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Raising Attainment: Helping Your Students When They’re Stuck

Some students are borderline professional at announcing ‘I don’t know’ to the class when faced with uncertainty. In fact, some seem to enjoy it. As frustrating as it can be to stare into the face of a child who has just proclaimed a complete lack of knowledge about a subject that you have spent three weeks teaching them, it’s preferable to the alternative.

The alternative is that they keep quiet, they don’t let anyone know that they’re not keeping up with the rest of the class, and they fall behind. Maybe they express some concerns a couple of weeks before the end of year exam, but by then, it’s too late to sufficiently help them.

When it comes to raising attainment, students need to either be confident in asking for help, or have access to a resource that will explain what they should do.

You need to set out guidelines; advice for them to follow when they are struggling with something. These guidelines should be make easily accessible in their student planners.

Schools need a strategy for raising attainment, and supporting struggling students is key to this. It is impossible to notice every time a student is starting to fall behind. Often, when it becomes noticeable, it is too late.

Here is an example student planner page which is designed to ensure that students know what to do when they are stuck with work, or worried about something.


1: Tell Your Teacher

If you are struggling with anything in school, the best thing you can do is tell your teacher; preferably your form tutor or an appropriate subject teacher, but we would rather you tell any adult in school than no one.

Whether you are feeling bullied, struggling with work, or worried about the future, your teachers are here to help you in any way they can, or refer you to someone who will be able to support you.

2: Do Some Research

If you are worried about, or struggling with, an assignment or subject area and you can’t contact a teacher straight away, try researching for yourself. Here is some advice to help you:

  • Research from a variety of sources. Don’t just rely on Wikipedia or one text book; there may be another book or webpage that explains the topic in a simpler way.
  • Take breaks. If you are really struggling to get your head around something, don’t panic. Take a step back, maybe go for a walk or listen to some music, and come back to your research with a clear head.
  • School is only ever a matter of days away. Even if you are struggling with something and half term has only just started, remember that it won’t be that long until you are back in school and a teacher can help you.

3: Confide In Friends

Your friends might have been through a similar situation to you. They may be able to offer advice on work, or even personal issues. If you have any worries, it is always better to talk to someone than no one. Confide in someone you trust and get your head around things before speaking to an appropriate adult.


Providing support through a student planner is not enough on its own. However, as a part of a strategy for raising attainment, it can really support your efforts. Anything that schools can do to assist struggling students is certainly worth doing.