Back to school

As September comes around, holidays become a distant memory as children return to school or commence school for the first time.

Clearly starting school is important for any child, and also important for every parent that wants the best for their child. But what is really best for their child?

One of the obvious tests for schools is the result of an Ofsted inspection. To that end, according to a recent report, parents are prepared to cheat in order to get their child into an ‘outstanding’ rated school.

They have moved house in order to get nearer to the school, hence improving their chances; they have used a relation’s address as if it was their own if it is nearer to the school; some will even start going to church if the good school is a religious school!

Now I have a few issues with this approach. Firstly, let us look at the Ofsted rating. Studies have shown that those schools with an ‘outstanding’ rating are much less frequently assessed, even though academic achievement may be deteriorating. Moreover, even where there is a decline, those schools with an outstanding rating are less likely to be downgraded. Therefore, Ofsted ratings are not as accurate an indicator as one would expect.

Secondly, it seems that parents are choosing mainly on the basis of academic achievement rather than a number of other important factors necessary in today’s education.

As has been stated previously in these blogs, it is impossible to predict the world in which a child entering the system today will come out into. Jobs are disappearing at a rapid rate and new ones are being created, often in as short a time as five to ten years.

This world needs people that are creative, capable of change and are not afraid to try, fail and try again. Choosing a school on academic attainment alone puts a pressure to perform in one area only. One should be looking for a school that gives as broad a curriculum as possible and values those key traits for the future as much as academic achievement.

Of course, changing homes from one place to another also has effects on the child when it comes to their peer group. Children of five years old will have friends and to ask them to leave those friends and to try and make new ones, in an area where friendships have already formed, can have an emotional impact on the child.

Moving house may also increase travel to work times and hence reduce the amount of time that a child has with their parents.

Far better to spend the years prior to the child going to school, ensuring that they can read, that they have chances to explore and enjoy new experiences and that they have been allowed to take risks and possibly failed but have learnt from those failures. This, of course, requires a bigger investment of parent time and less iPad time!

This will ensure that you child starts whichever school they go to with a head start for their long adventure into education.

One other thought before you head off to the estate agent. Studies have shown that even with the brightest of children, being the best in a less achieving institution is much better than being average in a high achieving institution. If everyone else is as good or better than you, then the child feels they are failing.

Harvard picks only the best for its courses, and yet the drop out rate for many of their courses by people who would have excelled at a slightly lower rated university, is very high because they feel they are not good enough.

What all of this says, is that choosing a school for your child should take much more into consideration than the Ofsted rating and proves yet again that there is no simple solution when it comes to being a good parent.

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