Do schools matter (video)?

How kids learn by Sir Ken Robinson, RSA

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks if we are giving our kids the right education (rather than asking what school they are going to). For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here. Read on, or just click the cartoon video link above (it’s 11 minutes).

Do schools matter? Well, yes, yes, yes they do and not just for your child. You need good tracking of every child’s progress, good teaching, good staff management – and good results. Or do you? That’s what the  astute (and funny) 11 minute film attached by clever Sir Ken (see link above) looks at via words and cartoon.

Students are meant to be safe at school (and when they are young it really is childcare).

They are also meant to make progress in every single lesson, an impressive challenge for anyone with a large class of students, especially on a Friday afternoon. Oh yes, and get certificates and higher grades each year, and go to uni and get a job. Hang on, is that possible? Is it 21st century reality?

I’ve been constantly surprised by the ways people react to knowing that I took my girls out of school last summer so we could homeschool as we travelled. People are shocked. But the girls (then 12 and 10) learnt so much – a new language, and the size of the world. They stayed on a volcano, swum in a sea full of things that were quite interested in eating them (a new twist to the food chain), they met loads of people and learnt to talk and listen to a range of views. Instead of music practice they learnt to cook fish, build stone ovens and keep the right end of a kangaroo. I’m convinced they could have had a similarly challenging and creative time had we just stayed home but not used school bells for eductation… But they’re back in school now, and they like it.

I guess the problem is that lots of adults still think education is done at desks. Robinson in the video above is far blunter: he says we’re using an old style of education and treating our growing children as if they were in a factory, batched up in birth year groups.

Given that most of us are either not blessed with teaching skills (find out more about how to facilitate good learning at education otherwise which helps people homeschooling), or patience, or the time to home educate, the answer has been to give our children the best education we can find. It is just such a shame that so many families still think it’s worth buying education at Britain’s fiendishly expensive private schools. Surely every child deserves the best education, which is why what the state offers has to be fabulous.

Read all about it
If you are interested in some of the UK top tales about education there are some fascinating books that help parents understand more about the big picture – rather than just what school will suit Pollyanna (or Lola or Nell for that matter). Try:

Melissa Benn’s School Wars: the battle for Britain’s education (Verso, £10.99). She’s so committed to comprehensive education that she set up Local Schools Network to support local schools and counter media misinformation.

The funniest novel has to be May Contain Nuts by John O’Farrell where a pushy south London mum takes her family on a rollercoaster educational journey. Consider yourself gently mocked by O’Farrell!

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 I also like the undercover journalism from 1 out of 10 by tony blair’s education advisor, Peter Hyman who became a huge fan of the academy model. A rather more Daily Mail version was seen on C4’s Dispatches when former teacher Alex Dolan secretly filmed her disruptive students. And the new tweak on that is by Katharine Birbalsingh, a deputy head who spoke at the Tory conference. I’m putting her book (found for 10p at the school winter fair) into my own stocking – it’s To Miss With Love.

Now blog readers, get on with that reading list, the test is next week… And no peaking at the answer(s) in the back of the book.

Over to you
Is there anything that made you think differently about what you want your children to get out of school? If so, please share.

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3 Comments on “Do schools matter (video)?”


  1. I agree with what you say, but of course it depends a lot on the child and what their home environment is like, for some, the routine of school is the only consistent thing they have. I had quite a varied childhood, with my early school days spent with my mother in France where we lived for a year in the French Alpes, completely self-sufficient with no electricty/plumbing etc, and then several months living in a commune before coming back to England and starting “normal” school again from the age of 8. I absolutely hated school and I’m sure I gained much more from my experiences in France (which I remember every detail of!), than I did from my miserably unhappy time at school – I believe I would have done much better if I had continued with a home schooling arrangement.

    However, I have to say, I love the primary school that my son is at (and my daughter went to) – the head teacher doesn’t worry about conforming to what is expected, he always does whatever he believes is best for the children. Last year when there was the heavy snow, one afternoon he stopped classes early and got the whole school out on to the field for a massive snowball fight. I thought that was absolutely fantastic, there aren’t many heads that would be brave enough to do something like that these days. I’m sure there are some parents who wouldn’t be happy with their child coming home cold and wet, but I was delighted!

  2. nicola baird Says:

    From Facebook:
    Martin: I saw this a few weeks ago it’s brilliant.


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