There is a growing number of children and young people who struggle with school. Not Fine in School is an organisation which offers support to family members, young people and schools.
Find out more here: www.notfineinschool.org.uk/families
To support your child further, there are some suggested projects on our Schools Support page which teachers and parents might like to get involved with.
If a child doesn’t like school, it seems to be an accepted response in our culture to tell ourselves or each other that this is OK, that school is character building or that it toughens us up for the future. It’s almost a national joke that children don’t want to go to school or that they find it boring.
This Readers’ Digest article discusses how parents send their children to school with the best of intentions, believing that formal education is what children need to become productive, happy adults. It highlights research showing that as children progress through the school system, their wellbeing is negatively impacted and they develop increasingly negative attitudes towards learning. It concludes that:
“As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that kids are unhappy in school. Some people even believe that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness as preparation for real life. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix.”
Dr Peter Gray
Children have human rights and needs which many believe are not being met at school.
Teachers work extremely hard and many report excessive workloads which contribute to a poor work-life balance. Passionate graduates go into the profession because they love teaching and desperately want to inspire and make a real difference to children’s lives. Often the long hours they work, heavy workloads and pressure they are under go without the recognition they deserve.
It is the system in which teachers work that needs reviewing, for all the reasons listed in this website, and we have spoken to many teachers who would agree. Campaigns working towards education reform are often led by teachers (in collaboration with parents and other professionals).
According to government figures, around 30% of teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying. In her book, Rebuilding Our Schools from the Bottom Up, Fiona Carnie discusses how many teachers feel powerless as to the approach they can take to teaching. She says that teachers don’t choose what or how they teach, the state does:
“Many young teachers starting out report frustration about the mechanistic nature of their work, finding that it bears little relation to their reasons for going into education, but they have little chance to contribute to discussions about the policy direction of their school.”
Fiona Carnie, 2018
Sometimes parents (and teachers) feel they can’t complain or stand up for their children’s rights because it would seem inappropriate or impolite to criticise a well-meaning profession. But it is important that we use our voices so that positive changes can be made.
You could equally argue that there are no givens that a child who goes to conventional school will grow up to be successful.
Children are unique and have different needs. One person’s view of success will be very different from another’s. All we can do is choose an educational approach that we think will suit our child and family circumstances best. There are many high-profile, high achievers who have been educated outside of conventional schooling. You can see these famous names and faces throughout our Approaches pages.
There are several progressive educational approaches to consider, all aiming to have the child’s best interests at heart. However, this website does not endorse one approach over another. Equally, we do not endorse any of the progressive schools or learning communities listed in our directory. We have presented a variety of options so that parents/guardians, teachers, policy makers and other professionals can make their own informed choices.
Every child is unique, with different needs and family circumstances. Each family will have its own set of requirements for an educational setting. Some will be seeking full-time education; others will be looking for part-time. Some will want more structure than others. Some may prioritise outdoor learning etc.
We suggest you research each approach fully, and consider the policy documents of any educational setting you visit, to ensure your values and aspirations are aligned with theirs.
Unfortunately, most progressive schools and learning communities do have to charge fees. Many of the education providers in our directory aspire to eventually being accessible to all – and regret strongly that they can’t be now – but without government funding this is currently a challenge. Many of them try to alleviate the financial obstacle by offering a tiered fee structure to accommodate families’ individual circumstances.
It’s important that these schools and learning communities aren’t simply dismissed as something for the privileged though. They are innovative, ethical projects which will be instrumental in bringing about positive change to our education system.
Innovation in this sector has been likened to innovation in environmental sustainability and renewable energy. A pioneer in self-directed education said recently that you could argue, for example, that it’s only the privileged few that can use solar panels. Solutions like these aren’t accessible to the majority but that doesn’t mean they are not valued or that there’s reason not to try them.
In his book, Beyond Coercive Education, Peter Hartkamp says:
“Limiting experiments with other forms of education prevents innovation and thus limits the quality and diversity of educational opportunities, and keeps education stuck in the educational stone age.”
Maybe we should really be calling for more availability of funds for innovation in education, and a state which offers a variety of choices in educational approach rather than a one size fits all education system.
If you’re a teacher (or you have a child in a state school), there are a number of suggestions you could make to help your school incorporate child-centred practices. It’s important to feed back when you have suggestions and not feel afraid to question practices which do not have children’s best interests at heart. Have a look at our School Support page for ideas.