January 2019

Friday January 18th, 2019

A happy New Year to you!  Whatever your plans for the year ahead, I hope it will prove to be a pleasurable, productive and prosperous one for you and your family. 

At any stage of a pupil’s education in the UK, the start of a new calendar year heralds new challenges and aspirations.  Whether your child is revising for ‘mock’ exams or preparing for university interviews, Regency Education can help you and your child navigate the UK education system with confidence.  In this issue we’ll discuss how we can help students prepare for the very specific application process for Oxbridge or medical school.  We’ll also share with you our services to support pupils preparing to sit exams.  Although these times can be stressful for families, with the right support they represent exciting opportunities to excel now and in the future.

A typically British January

The first day of January is a bank holiday in the UK.  After the excesses and excitement of Christmas it can be a good chance to take stock: of achievements, ambitions and resolutions.  The New Year’s resolution is an institution in the UK!  We frequently set our sights too high with unrealistic ideas of giving up chocolate for the whole year or going for a run every day.  In reality what happens is that we feel a bit deflated by the end of the holidays, which unfortunately coincide with some of the darkest, longest, coldest days of the year in the UK.

By 6th January (Twelfth Night) most families have dismantled their Christmas tree; recycled all their Christmas cards; eaten all the Christmas treats and packed away all their Christmas decorations.  Homes and kitchen cupboards feel suddenly sparse!  Some people leave their outdoor decorations draped around trees to brighten up the long winter nights of January and February.  These twinkling lights in the bare branches help to alleviate some of the post-Christmas blues.  And in fact, in all the excited build-up to Christmas, the longest day or winter solstice (21st December) has been and gone.  So although the British mornings are dark and uninspiring until about 8am, the sun is setting slightly later each evening during January.  At the start of the month twilight descends around 4pm; by the end it’s light till almost 5pm.  

Burns Night celebrations

Amidst the gloom of mood and environment that can be synonymous with January, there is a particular highlight on the annual calendar that offers a chance to be cheerful.  Burns Night, named in honour of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, celebrates his heritage and literature with great glee.  Abounding in tradition, a typical Burns Night encourages guests to dress in tartan.  Men might wear kilts or team a tartan bowtie and cummerbund with dinner jackets; women might opt for full-length evening dress or cocktail dress with a tartan sash or even a tartan skirt, blouse, trousers or dress, depending on the dress code.

A literary hero

Born on 25th January 1759 into a farming family, Robert (or Rabbie) Burns’ prolific poetry-writing in the Scottish dialect earned him a place in the UK’s literary canon.  A farmer himself, Burns’ poetry was often inspired by nature and man’s relationship with it.  One of his most famous poems ‘To a mouse’ was written after he inadvertently destroyed a harvest mouse’s nest as he ploughed a field.  This poem features the famous lines ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men / Gang aft agley,’ (suggesting that however carefully we plan, we can’t pre-empt every possible occurrence; plans can still ‘go wrong’), that inspired the title of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella Of Mice and Men.  

Ahead of its time with thought-provoking themes of prejudice and inequality, Steinbeck’s classic featured on the English literature GCSE syllabus for most UK schools until recently.

Perhaps Burns’ best-known lyrics are those that accompany the song sung around the world as clocks strike midnight on 1st January. Auld Lang Syne translates literally as ‘Old Long Ago’ and refers to love and friendship from times past.  Burns Night revellers also link hands to regale one another with these lyrics in honour of the poet himself each 25th January, on the anniversary of his birth.  This January marks the passage of 260 years since he was born.

Burns Night menu and the ‘immortal memory’

Another Burns Night tradition is the menu.  The famous haggis comprises the offal (internal organs) of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, oatmeal and seasoning.  The bag in which it is boiled is traditionally made from the animal’s stomach. 

  It’s carried in on a silver salver at the start of the supper as a piper plays an accompaniment on the bagpipes.  Burns’ Address to the haggis, a poem in Scottish dialect that celebrates the country’s famed fare, is recited in full before the haggis is cut with a special ceremonial knife.

After supper, speeches and toasts entertain the guests.  The ‘immortal memory’ speech celebrates Burns’ life and works followed by the traditional ‘toast to the lassies’ and ‘reply to the laddies’ – from male and female guests respectively.  Many Burns Nights end with a ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’).  From the Gaelic word for ‘gathering’ or ‘party’, ceilidh has come to mean a fun and rousing dance to folk-style music, performed by a live band, where participants swap partners and repeat simple steps according to the band’s instructions.

Helping you plan your child’s UK education

Around the time that prospective revellers are snapping up their Burns Night tartan bargains in the January sales, pupils aged 15 and over are focusing on the longer-term future.

School in the UK

Burns might have noted how even the best-laid plans can be undermined by circumstances outside our control.  At Regency Education we believe the best antidote to this is a really thorough approach to planning each stage of a pupil’s studies. 

Choosing the right UK school or university for your child is a challenging decision-making process that takes into account all aspects of that person: their academic ability; their personality; their strengths and their learning style.  Our holistic approach helps you to make an informed choice about the educational establishment that best suits your child at any given stage in their school ‘career’.  We can also offer support in preparation for exams such as GCSEs, iGCSEs and A levels.  The ‘mock’ exams that many schools arrange for pupils approaching these milestones provide the perfect chance to identify where subject-specific tuition could help. 

Mock exams can identify tuition needs

Mock exams for pupils in years 10 and 11 (aged 15 and 16) can be stressful, but they’re intended to help students take stock of their strengths.  By replicating the exam format in terms of seating arrangements and paperwork to be completed in timed sessions overseen by an invigilator – students get a feel for the exact structure and atmosphere of exam conditions.  Schools hold mock exams for GCSE and iGCSE so that students can grow in confidence and make plans to reach their full potential.  Results should showcase their abilities and also help them identify where they need to focus their efforts.

Teachers can tend to mark mock exams without much lenience, mainly because they want to see all their students excel.  For a teacher it can be a fine line between encouraging a pupil to keep working hard and giving them carte blanche to become complacent.  So do bear this in mind if your child hasn’t secured the results you or they expected in their mock exams.  If there are areas in which you think they would benefit from additional support, we have specialist subject tutors on hand to offer one-to-one tuition over Skype or in person.  Do get in touch if you’d like to talk through the tutoring options we can provide for your child.


UK university applications

Sixth form students will be putting the finishing touches to university applications in advance of the 15th January deadline (for non-Oxbridge applications).  We can offer personalised support and advice at any stage of the UK university application process: open days; subject choice; learning styles and interview techniques.  Many of our students have been successful at gaining places at Russell Group universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Bristol and King’s College.  The Russell Group comprises 20 leading UK universities that between them receive around two thirds of all the research funding in the country.  International students account for nearly 17% of Russell Group intake at undergraduate level, with around a third of all international postgraduate students attending one of these universities.

Oxbridge applications

For students considering an application to Oxford or Cambridge, our Oxbridge application programme offers specialist, year-round support.  Although applications for the 2019 intake closed in the autumn of 2018 for most students and colleges – and most applicants will have attended interviews during December – you can join our programme at any point to take advantage of the regular one-to-one sessions with an Oxbridge mentor and subject tutors during the first half of 2019. 

January is a key time for Oxbridge applicants because they will hear whether they have been successful at interview.  In early January initial decisions will be posted out to applicants, with a small number being invited for a further interview.  By the end of the month, the majority of applicants should know whether they have an offer of a place or not.  Places can be offered unconditionally (i.e. irrespective of A level results) or on the condition that certain grades or points are achieved. 

Our Oxbridge application programme can help you gain the edge in interviews and significantly increase your chances of being accepted.  Giving students ongoing access to Oxbridge graduates and insiders, the programme offers a unique insight into what it’s like to live and study at these world-renowned institutions.   We’ll help you develop your academic knowledge in your chosen subject and prepare you for interviews so you can respond to challenging questions and discussions with perception and confidence. 

UK medical schools

For students pursuing a career in medicine, interview dates for UK medical schools can vary from late November through to March for that September’s intake.  Interview styles and questions can vary hugely too.  A more traditional establishment might favour a panel-style interview, where several interviewers take turns to pose questions while the others make notes.  Increasingly, medical schools in the UK are using a multiple mini-interview (MMI) format in which applicants rotate between various scenarios.  Designed to test different aspects of a person’s ability and approach, each MMI will focus on a skill-set such as problem-solving, team-work or communication.  Our in-depth knowledge of UK medical schools enables us to support you with up-to-date information and advice about their styles of interviewing and teaching.  We can help you find the university that best suits your learning style and increase your chances of securing a place there.  Contact us for more information about medical school selection. Whatever stage your child is at in terms of a UK education, do get in touch if you’d like to hear how we can help.