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Advice to parents and students sitting GCSEs

These are my notes when addressing 150+ parents, students and teachers today at Challney High School for Boys to encourage them to prepare for their upcoming GCSEs.


Recognise that everyone around you, your parents, teachers and elders are here to serve you.

We believe in you and are totally committed to help you achieve far more than we have. You can be a means of great good for the whole society and go on to inspire your children with this same vision.

Recognise, these upcoming exams are critical. I have a friend who is training to become a paramedic and at 35 years old, he had to go back and pass his Maths GCSE before he could be accepted. Learn from that and try your best to pass them first time as this will open many doors for you.

My son is sitting his GCSEs this year as well. I know there is a lot of pressure and eyes on you at the moment and ultimately you can only make your best effort, the results are in the hands of Allah(SWT). All I remind him is that he tries his best so that he does not look back with regret because he didnt put his head down now.


You are essential! You are a major influence on your child’s success in life. While the quality of schools and the nature of the child’s peer group matter significantly, it is from the home that our children derive lasting effects on their character, mindset and attainment. And I know, you’re probably thinking you don’t have the time or the expertise.

It does not require much. Research shows that the more parents and children talk to each other, the better students achieve. My father (rahimahullah) never went to secondary school – as an orphan, he and his siblings worked from a young age. However, he was tireless in giving me the best opportunity. Settling here as an economic immigrant in the 70’s, working in a factory in Chelmsford, settling in Luton, sending me to this school, paying for my every need and befriending others to help in any possible way with my education, I am the person you see before you today. I am indebted to my parents and if you read the story of Elon Musk, founder of COO and architect of Tesla, you will find that most successful people stand on the shoulders of giant parents – single parents sometimes, working 3 jobs just to pay for their education. May Musk donated her life savings in 1996 to pay the rent for Elons prior business premises and still says it was the best investment she ever made.

The point is that you don’t need to be able to do their maths homework for you to help. Set high expectations, build good routines at home to promote health, wellbeing and regular study. Give them the opportunity to learn and help around the house.

Most importantly, just show interest. Not just nagging on the homework (although this is definitely a positive sign), also catch them doing something good, give specific praise and recognise their strengths.

We have a guest here from Madinah currently, Shaykh Yaqub, who is one of the teachers in the Prophets Mosque, and his first piece of advice on parenting was a statement, rather than advice. Children do not hear what you say, they do what you do. If they see you shouting, they will shout. If they see you trying, they will try. You are the ultimate role models.

To summarise, your child needs your presence, concern and support more than your presents.


Thank you. Your tireless effort on a Saturday morning is only a small reflection on the countless hours you spend on our children and we are indebted to you.

Challney is an outstanding school as you have just seen from our latest Ofsted report. And, as someone who works in parent and student engagement, professionally, I travel the country speaking to schools, DfE and education companies and I am testimony to this being a golden standard of parental engagement.

As a student here, I still remember writing stories in Dr Evans’ class, running the steeplechase with Mr Jones pushing us along and getting shouted at in RE. And it was all for my benefit. I never imagined I would be able to participate in helping the next generation along like I am today and I thank you for inviting me along today.

Speaking to the Principal of a large independent school discussing their 20 year vision, he mentioned he wanted more engaged parents. At this, I pointed out that he had those parents sitting in his school today. You are building nations and this is the next tranche of parents – I am one of them.

To close, I’d like to leave you all with a story which I love.

President Xi Jing Peng of China in one of his speeches narrated the following inspirational story:

“When I was a small child, I was very selfish. I always grabbed the best for myself. Slowly, everyone left me and I had no friends. I didn’t think it was my fault but I used to push the blame on others instead.

My father gave me 3 sentences to help me in my life. One day, my father cooked 2 bowls of noodles and put the 2 bowls on the table. One bowl had one egg on top and the other bowl did not have any egg on top. He said ”My child, choose the bowl you want”.

Eggs were hard to find those days! Without hesitation, I chose the bowl with the egg! As we started eating, I congratulated myself on my wise choice/decision and I walloped up the egg. But to my surprise, as my father ate his noodles, there were TWO eggs at the bottom of his bowl beneath the noodles! I regretted that decision! And scolded myself for being too hasty in my decision.

My father smiled and said to me, ”My child. You must remember that what your eyes see may not be true. If you intend to take advantage of people, you will end up a loser!”

The next day, my father again cooked 2 bowls of noodles: one bowl with an egg on top and the
other bowl with no egg on top. Again, he put the two bowls on the table and said to me, ”My child, pick a bowl of your choice”

This time I was smarter. I chose the bowl without any egg on top.

To my surprise, as I separated the noodles on top, there was not even a single egg at the bottom of the bowl! Again my father smiled and said to me, ”My child, you must not always rely on experiences because sometimes, life can play tricks on you. But you must not be too annoyed or sad, just treat this as a lesson. There are some lessons you cannot learn from textbooks.

The third day, my father again cooked 2 bowls of noodles, again one bowl with an egg on top and the other bowl with no egg on top. He put the 2 bowls on the table and again said to me, ”My child, choose the bowl you want”.

This time, I told my father, ”Dad, you choose first. You are the head of the family and contributed the most to the family. ”My father did not decline and chose the bowl with one egg on top.

As I ate my bowl of noodles, the impression I had was that there was no egg inside the bowl. But to my surprise, there were TWO eggs at the bottom of the bowl.

My father smiled at me with love in his eyes and said, ”My child, you must remember, that when you think for the good of others, good things will always naturally happen to you!


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