which took up a lot of time and energy. And things are actually a lot calmer now. Now that we're through the launch period, we launched once a year, so we only open the membership up at the start of the school year. And then the rest of the year is just about serving members and making sure they're fully supported. So we get a bit more of a break now, really. So it's not it's not too terrible. Although I would have liked a little bit more of my summer, I think
Tony Winyard 51:59
Talking about having a break, we were talking before about the stress that teachers are under and I imagine with the way things have panned out this year that they wouldn't have got a break? and you talked about the the image that the Red Tops portray about, teachers having so much time off and doing nothing, well this year, because of the amount of stuff they had to do in term time alone, they hugely need that break, I would imagine. So this year, I wonder if they've had a break?
Paul Hughes 52:29
Well the summer was certainly tricky for them. Because most year groups didn't really go back properly, at the end of the last school year. So in September, all the classrooms had to be fully compliant with the new COVID rules. And that wasn't going to happen without teachers going in over the summer and making sure that everything was was as it needed to be. So there was certainly a very shortened some holiday for most teachers. And if you go back to Easter, and then may have 10 schools were open, I people keep announcing that schools have been closed schools have never been closed schools may have only been open to a small number of kids. But that's still just as hard work.
Emily Hughes 53:12
You know, they were normally they would have had two weeks off over eastern a week off over may half term to recover and reset. That hasn't happened because they've had to be open to look after the children of key workers and things. And so they've not had any of this downtime to recover. Heads aren't getting their weekends at the moment because track and trace has been kind of devolved almost into schools. And heads are having to deal with that stuff for their pupils. So even over the weekend, heads are in charge of and have to stay on top of all that stuff. They are not getting any kind of break at all. And it's just, it's going to, it's going to break a lot of people I think,
Tony Winyard 53:56
and one of the reasons I mentioned that is I read a book recently by a guy called Alex Pang. And the book was called 'Rest- Why you get more work done when you work less', because when, someone tries to do a 12 hour day and someone else does a four hour day the person doing four hours will get far more done and be far more productive than the person trying to do it in 12 hours. But also he talks about the importance of having breaks, and only working maybe for four days a week, and the importance of play and all this and I'm just thinking from what you're describing, apart from the stress that teachers were getting, because of all the mad stuff going on anyway, this is just compounding it hugely?
Emily Hughes 54:44
Yeah. They really are crawling towards Christmas. And then you add to that the fact that because because the government have basically banned schools from finishing early, there was a trussed up in the north who wanted to close this course a week early, so that everybody had time to properly quarantine before Christmas. So they could spend time with their families without worrying. They were then banned from doing that by the DFE in a in a gentle, unofficial, but it's tough, abandoned kind of way. And that means that schools break up what a week before Christmas. And so if somebody is in contact with another student on the last day of term, five, six days later, is when they, on average starts showing symptoms. Well, that's the day before Christmas Eve. So that's not gonna work out very well for students, and their families and teachers and their families. So the majority of teachers are saying, Well, I'm just not going to spend Christmas with my family. Because I can't isolate, I can't, I can't be sure that I'm safe to be around. And I don't want to bring COVID back to the family over over the holidays. So they're not even going to get the semblance of a proper Christmas, because that's been taken out of their hands.
Paul Hughes 56:02
And that sort of thing never covered in the press, what you do see on the practice, teachers aren't working hard enough. And by the way, they get two and a half weeks for Christmas and 13 weeks across the whole year. And it's an easy job. And,
Emily Hughes 56:15
and they've just been told there's a pay freeze again, which means that if you take inflation into account, it's basically just been a pay cut every year, the last decade, I think
Paul Hughes 56:24
pretty much I think, is the two years of pay rise over the last eight years.
Emily Hughes 56:31
Yeah, you talk to the countries that are doing things better. In terms of schooling, there are countries where teachers are a highly regarded profession, sort of your doctors, your lawyers, your judges, that kind of equivalent. That level of respect, makes a massive difference. And it's hard in a very long time in this country.
Tony Winyard 56:52
How's that going to attract new teachers, when as you said there's already a shortage...
Unknown Speaker 56:56
The shortages are getting far worse. The school I used to work out. They've got huge problems trying to attract quality staff to fill the classrooms. They're having to bribe people to become teachers. And then what happens is they stay for as long as they have to, to legally get that. Bribe that bursary that whatever it is, and then they go.
Tony Winyard 57:22
We're quickly running out of time, if people want to find out more about your course, and what it is you do, where are the best places for them to look?
Unknown Speaker 57:33
Head to parentguidetogcse.com or parentguidetopost16.com or they search for either of those things on Facebook, they'll find our page and our group, It's a great community for parents to go, and vent. Because you know, when you have toddlers, there's loads of Facebook groups for you, when you have teenagers, not so much. So we thought we'd build one. So Parent Guide to GCSE, Parent Guide to Post 16.
Tony Winyard 58:01
We've mentioned a couple of books during the course of the recording, but are there any books that either, between you, or you can do one each that you'd recommend? It doesn't have to be one, it can be more than one, that you would recommend to people, it doesn't necessarily necessarily have to be what we're talking about, it could be a book that's really inspired you or just thrilled you are whenever...
Unknown Speaker 58:21
I'm only gonna have one, we're part of a business mentoring group where we came across an author called John Lamerton. And he wrote a book called Routine Machine. And it kind of a lot of what he says resonates through our programme because setting up your teenager with a routine is going to help them be more effective at their revision of their learning. His book is not aimed at teenagers, it's a business book essentially. But it's really good talks about so he's very funny as well. Just the benefits to getting things done, making sure that you focus on the one thing, get it done, and then sort of everything else is once you've won the day. Everything else that you do on that day is is a bonus.
Unknown Speaker 59:07
Indeed, and then I from from a business point of view, I would recommend anything by Daniel Priestley. So particularly Oversubscribed which is a superb way of looking at creating the demand for your business rather than waiting and hoping that people come to you. And Key Person of Influence which is a great way of looking at building authority within your your niche. And then I'm going to be super cheeky. And just if you've been listening to this, it's probably because you're the parent of teenagers, which means if you've got GCSEs coming up I'd highly recommend mostly because I wrote it the GCSE Survival Guide for Parents, which is available via all good bookstores so long as they're called Amazon
Paul Hughes 59:50
and who wrote that?,
Emily Hughes 59:51
That would be me!
Tony Winyard 59:54
And when did that come out?
Emily Hughes 59:56
July the first
Tony Winyard 1:00:00
Very fresh, all current material. And do you have a quotation that you particularly like?
Unknown Speaker 1:00:14
I do. I used to have this on my classroom wall. I literally sat and cut it out of sticky back plastic Blue Peter stylee because I thought it was so important. And it goes: "If you're unwilling to learn, no one can teach you. If you're determined to learn, no one can stop you" I just thought that summed it all up beautifully.
Tony Winyard 1:00:46
Paul, do you have one?
Unknown Speaker 1:00:49
On our website, "knowledge beats nagging". We talk about parents, if they know how it all works, they can get the information across to their teenagers without having to nag them so knowledge beats nagging.
Tony Winyard 1:01:06
Paul, Emily, it's been it's been a real pleasure. It's been a very different episode, but hugely important. I think quite a few of the audience of this podcast do have children so this could be so much more important than they realise. Thank you for taking the time to share the information.
Paul Hughes 1:01:27
Thank you very much for having us on.
Tony Winyard 1:01:27
Next week is Episode 19 with Wesley Tan, who runs a gym for gymnastics for adults, most domestic gyms in the UK, are aimed at children, but Wesley runs a couple of gyms called Forma, and they are aimed at adults, they really help adults to improve their strength, their flexibility, and their mobility, which is useful in so many different ways. Wesley is also an Osteopath, and has been a specialist in working with the human body for about 20 years now. So that's next week's episode with Wesley Tan. Hope you enjoy this week's show with Paul and Emily. If you know someone who would really benefit from some of the information they shared, why not share the episode with them. If you know anyone who has children of around 14, 15, 16 especially if they're here in the UK, the episode could be of real value to them. And certainly, it could be of enormous value to their children's future, so why not share the episode with them? please do leave a review for us on iTunes or any of the podcast platforms. And if you're there, why not subscribe at the same time. Hope you have a great week.
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