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Making English Easy for Kids – A Parent’s Guide

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

English: it’s the language of Shakespeare, the lingua franca of international business, and, according to the British Council, the first language of over 400 million people worldwide. In the United Kingdom, where the language originated, English isn’t just a mode of communication, it’s a vital tool for educational and professional success.

As parents, we all want to provide the best support to our children in their academic journey. English education is a significant part of this journey, starting from the early years and progressing through GCSEs and A-Levels. The quality of a child’s English education can have a profound impact on their future, opening doors to higher education and lucrative careers.

According to the Department for Education, in 2022, 75.8% of students achieved a grade 4 or above in their English GCSEs, equivalent to a C grade in the old grading system. While this is certainly an achievement to be celebrated, it also highlights the room for improvement.

Whether your child is just beginning their English education journey or preparing for their final exams, this guide offers valuable insights to help them thrive in their English studies and beyond.

Early Years – English

Child Learning English in School
Child Learning English in School

The early years of a child’s life are crucial for their development and the acquisition of fundamental skills. In English education, the early years mark the beginning of a lifelong journey of language exploration and understanding.

Children in the early years (ages 3-5) are introduced to the foundational aspects of English through the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. Here, they start with key topics such as:

  • Listening and Attention. Children are encouraged to engage in conversations, listen to stories, and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions, or actions.
  • Understanding. Children learn to follow instructions, understand prepositions such as ‘under’, ‘on top’, ‘behind’, etc., and respond appropriately to questions about their experiences or in response to stories or events.
  • Speaking. Children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present, and future forms accurately when talking about events.
  • Reading. Children read and understand simple sentences, demonstrate understanding when talking with others about what they have read, and know about letters and the sounds they make.
  • Writing. Children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds.

While the EYFS framework is designed to make learning enjoyable and engaging, some children may find certain aspects challenging. For example, phonics can be tricky, as English is not a phonetically consistent language. Writing can also be difficult due to the fine motor skills it requires.

How to Help My Child with English in Early Years?

  1. Read Together. Make reading a daily habit. Choose books that are age-appropriate and interesting to your child. Ask questions about the story to improve their understanding and vocabulary.
  2. Talk About Your Day. Encourage your child to talk about their day. This will not only improve their speaking skills but also their understanding and use of past, present, and future tenses.
  3. Phonics Games. Play phonics games to make learning fun. Games can include sound matching, letter tracing, and phonics puzzles.
  4. Practice Writing. Encourage your child to write. They can start with letters, then words, and eventually sentences. Make sure to make this a fun activity, not a chore.

Resources – Early Years English

Remember, the early years are all about making learning English enjoyable. Your role as a parent is to create a supportive and engaging environment where your child feels comfortable exploring the English language.

11+ Exam – English

Child Preparing for 11+ English
Child Preparing for 11+ English

The 11+ exam is a crucial stepping stone in the UK educational system. Primarily used for admission into grammar schools, it assesses a child’s aptitude across a range of subjects, including English.

The English component of the 11+ exam typically covers two main areas:

  • Comprehension. This section tests a student’s ability to read and understand texts. Students are expected to identify main ideas, draw inferences, and interpret information. Read more about reading comprehension in 11+ here.
  • Writing. This section examines a student’s ability to communicate effectively through written language. It often involves writing an essay or a short story, focusing on aspects like punctuation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. Learn more about continuous writing here.

It’s important to note that the format and content of the 11+ exams can vary significantly depending on the specific examining body or the county in which the school is located.

Some of the challenging areas for students in the 11+ English exam often include comprehension, particularly when it involves inferring meaning or interpreting complex texts. The writing section can also pose difficulties, especially in organising thoughts coherently, using a rich vocabulary, and applying correct grammar and punctuation.

How to Help My Child with 11+ English?

  • Regular Reading. Encourage your child to read a variety of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and news articles. Discuss these texts with your child to improve their understanding and analytical skills.
  • Vocabulary Building. Enhance your child’s vocabulary by introducing new words and encouraging them to use them in their writing and conversation.
  • Practice Papers. Use past papers for practice. This can familiarise your child with the format of the exam and improve their time management skills.
  • Writing Practice. Encourage regular writing practice. This can be in the form of story writing, diary entries, or letters. Provide constructive feedback on their writing.
  • Grammar Exercises. Reinforce grammar rules and offer exercises to practice punctuation, sentence construction, and other key grammar areas.

Resources for 11+ English

Grammar schools are known for their academic rigor, and success in the 11+ exam can open doors to high-quality education. Remember, while it’s important to guide your child through their 11+ preparation, it’s also crucial to remind them that an exam doesn’t define their worth or potential.

GCSE English Language

When it comes to GCSEs, English is typically split into two separate subjects: English Language and English Literature. While English Literature focuses on the study and analysis of novels, poetry, and plays, English Language is all about developing strong reading and writing skills. In this section, we’ll focus on GCSE English Language.

The GCSE English Language course is designed to develop students’ skills in understanding and analysing a range of different texts spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. It also requires students to write clearly, coherently, and accurately, using a range of vocabulary and sentence structures.

The course is typically assessed through two exam papers:

  • Paper 1 – Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing. This paper involves a reading section based on a literature fiction text and a writing section that requires descriptive or narrative writing.
  • Paper 2 – Writers’ Viewpoints and Perspectives. This paper involves a reading section that compares two non-fiction texts and a writing section that requires writing to present a viewpoint.

Some students might struggle with the analytical aspects of the reading sections, particularly when it comes to comparing texts in Paper 2. The writing sections can also be challenging, with students often finding it difficult to structure their responses effectively and use a wide range of vocabulary and varied sentence structures.

How to Help My Child with GCSE English?

  1. Varied Reading. Encourage your child to read a wide range of texts. This can include fiction, non-fiction, newspaper articles, and more. Discuss these texts with your child to help develop their analytical skills.
  2. Writing Practice. Encourage regular writing practice and provide constructive feedback. This could involve descriptive writing, narrative writing, or writing to present a viewpoint.
  3. Vocabulary Building. Work with your child to build their vocabulary. Introduce them to new words and encourage them to use them in their writing.
  4. Practice Papers. Use GCSE English past papers for practice. This can help familiarise your child with the format of the exam, the types of questions they might be asked, and the timing of the exam.

Resources for GCSE English

Supporting your child through their GCSE English Language course can be a rewarding experience. It’s an opportunity to engage with them on a deeper level, helping them to develop skills that will be invaluable for their future studies and careers.

A-Level English Language

Teenager Revising English
Teenager Revising English

A-Level English is divided into two separate courses: English Literature and English Language. English Literature focuses on the study of literary texts, while English Language involves the study of both spoken and written English in a variety of contexts. For the purposes of this blog post, we will focus on A-Level English Language.

A-Level English Language encourages students to engage creatively and critically with a wide range of texts and discourses. The course covers topics such as:

  • Language and the Individual. Study of textual variations and representations.
  • Language Varieties. Study of language diversity within its social and geographical contexts.
  • Language, Identity and Representation. Study of how language can construct identities and represent individuals, groups, and ideas.
  • Language Change. Exploration of language change over time and the factors that drive this change.

The course also involves a language investigation and an original writing piece, allowing students to conduct independent research on a topic of their choice.

One area that students often find challenging is the analytical aspects of the course, particularly when it comes to understanding the complexities of language change and language diversity. The independent research component can also be demanding, requiring students to formulate their own research questions and analyse data.

How to Help My Child with A-level English?

  1. Encourage Wide Reading. Encourage your child to read a variety of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, and media texts. This can help them to understand how language varies in different contexts.
  2. Discuss Language. Have conversations about language use in everyday life. This could involve discussing how language is used in the news, in advertising, or on social media.
  3. Support Independent Research. Encourage your child in their independent research. You could help them brainstorm research questions, collect data, or review their findings.
  4. Writing Practice. Encourage your child to practice different forms of writing, from formal essays to creative writing pieces.

Resources for GCSE English

It’s worth noting that A-Levels are not the only path to higher education. Alternatives include BTECs, which are more vocational and coursework-based, the International Baccalaureate, which offers a broader curriculum, and apprenticeships, which combine work with study. Each of these alternatives has its own strengths, and the best choice depends on the individual student’s interests, skills, and career aspirations.

Supporting Non-Native English Speakers

While the primary focus of this article is to support parents whose children are native English speakers, it’s important to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by students for whom English is not a first language. These students often need to navigate not only the academic demands of learning in a second language but also the cultural nuances and social norms embedded within it.

According to the Department for Education, as of January 2021, over 20% of students in UK primary schools and around 17% in secondary schools used English as an additional language. These figures highlight the need for effective support strategies to ensure all students can thrive in their English education.

Challenges Non-English Speaker Children Face

  • Language Proficiency. This includes difficulties in understanding complex texts, producing written work, and participating in class discussions.
  • Cultural References. English texts, especially in literature, often contain cultural references that may be unfamiliar to non-native speakers.
  • Social Integration. Language barriers can sometimes make it difficult for non-native speakers to integrate socially, which can impact their overall school experience.

Strategies that Can Help Non-Native English Speakers

  1. Language Support. This can include English as an Additional Language (EAL) programmes, tutoring, or language classes.
  2. Cultural Exposure. Encourage exposure to British culture, which can help non-native speakers understand cultural references in texts. This could involve watching British TV shows, reading British books, or participating in British traditions and holidays.
  3. Encourage Bilingualism. Being bilingual can be a significant asset. Encourage your child to maintain their first language while learning English.
  4. Build Confidence. Encourage your child to participate in class discussions, join clubs, and make presentations. This can build their confidence in using English in different contexts.

Resources for Non-English Speakers

  • Books. “English as a Second Language” by Cambridge University Press, “Oxford Picture Dictionary” by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein and Norma Shapiro.
  • Websites. British Council, BBC Learning English, and Duolingo offer resources for English language learners.
  • Tutoring. Online Tutoring platforms such as Edumentors can provide personalised support.

Remember, every student’s journey with English is unique, and non-native speakers can bring a wealth of perspectives to their English studies. With the right support and resources, they can overcome the challenges they face and excel in their English education.


The journey of English education in the UK is an enriching and rewarding one. From the foundational years through to A-levels, each stage offers a unique opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of the language, refine their skills, and discover new ways to express their ideas and perspectives.

However, the journey isn’t always a smooth one. There may be hurdles along the way – a tricky piece of comprehension, a challenging writing assignment, a daunting exam. But each hurdle is a chance for learning and growth. The struggles that students overcome in their English education are often the very experiences that shape them into critical thinkers, articulate speakers, and effective communicators.

As parents, your support, encouragement, and engagement can make a significant difference in your child’s English education. Whether it’s reading with them, discussing their assignments, or providing them with resources and opportunities, your involvement can enhance their learning experience and boost their confidence.

If your child needs additional support in their English studies, consider seeking help from Edumentors. This online tutoring platform connects students with tutors who are themselves students at top UK universities. These tutors have navigated the UK’s English education system successfully and are ideally placed to guide your child through their own journey. They can offer personalised teaching, share effective study strategies, and provide insights into achieving desired results.


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