Bill Carmichael: Parents put to the test as exams loom

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It is that time of year when parents of teenagers walk about the house as though treading on eggshells – the dreaded exam season.

Cue plenty of slammed doors, stomped feet and other histrionics as our youngsters finally realise that to get the grades they want, they are actually going to have to do some work. Oh the terrible unfairness of it all!

There is little parents can do to help their offspring get over this exam trauma but rest assured – whatever you say and do will be wrong.

If you try the nonchalant: “Don’t worry about it – just do your best and I am sure you will be fine,” you will be accused of underestimating the seriousness of these life-changing exams.

But if you say: “These exams are really vital and it is so important you do well,” you’ll be told that you are piling on 
the pressure at precisely the wrong 

And heaven forfend that you try: “Well at least the exams these days are a lot easier than they were in my day.” Be 
ready to duck the heavy text book aimed at your head.

Also unhelpful – so I am told – is: “How can you possibly concentrate with that horrible music blaring away?” Not to mention: “Don’t you think you could revise better if you switched off your phone for five minutes?”

Under absolutely no circumstances should you offer to help, because you risk revealing the deep reservoir of profound ignorance that many adults have of the modern exam syllabus. My children are way past the “square on the hypotenuse” stage of maths and the one time I tried recently with more advanced homework it turned into a humiliating disaster.

Oh the horrors! Visualisation of graphs, 3D vectors, probability! Heavens! I had to lie down in a darkened room with a large gin and tonic until my brain cooled down a bit.

If you try to help and then fail miserably, as I did, this also tends to undermine the argument that the exams have become easier since you took them.

Far better to shake your head sadly and say: “Well of course I could show you how to do it darling, but I think you’ll remember it far better if you work it out for yourself.” There, job done and the illusion of superiority remains intact.

No, the only constructive things parents can do is help draw up a revision timetable and try to make sure your little exam candidate sticks to most of it.

Regular little treats, like a plate of biscuits and a glass of milk, seem to go down well, as do a couple of hours watching a favourite show on Netflix – but only after the day’s revision is completed.

The unpalatable truth for these youngsters is that this is just the start of it. Life is competitive and exams – GCSEs, A-levels, university exams and professional exams – are all part of that for the foreseeable future.

The good news is that they are generally worthwhile and do usually reflect ability and effort.

In my experience the exams are rigorous and to get good marks candidates have to have some ability and to work hard.

And just think how relieved you will be when they are all over.

At the risk of having another text book lobbed at my head, may I just say two words to all teenagers facing exams this spring: “Good luck!”

Tour of beauty

Over the last year Yorkshire has fallen in love with cycling – and the feeling is mutual, because cycling appears to have fallen in love with Yorkshire.

After last year’s undoubted triumph of the Tour de France, this month’s Tour de Yorkshire also proved to be a thumping success.

There is something about the colourful peloton racing through the green dales that quickens the pulse of even people with little knowledge of professional cycling, like me.

The county offers lung busting climbs and terrifying descents on wet, greasy roads. The scenery, from the coast to the countryside and taking in sights such as Whitby Abbey and York Minster, is incomparable.

And then there are the people of Yorkshire who have taken the sport to their hearts – an estimated 1.5 million lined the route to cheer the riders on.

Roll on 2016 when the race is planned to return, showing off even more of this truly lovely county.