In our house there are GCSEs looming. In yours it may be Common Entrance, or simply end-of-year exams. We all know that some sort of timetable is bound to be helpful. But have you tried asking yours to come up with one? Children tend to have no idea and just list subjects randomly across Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…

But a good timetable has the power to lift exam anxiety from not only your child’s shoulders, but yours too. They can see there is a sensible, workable plan in place. And you will have something specific and useful to bang on at them about!

This is a simple 4-step exercise to wrestle revision back into control and to ring-fence it, so that essential free time, fun and relaxation can come back into play.

  1. List all subjects being examined and sit down with your child at a good moment, with a hot drink each and maybe some biscuits.
  2. How many hours more revision are needed for each subject? Encourage calm, and write down ‘4 hours’ or ‘2.5 hours’ next to each subject on the list.
  3. Tot up how many full days (i.e. weekends or half term days) and how many after school evenings are left before the exams. Don’t include the night before any exam. Agree to miss out Friday after school for a complete break.
  4. Count up total hours needed for revision and look at a simple way of sharing these out over the days that are left. No more than 1.5-2 hours after school any night is reasonable, but on full days 3 or 4 hours when timed correctly early in the day can be manageable (with proper breaks of course). Mix up the subjects in blocks of no more than 1 hour max. Shorter exercises are particularly good to break up the work – perhaps 15 minutes of maths per session, in between other subjects.

If you are good with tables and diagrams on your desk-top, you can make the timetable you have come up with look pretty, and colour-code it. I am less good at that sort of thing, so our timetable is in pencil on a piece of lined A4 paper, selotaped to his bedroom wall (we will aim to fix the paintwork after this is all over). Take a photo of it on your phone, just in case it gets mislaid.

If a problem arises with the timetable once it is in place, give it a little shuffle. We had cricket training on a Monday and the late return was just too much to face 2 hours work before bed. So we swapped the Monday with the free Friday and all was well again.

Once the timetable is agreed, it is a lovely pictorial demonstration of something that is do-able. Agree it is worth sticking to, and move quickly on to a discussion of how free time can be made properly relaxing and fun.