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Are we pushing kids too hard?

Is our obsession with exams equipping our kids for the competition of life, or pushing them to an early breakdown? We ask the head at Chinthurst School for her views.

Has there ever been a more nail-biting time to be a parent? Hard to do right for doing wrong and they’ll hate us all in the end anyway! When I was at school I never really remember my mum and dad making much of a fuss about my grades – much like in my free time, I was kind of left to get on with it. But parenting is a competitive sport these days and academic achievement remains the highest accolade, even as we see unprecedented levels of stress in children at school.

There’s no fast easy answer to questions about whether we push children too hard – your view will depend on your own values – but I thought it would be an interesting question to ask Cathy Trundle, the head teacher at Chinthurst School in Tadworth. Food for thought? Let me know what you think below.

Has the ethos of teaching changed?

Teaching has always been about harnessing children’s natural curiosity and instilling a love of learning. That is still the case today and has been enhanced by modern technology and teaching methods.  At Chinthurst, pastoral care is also a fundamental part of our teaching ethos and I am glad to say that the happiness of our children is what prospective parents comment upon most when they visit.

Are kids put under too much pressure (to achieve exams/gain secondary places)?

It is important that children build resilience so they can overcome difficulties and challenges and make the most of their abilities and opportunities.

As Charles Darwin said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’

Children with strong emotional wellbeing will have a better ability to cope with pressure and it is vital that schools allow them to develop this in a safe and caring environment. At Chinthurst, the children are encouraged to take risks, try new things and failure is turned into a positive learning experience. This builds confidence and provides a strong foundation from which they can fulfil their potential.

Do parents interfere too much in their children’s extracurricular interests?

Parents’ passions will naturally be passed on to their children who often pursue similar interests. Parents are wonderful role models providing experience and encouragement which helps their children to thrive. The role of a school is to provide opportunities so children can discover other skills and interests too. At Chinthurst, our wide and varied extracurricular programme is popular amongst our parent body who love to see their children discovering new skills and passions.



What are the effects of undue parental pressure?

Unrealistic expectations are damaging and have a negative impact a child’s confidence. However, low expectations can be as damaging as having expectations that are too high so some aspirations are healthy.

What about kids that are happy just studying?

It is always lovely to see children so inspired by their learning that they want to continue it outside of lessons. At junior school level children often want to replicate exciting science experiments at home or research things that they have particularly enjoyed during class. As a school, we encourage a healthy balance by motivating the children across the curriculum and encouraging extracurricular activities.

How can families motivate kids without creating anxiety and stress?

Parental support is absolutely vital to children’s success and one to one time at home can really boost their confidence and achievements. However, it is important to remember that children need time to be children too and relaxation, play and fun are an important part of preparing them for a happy adulthood.

Is the mental health crisis in children being overblown?

No, it really exists and is something that we are highly aware of. Our senior school, Reigate Grammar School, have been named Independent School of the Year for Wellbeing, and at Chinthurst we recognise that no child can reach their potential unless they are able to deal with issues in a safe environment.

Part of our PSHE curriculum focuses on resilience and problem solving. Each of our children has a ‘bubble’ with their name on it which they can quietly place on a teacher’s desk when they want to talk to them privately. Our school counsellor is a valuable resource to help children with more complicated issues and next term, we are introducing a Mindfulness club along with a daily mindful minute.

The most important thing is that children have a good relationships with staff and know they can talk to us anytime.

Read our review of Chinthurst School here.

And then go see the school for yourself – there is an Open Morning on Thursday 21 March. Or you can call the school on 01737 812011 for a private tour.

Chinthurst School, 52 Tadworth Street, Tadworth, KT20 5QZ. Tel: 01737 812 011.

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