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Preparing for a successful VCE experience

NEWS 2 Aug 2021

The remaining half of the school year is a particularly important—and potentially stressful—time for Senior School students preparing for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). Parents and carers play a key role in helping teenagers navigate the demands of homework, revision, major assignments and exams while managing their self-care.

Learning and education experts have plenty of useful advice on the rituals and routines that can ease families through this important time in the school year.

As clinical psychologist Mr Andrew Fuller has noted in his extensive work with schools and students, “When you have a student completing the senior years of school, everyone in the family is doing Year 11 or 12.”

Mr Fuller says parents can support students during their senior years by helping them to manage their time, manage their energy, manage stress, and ‘get everything in at the right time and in the right place’.

News - How to Nail VCE

So how can parents put systems in place to help students survive and thrive when they arrive at the pointy end of their VCE studies?

Create a study routine: “Sit down with your child and talk about their workload and when they have exams or assignments due. Work back from those dates and help them draw up a work and study plan that breaks tasks into manageable chunks,” says Ms Catherine Johnston, Coordinator, Careers and Pathways. “Having a plan and breaking things down can make things seem less overwhelming and more manageable.”

Sleep well: Many young people aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies. A 2019 report found that half of 16 to 17-year-olds don’t get enough sleep on school nights. Government health guidelines recommend that children up to age 13 should have nine to 11 hours of sleep and students aged 14 and upwards have eight to 10 hours each night.

Eat well: The London School of Economics recommends that students look at what they eat as they prepare for exams. Some foods are known to improve alertness, memory and energy levels—all important during busy study times. Aim to drink around 1.2 litres of water a day to help brain function. Avoid high-sugar foods as after a sugar rush, blood sugar levels can suddenly drop and cause tiredness. Eat plenty of protein-rich foods such as nuts, oats, eggs, dried fruits and yoghurt and avoid too much caffeine, which can lead to headaches. Green tea is believed to help concentration and is a healthier beverage choice.

Make time for friends and relaxation: “Keeping up activities beyond school study is important,” says Ms Johnston. “Maintaining an involvement in sport or other recreational activities is important to wellbeing and helps to maintain a sense of balance.”

Focus on what you can control: Dr Chelsea Hyde, Educational Psychologist at Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, says it’s important to help students reduce stress by encouraging them to focus on what they can do and what they can control, such as keeping up with schoolwork and setting goals for the future.

Ask for help if you need it: “Parents can encourage children to ask for help and guidance if they need it,” says Ms Johnston. “Parents do have influence and should be aware of the weight their child will give to their conversations—even though it may not always appear that way!”