When I wrote ‘an apology to my children: why the current education system is failing you’ I did it because I felt like I had to! I’d made such strong observations, I really needed to share them. And oh my goodness – what a response!

I’ve been contacted by teachers and parents who all say they feel the exact same way.

Day in, day out parents are going through heartache – persuading their children to go to school

Teachers who love their pupils, their subjects and their colleagues, are so low because they hate their jobs. They have too many limitations imposed on them. They can’t do what they’d like to do with their pupils – inspire them and have fun.

I just want to cry!

And the questions I’ve been asked over and over are ‘What can we do about it?’ ‘What are you doing?’

As a Happiness Coach I always see the positives in any situation. I’m all about finding solutions.

So – here goes.

School – yes or no?

For me, personally I’m looking into my options and my solutions. I was going to keep on sending my children to the school they’re at because the teachers are lovely. Despite being sad about going to school and the homework they have to do, my kids do come home some days inspired – telling me about the great things they’ve studied. Most of the time they’re OK. But, there’s another school close by, and we’ve agreed as a family, to go and visit it.

The issue I’m toying with is, will changing schools make things any better? Who knows! My children could really do better at a new school, or they could find themselves in the same situation – too much homework and no friends. We’re going to visit the new school and make a decision after that.

If your child is coming home just as upset, or worse than when they went to school, and moving school is not an option, I would speak to the teachers about making changes. They are there to help and should be able to resolve issues.

You know your kids better than anyone

Monitor their feelings and their behaviour. That’s how I picked up that my eldest was being bullied. He’d been at school for just two weeks. His behaviour had completely changed. He was angry, he was emotional and he was starting to say lots of negative things about who he was. If you see a difference in your child’s behaviour then talk to them and then the school. Take action that’s right for your family.

Another option is home schooling. Many parents said that they’d love to do this, but finances stop them. There are some great organisations that can help you out if you’re interested in home schooling. Many women do it and swear by it. They say they make it work and it’s great fun. If you’re thinking about it, check out Education Otherwise, or the Home Education network and maybe give it a trial run to see how it would work out for you all.

I am considering this option too.

Homework sucks!

The issues my children have at the moment are that there’s too much homework, they’re bored at school and they don’t have friends. I can speak to the teachers (and get other mums to do the same) about the amount of homework they get. I’ve also chatted to my kids about why they’re set homework and we’ve decided on the nights we do it, the times we do it and we have a reward for them doing it – generally ‘screen time’ or playing. We work together to make it as fun as possible. We snuggle up in bed, or on the couch for reading. We play games for maths and for spelling we talk about the words.

It’s worth noting that different children have different learning styles, so it’s helpful to find out which style works for your child. It makes homework so much easier. For example, auditory learners like to hear things, so making up songs, talking about topics or reading things out loud may help them. Visual learners like to see things, so writing things down or drawing, watching videos relating to a topic or making things to go up on the wall can help them. Kinaesthetic learners like to ‘act’ things out – they need to get a feel for what they’ve been taught. Role playing, acting, games and experiments help. Your child can have more than one preferred method of learning. There are lots of free quizzes online to find out what type(s) of learning they prefer.

When we do homework I also stick to an allocated time.

Some kids work better doing homework straight after school, whilst others will need a break first. Before we moved home we got 15 minutes of homework a night. Here, we get a mixture, so my kids have decided to do lots on a Monday and Tuesday, less on a Wednesday and Thursday, with a break over the weekend. If they’re struggling then I tell them to take a break and give them the choice as to whether or not to carry on.

If your school sets more homework than you think is right and it affects your home life then speak to the Head. They may be too caught up in the red tape to realise the impact it is having on their pupils. I have known of parents who boycott homework. Again, you know what’s best for you and your child.

I personally think that homework should be completely scrapped, or kept to an absolute minimum.

Home time should be family time. We’re all too busy working and society needs more connection, not disconnection. Rest and play helps consolidate learning too.

Emotional support

As a parent it’s important to be there for your child as much as you can. Try to spend at least ten minutes of quality time with each child per day, doing something of their choice together. That way you’re strengthening the connection you have with them. Always see the best in your child. It’s hard not to fear that they’re going to turn into this and that, because they’re having a meltdown over maths. It’s just them trying to cope with their emotions, so talk to them about their emotions. Name what they’re feeling, show them compassion for what they are feeling and offer hugs. Please don’t punish them or shout at them as this just causes them to stuff their emotions down more and can do so much long-term damage.

Most kids come out of school ‘wired’

So it’s good to give them some sort of release…meditation, exercise, a hobby or quality time with you. That way they can process their day better, instead of bottling things up. In the warmer weather we go to the play park and combine homework with play. For example, when my eldest does the monkey bars he shouts out how to spell certain words.

When it comes to sitting exams, or the time of year school reports come out – praise the effort, rather than the result. In fact, do this with everything! If you praise them for the result then your child will tie their sense of worth to the result. If you praise the effort then they know that they’ve tried and in life, I want my kids to always try.

I work with kids as young as 8, helping them see that they can control how they think and react to school. Thoughts really are everything as they drive behaviour and expectations. It gives them emotional resilience and helps them see their own self worth so they can breeze through the system.

I’d prefer for my kids not to have to go through tough times and I know that you feel the same way about your kids. However, I also know life is going to throw difficult things their way. So, on a personal note I’m focusing on teaching them to trust their guidance. I’m letting them find out at a young age what makes them happy, so that they know what to do when they’re feeling down. I’m showing them the power of their thoughts and emotions, so they can be empowered to take control of how they feel.

I teach them that if they’re unhappy they have two choices.

Change the situation, or change your reaction to the situation.

Let’s join forces

From a professional perspective I’m writing to MPs and key organisations (mental health charities) to alert them to the issue we’re facing. I’m approaching schools to teach kids how to cope with these pressures (running workshops and group coaching). I’m also helping the teachers learn how to deal with the stress.

When reviewing the education system my first question is WHY…

  • is it like it is?
  • are we teaching the subjects we are?
  • are exams important?
  • do the league tables exist?

What is it that we actually want our children to get out of school?

I personally think that the school system should be changed. Our children are probably being taught the same subjects because that’s the way it’s always been. My dad was a secondary school Art and R.E. teacher and Head of Sixth Form. He was well-liked and passionate about his subjects. He’s still highly regarded by former pupils. He feels that he’s taught pupils things that they don’t even need to know to get by in life.

Do we all need our children to get A**s in all of their subjects? Or, are we happy for them to find out what subjects they’re good at and let them thrive in those areas?

Teachers should be trusted to teach

Schools are run as businesses now, which is positive when it comes to managing finances, but not the future of our children. We need positive, happy, chilled out and inspiring role models – not stressed-out, overworked and underpaid scapegoats.

If I had a say I would scrap exams. Why do we need them? To get onto a next course, or to get a job. What do exam results say about us as a person? That we can memorise facts and write a good essay. Many former A* pupils at my school gave up at University because they didn’t want to go through the stress of exams again. Others have completely changed career because they’ve only just realised what they love doing. Would a portfolio of what makes a person tick, the subjects they’re passionate about, how kind and helpful they are, how resilient and happy they are, not serve an employer better than a list of exam results? Just a thought!

That’s what school should be about.

The curriculum should be fun. It should be creative and inspiring – teaching children about dealing with the things they need to get through life. Pupils should be able to fail over and over again, so they can learn to pick themselves back up. That way they’ll encourage a ‘can do’ and positive attitude to succeed at what they want to. How to deal with their emotions should be a main topic, so they can be resilient with what life throws at them. Choice is key – let pupils try different subjects and find out what they love to do. Children should learn about dealing with people, respecting each other’s differences and making great friends, instead of judging each other. We could certainly do with more of that right now.

I wouldn’t judge the school on their exam results

I’d look at how well they care about their pupils and how good they are at encouraging each pupil to find their unique gifts. I’d measure the level of happiness of the pupils and the teachers. Not turn the pupils into numbers.

I’d also love to shake up the system and let school (and work) be just three days a week, with four days off! I know it sounds ‘pie in the sky’, but who says that we all have to work five days a week and then only have two days off? When you’re less stressed and happy, you’re more productive. You take more in. You’re more inspired and motivated to learn. That way we wouldn’t need such long school holidays either. Scaremongers would say that the economy would collapse and that we should all work as much as we can, but again, we should be given the choice. If you find a job that you love to do, then you would want to work longer and play harder anyway.

That’s my ideas, what are yours? What can you do? What’s right for you?

I’d love to hear it.


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