I had a very interesting conversation yesterday which made me think. Someone asked me ‘What is the main priority when parents are faced with choosing a school?’ Here are my thoughts:
A happy child will be successful.
So, what makes a child happy at school?
In my opinion, it’s a mixture of factors:
1. To be academically challenged and encouraged to seek to achieve the best results for their own capabilities. In an ideal world, exceeding individual expectations. A bit of healthy competition on the sports field or for the lead in the school play teaches us all a worthwhile life lesson, that we won’t always be the best or have things our own way. However, measuring academic attainment against personal targets, not the results of others, encourages children to develop a growth mindset. For example, how did I do this time and how can I do a little better next time?
2. Inspirational teachers who instill a passion for their subject and a love of learning. It’s no coincidence that the teachers we all remember from our own schooling are usually those who excelled in this area.
3. A supportive school community, in which a child feels comfortable to be themselves, albeit with guidance to set and achieve measurable personal goals. Children need boundaries within which to work. The development of creativity and personality mustn’t be stifled. However good manners, respect for others and the development of empathy, are all important skills for life as part of a family or workplace or society as a whole.
4. Opportunities to grow in self-confidence through sport, music, drama, or the arts. Never underestimate the value-added element to education and the positive impact this has on academic results. School should be about trying new things. Taking up a musical instrument, learning a new language, arguing for the banning of school uniform in the debating club. The happy child will have many strings to their bow. They’ll work hard on their academics, but also should be part of a sports team, display their paintings in an art exhibition or take on other schools at chess.
5. A peer group of like-minded friends. As humans, we thrive when we feel safe, valued and appreciated amongst friends.
Bearing all this in mind, I believe the best schools are those with:
The most inspirational academic teachers.
Opportunities to develop personal passions and to learn new skills, and interests.
An inclusive community where support and empathy for individuals leads to the making of friends for life.
By Catherine Stoker