It may be no surprise to parents to hear that the biggest issue most students face is with their confidence.

It’s nothing unique to them either. We all face crises of confidence when we learn something new or push out of our comfort zone.

The reason we call this a comfort zone is that it is uncomfortable to leave. But that is where growth happens.

But to encourage students to take that step, there have to be mini-successes lining the path to build their confidence.

And so it is important for students to have someone to hold their hand a little along that path. I make sure those successes happen by setting the pace for them, keeping them away from overwhelm.

Tracking progress

When I look at a goal I’m working towards, it is easy to be put off by how big and scary it looks from the beginning of the journey. We can’t see the route to it, or imagine ourselves reaching it. And so it is easier to just decide we don’t want it and ignore it

You might see this in your child with emotional outbursts. They might have a lack of interest in school and studies, not want to talk about school or act up in lessons. Lack of confidence might spill into other areas, and you might notice they’re self-conscious about things they’re usually comfortable with.

It’s easy to decide Netflix and chocolate is a better option than going out for a run. It’s just as easy to then get angry that my jeans won’t do up anymore. We know that the short-term brain is no friend to long-term success. But we make these choices in the moment anyway because they feel better.

Students make those choices every day with their school work. I can’t even tell you how many times a student tells me “I can’t do that” before proceeding to do exactly that. And it doesn’t change their attitude because they’ll tell me they can’t do it again 5 minutes later.

So it’s my job to tally up those little wins as we go and keep reminding my students of them. I lay out the steps for them to take as they go to get closer to their goal. And when they don’t feel like they can take the next one, I turn them back to look at all the steps they’ve taken so far and give them a little nudge forwards.

That’s 90% of what tutoring means. It doesn’t matter what we know, how fast we can do sums, how many words we’ve memorised. It is just important that there’s someone there who understands the path you’re taking and is prepared to support you through it.

Goal setting

Rather than looking at the big daunting task of ‘passing exams’, break your goals down into small steps that can be achieved in one day.

If I want to complete a sponsored run (unlikely) but have never run before, I might sign up for a ‘couch to 5k’ program, go out on training runs with a friend, perhaps even a coach, and learn about what’s involved first.

Exam prep is no different. Your goals should be broken down into manageable steps that build to the end goal. Review the exam specification to know exactly what to expect, find out the dates in advance and plan your revision time, and have supportive friends and family around you to keep you on track.

GCSE students usually haven’t sat exams before, so they don’t know what to expect. That’s why practice papers help, even when they’re unpopular. The more familiar something is the less scary it becomes.

Keeping positive

The human mind is exceptionally complicated and powerful. It can feel like a minefield at times, but we have more control over it than we think.

A positive outlook really makes a difference to success.

It has long been reported that attitude is the biggest factor to success. If you don’t believe you can do something, you’ve already lost the battle.

But how do you get a positive attitude about something you far?

A generally positive outlook makes a big difference. And you can build this by adding little habits into your routine.

Every morning, make a list of ten things you are grateful for.

Every evening, note what you did well that day.

Make a list of ten things you like about yourself.

When doing these things becomes a habit, we’re encouraging our brains to be more positive overall, and it keeps us to see positivity in more places and experiences.

It sounds really cheesy, and it’s easy to pass off as rubbish, but it doesn’t cost you anything to try and I think you’ll be surprised!

Community support

I know it can be hard to make changes to your habits, especially when you don’t know where to start.

I run a Facebook group to help students and their parents make a plan for their revision and to stay motivated.

You can join us at