Health & Wellness Kids Living Here Living In Hong Kong

Red flags and summer study

By: Rebecca Simpson

Could your child benefit from a summer study intensive? JEROME BARTY-TAYLOR is Managing Director of Barty Education and Development, which offers tailored tutoring and educational consulting to students. Here, he explains why some kids will need a boost this summer.

Impact of disruptions

Let’s get brutally honest – this academic year has had an impact on young people’s education. In Hong Kong, we’ve faced the twin disruptions of social unrest and COVID-19. There’s no sugar-coating it: half of this academic year has been spent at home.

And, while we acknowledge that both our kids and our city are resilient, a positive spin can’t always rectify the lack of face-to-face learning. Jerome says, “Students of all ages have missed out on the type of sustained, individual support from teachers that they need to develop and mature as learners.”

There is a reality of those students who need to meet specific benchmarks in the coming academic year – for example, students in the first year of IB and IGCSE or those transitioning from primary to high school. It’s essential that key content from the 2019-20 academic year is consolidated.

Red flags

So, how do we know if our kids are OK academically? Here, Jerome shares some practical advice to help parents better understand if a student needs assistance, and identifies age-relevant red flags to look out for.


Final Years of Primary School

  • By the end of primary, students should ideally have the following skill sets:
  • Confidence with long multiplication and division, order of operations, and simple algebra.
  • Ability to confidently read aloud simple literary and non-fiction texts (try the SCMP headlines).
  • Responses to these texts, including creative writing, must show basic evidence of structure. Writing with a variety of sentence structures while employing accurate spelling and appropriate punctuation.
  • Engagement in a consistent reading schedule. This will broaden their vocabulary considerably and make them more confident in their expression.
  • By 12 years old, students should have a general awareness of literary devices and be able to explain how writers use them to achieve certain effects. They must be able to recognise themes in a work of literature.

Note: These skills are all crucial to consolidate as early as possible. Failure to meet these benchmarks is a significant red flag

BartyEd tutour

Transition from Primary to Secondary

At this age, students should be expected to do the following:

  • Wake up using their own alarm and prepare themselves independently for the day.
  • Manage their backpack or home learning materials in a well-organised way, without loose papers floating around.
  • Stay on top of a written schedule.
  • Read regularly – this will broaden their interests. Setting aside dedicated weekly reading time for both parent and student is essential.

Note: If organisational skills are conspicuously absent, this needs to be addressed; it may also be indicative of a learning difference

Early Secondary Years

If the skills described in the previous sections have developed by this point in schooling, then students should be receiving good grades and feedback from their teachers. If not, consider the following:

  • A student may have survived on natural ability but with an aversion to hard work. It’s at this stage that cracks may begin to appear.
  • Repeated late assignments and difficulty with teachers are usually a warning in this early secondary period.

Note: If students are unable to write convincingly on the deeper meaning of a text or legibly show their working on a standard maths problem, this is cause for concern.

Final Years of High School

The final stretch of high school presents unique challenges. Look out for the following:

  • A lack of motivation for independent study – this is a common issue.
  • An aversion to interventions from family; if your child is pulling away, it’s time to act.
  • A decreasing interest in studies or taking little initiative to consider life after school – this is a concern.

Note: The teenage brain is still developing at this time, and as adults we forget that impulse control is still developing too, as is the ability to conceptualise and plan for the future.

Need help?

Jerome and his team work with students from international schools all over Hong Kong. Academic support comes in many shapes and sizes – from group tutoring sessions that offer students a chance to learn and socialise, to private lessons and even a mentoring programme. Jerome says, “Many of our students join us for a mixture of academic skills development, subject specific support and mentoring to promote greater engagement with learning.”

If you’re interested to learn more about summer tuition on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon, reach out via

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This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.