Help your child - allow them to fail

Posted on 05th June 2017

In a recent blog for the Independent Schools Council (ISC), Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, Jane Grubb argues that problems are part of life and can be overcome – but only if young people are first allowed to fail.

The new Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspection framework places a beefed-up emphasis on the outcomes for pupils and particularly their personal development – self-knowledge, self-esteem, resilience and taking responsibility for one’s success and personal improvement all feature strongly. This codification of the attributes known to be associated with strong mental health and all round wellbeing is laudable, says Jane. However, it also requires parents and teachers to allow pupils to fail, to not know, and consequently to build vital problem-solving and self-evaluative skills.

For parents, involvement with their children’s homework can provoke complex and sometimes conflicting feelings. Does one intervene in the interests of getting it done or, instead, encourage them to seek advice from their teacher if they are unable to complete it? Jane says: “Although in the first scenario the attainment grade for my child as far as the school is concerned would be higher, in the second the life skills learnt and personal development outcomes are immeasurably greater.”

Jane is in favour of all homework being done within school hours, thus ensuring that it is done independently, and that the teachers who set the work are on hand to provide any necessary support and further teaching. She concludes: “Independent work should build pupils’ organisational skills, initiative and the ownership of their learning and success. In turn, this requires a shared expectation that children will sometimes find their studies difficult, and that difficulty is fine – indeed, without it, education risks losing the very heart of its purpose.”

ISC blog | Jane Grubb profile | Dunhurst Approach to Learning | ISI Inspection Framework