X Close

Discover UCL


UCL Access and Widening Participation


Archive for the 'A helping hand' Category

More top tips for parents and carers: home schooling

By Lauren Sandhu, on 15 May 2020

This is the second in our series of blog posts which aim to help parents and carers manage the transition to home schooling.  If you have just discovered our blog, then you may wish to check out our first blog for top tips 1-5.  This series is written by Karen Roberts our Senior Access Officer for pupil engagement. Karen is a former teacher and has lots of experience working with young people. We will be posting on a regular basis so please check back for more tips and ideas as the summer term progresses.

Tip 6 – Focus on literacy

Encourage your child to read every day at their own pace. It is no secret that regular reading is one of the best ways to improve your child’s literacy at all stages of development and some children may find reading relaxing.  This doesn’t have to be books; it can include any suitable reading material that you have at home, such as free newspapers (although we suggest only allowing them to read specific sections which you have checked for content), magazines or re-reading written materials that they were given at school.

Similarly, creative writing can help develop both reading and writing skills.  You can ask your child to write about what they’ve done that day or you may decide to give them a particular theme, such as ‘friendship’.  They can also make a comic by adding pictures to their story.

Tip 7 – Work on numeracy

Use this time to go over fundamental maths skills with your children, such as number bonds, times tables, division, addition and subtraction strategies.  You could also try simple arithmetic games which test literacy skills at the same time.  For example, assign points to every letter of the alphabet between 1-26 (A=1, B=2, C=3 and so on up to Z=26).  Then, for younger children, you could ask them to work out the total value of certain words; for example, “how many points are there in the word ‘dog’?”  For older children, you could increase the level of challenge by asking them to come up with words which add up to a certain number of points; for example, “can you come up with a word that has 12 points?”

Tip 8 – If you are sharing home schooling responsibilities, think about how best to divide your time

You will undoubtedly find it difficult to home school all day and also get other things done!  Some of you may decide to split your home school schedule into shifts, meaning that one parent might supervise in the morning, while the other parent supervises in the afternoon.  Depending on your other commitments and the size of your family, some of you may prefer to divide your home schooling by age group so that one parent helps the younger children, while the other helps the older children and on different days, you may switch over.  There is no right or wrong.  Feel free to change things around until you find the arrangement that best suits your and your family’s needs.

Tip 9 – Enlist the help of others where you can

If you aren’t confident about certain subjects, have a think about whether you could ask someone else to help.  For example, does your child have older siblings or cousins who might be able to help, particularly if they have already advanced to A-level or university level study?  Do you have any relatives or friends who might be able to look over your child’s work via WhatsApp?  Or they could talk through their homework with them on the phone?  Also, don’t be afraid to contact your child’s school to see if you can speak to your child’s subject teacher for some advice as, in many cases, school staff will be checking emails on a regular basis.

Tip 10 – Remember that home lessons do not have to cost you extra money

Money is tight for many of us at this time, so here are some more ideas for learning activities you can do with your children at minimal cost:

  • Send your child/ren on a treasure hunt around your home (and garden if you have one), with instructions such as ‘find something white’, ‘find something that has a nice smell’, ‘find something soft’ etc. Try to include at least ten items on the list and try to cover sight, smell, taste, touch and sound.
  • Ask them to draw a picture of whatever they can see from the windows of your home (this can just be a pencil sketch if you don’t have any coloured pencils or paints).
  • Help them to make a simple paper banner to decorate your home for the summer.
  • To further develop literacy, encourage your child to design their own word search or crossword for you or their siblings to complete.
  • Set them a photography challenge to take pictures to illustrate the times we’re currently living in; for example, their mood, daily activities and anything important that happens such as clapping for the NHS. You will find these interesting to look back at once life returns to normal.

We wish you all the best with home schooling and once again, remember not to put too much pressure on yourself and just do the best that you can.  Also, keep checking the Access and Widening Participation Office’s blog to see how we can help.

Some useful resources for parents and carers:

Top tips for parents and carers: home schooling

By Lauren Sandhu, on 4 May 2020

We understand that home schooling is a challenge for many parents and carers at this time, so we wanted to play our part in helping you to manage the transition. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing posts on our blog with lots of top tips for parents and carers written by Karen Roberts our Senior Access Officer for pupil engagement. Karen is a former teacher and has lots of experience working with young people.

Some of these tips come from advice published by the UCL Institute of Education.

Tip 1 – Establish a routine

One of the best ways to make the change to home schooling is to establish a routine as soon as possible.

For example:

  • Copy the school timetable as far as possible so that your child is familiar with the structure of each learning day.
  • Include similar break-times and meal times each day (if possible and/or appropriate).
  • Work with your child to see how you can recreate school at home, for example, ringing a bell or having a timer to mark the end of a lesson or time for a break.
  • Encourage your child to change out of their nightwear in the morning and get dressed to start their ‘school’ day at home. This can be a good way of making the distinction between the learning day and leisure time.

Tip 2 – Work with your child/children to create a ‘school space’

Depending on how much space you have, you could give each child a separate work area in the same room, or have one child study in their bedroom while another studies in the living room.  Alternatively, you can identify a ‘school’ chair where learning takes place.  Wherever you decide to set up your ‘school space’, try to minimise the distractions around that area of your home during the learning day.

Tip 3 – Work with your child to plan learning activities

One of the most powerful resources you have at your fingertips is your child/children.

Ask them how the family can make things work.  Questions might include:

  • What is the best way for me to help you?
  • How are we doing?
  • What can we improve next week?

Children are great problem solvers.  Working together on preparing the materials needed for a lesson and creating the visual resources may help to motivate and engage them.

Also remember that, in school, children are learning in groups with a teacher so working alongside them from time to time can show support (whether you’re working from home yourself or reading a book or a magazine while they study).

Tip 4 – Use ‘Now and Next’ Cards

Some children who struggle to concentrate or remain motivated may benefit from ‘Now and Next’ cards.  This is a particularly good way of introducing rewards for finishing tasks.

If your child struggles with this, make the ‘target task’ very short, followed quickly by the reward activity.  For example, you could say something like ‘For art lesson today, I’d like you to paint a rainbow which we can put in our front window.  If you spend the next 15 minutes doing that, then you can spend 15 minutes on your phone’.  You can extend the time spent on the ‘target task’ gradually once you child learns to trust the reward process.

You can find some resources to help on the Twinkl website.

Tip 5 – Use whatever you have at home to create lessons

You don’t need to spend extra money to create fun learning activities for your children.

Some ideas for no-cost or low-cost activities include:

  • Baking a cake or cooking a meal with them.
  • Helping them to keep a diary of how they are spending their time in lockdown.
  • Making cards for elderly/isolated neighbours.
  • Learning a dance routine (which you could video).
  • Writing a play and performing it to the family (also a good one to video).

And don’t forget – you are not expected to become an expert in every subject that your child has been learning at school.  This is not realistic so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your child’s teachers will get them back on track when they return to school so in the meantime, just do your best to support your child’s learning and stay safe.

Some useful resources for parents and carers:

20th Century Fresher

By Michael Wyatt, on 25 October 2018

Today, student writer Michael tells us about his experience of starting university two years later than planned. 


“Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional”

– Walt Disney


Are you a UCL fresher? Are you older than 18? Don’t worry, a lot of us are/were.

When I arrived at UCL two years later than planned, needless to say, I was apprehensive. I was conscious of the fact that I had not been socialising with people my own age for a while and I’d been out of education for enough time to believe my brain had gone dormant. I’d convinced myself that everyone was going to think I was “old and boring”, and as a result make no friends and regret the time I took out after school. I was wrong. 

If you are about to start at UCL and become a ‘UCL fresher’ after taking a year (or years) out prior to this, hopefully this post will settle your nerves a bit. Trust me, you’ll be fine. Your brain has not collapsed in on itself; you’re not a dinosaur and you’ve gained valuable life experience that will only enhance your time at UCL, not diminish it. 

Reaching the end of your gap year(s)

It has become the norm for students to take gap years after secondary school before starting university. Many travel, some work and some are forced to take some time out beyond their control. Me? I spent a year in and out of hospital, then a year working to strengthen my CV. When the start of term approached, I suddenly realised that I’d not spent a lot of time reading or engaging my brain in academic work, or even doing much socialising, and immediately panicked that I was in no way prepared for what lied ahead.

For any ‘fresher’ (new student), starting university can be scary, and we all arrive with our own unique anxieties about the coming months. For those about to start after taking time out, there may be a few shared anxieties that you and your fellow 20th century born peers are feeling, I know I had a few. This is why I have decided to write a short guide below on how to approach university if you’ve not come straight from school. The short version? Don’t worry – it all works out fine!

Am I too old for freshers? Am I too old for friends?

In a word: no. University is full of people all shapes, sizes and ages. If you’re a 21 year old fresher, there will be many younger than you but also students who are older too. It may be cliché, but age really is just a number at university. Whilst a lot of ‘freshers’ arrive straight out of school at 18, there are a still a huge number of students that do not. Some are child prodigies and start university 16 or 17, whilst others are taking a pause in their career to do another degree. Either way, taking a gap year or some general time out and arriving at 20 or 21 will make no difference. You may gravitate towards people you’re own age, or mix with a range of different age groups. As long as you choose to want friends, you’ll find them.

Will I find it hard coming back into education?

This is a concern I think a lot of students face before arriving at university; even if they haven’t taken a gap year. Post sixth form summer in itself can feel like a long time to let your brain seep into a joyous state of relaxation, let alone taking a year out. I spent over a year working in an office before coming to UCL and still thought my brain had not been worked hard in so long that I was going to struggle reading a book – not to mention writing essays every month.

The key thing to remember is this: you got into UCL. You’re smart. Your brain needed the time you gave it to chill out, and whilst it may take you a couple of weeks to get back into routine, you are no less intelligent than when you finished school. If anything, you’ve gained life experience and have used your brain in new ways over the last year that you’re even more prepared!

Everyone struggles to get used to the independent working style of university at first. There is no one to tell you when to do things or how they should be done. Allow yourself a bit of extra time to write up lecture notes and read articles in the first term. Take your time to ensure you are understanding everything you’re trying to learn. After Christmas, you’ll have forgotten about the time you were worried about under achieving because you’ll be swimming in firsts.

Do I need to prepare myself for what lies ahead?

Absolutely not. Show up with an open mind and prepare for a complete world wind of an experience. Nothing can prepare you for university. It is a world completely outside of your control – other than your grades – and that is what makes it so exciting.

Understanding student finance: A parent’s perspective

By Emily Robinson, on 22 May 2018

Karen, our Senior Access Officer (Pupil Engagement) tells us about how she felt when her son started university last Autumn, and gives her thoughts on supporting your child through the student finance application process and how to help them manage their money. 

It’s fair to say that sending your child off to university is a significant milestone for everyone in the family.  In most cases, this will mark the first time your child will live independently, learning how to take care of themselves and manage their own money.  For parents, the transition often brings with it a major sense of loss. Barack Obama recently described dropping his eldest daughter off at Harvard as “a little bit like open-heart surgery”.  As someone who went through the same experience last September, I can completely identify with his sentiments.  Parents of new undergraduates have many anxieties that keep them awake at night. We worry about our children eating properly, getting enough sleep, making new friends and, of course, we want them to do well in their studies.