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The transition to university is a major and sometimes challenging experience for student s and their parents.  My eldest child is starting later this month.

This year, parents play a more important role than ever before, since schools have not been able to provide the usual guidance and preparation.   There are a host of considerations such as: social and emotional wellbeing, logistics, independent living, managing finances, safety etc. 

Many parents and schools have a tendency to hover and micro-manage, so that despite reaching adulthood, students are not necessarily self-reliant, independent thinkers and learners.  Schools may be great at teaching content but ineffective study skills can be a real barrier to educational success.

I believe what sets students up to reach their full potential at university is ‘learning how to learn’.

I have always been fascinated by how children learn and read an immense amount on study skills, revision and memory techniques.  Last year, I discovered the leading gurus on this topic: Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin, authors of ‘The Student Mindset’.

Educating Matters have recently teamed up with Steve and Martin to deliver talks on student mindset to parents at work.  Between them they have over 40 years of teaching experience and interviewed thousands of students to identify the key traits and behaviours shared by the most successful.  They discovered that the non-cognitive habits, systems and behaviour are what leads to real growth.

What is so amazing about their books is not only do they define these traits and nail them down to: Vision, Effort, Systems, Practice and Attitude (VESPA).  They also have tangible, practical strategies and exercises to help students actually understand these non-cognitive skills. This is equally applicable to school age children.

I highly recommend you get your hands on the book but here is a brief rundown of VESPA:


Determined and successful students, know their purpose, set clear objectives and stick to the plan which pulls them forward.  These need to be their goals and targets, not their parents!!!


We all know that hard work is important but what counts is the right type of effort and knowing the difference between passive completion of directed tasks and active independent study. 


Successful students really know how to organise their time and resources.  They also understand how to prioritise according to need and impact and meet deadlines.  These are of course vital life skills in the workplace.


High practice students don’t devote the majority of their time to simply memorising information.  They complete extra work to hand in, practice under timed conditions and pay very close attention to feedback.  Many students spend too long learning the material and not actually practising what is required in exams.


High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough and stressful.  They are confident, emotionally intelligent and have a growth mindset.  They understand that failure is an important part of success and learning can be a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.