Could Do Better

COULD DO BETTER: HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR CHILDREN SUCCEED AT SCHOOL. By Noel Janis-Norton. Barrington Stoke pound;14.99

It didn't take me long, as a teacher, to realise that for children school is a game with many complicated rules. The winners are the children who are compliant but not too quiet, bright but not pushy, funny but not cheeky, neat but not obsessive, determined but not selfish. I was reminded of this by Noel Janis-Norton's list of "Mature Habits (without which) a child cannot fulfil his potential or be successful at school, no matter how bright he may be".

These include "Keeping a polite tone of voice, even when frustrated or upset", and "Paying attention to all details of a task". She also lists five good classroom habits, which include waiting patiently, understanding instructions first time, using common sense rather than asking questions, working in silence and working in a team.

Noel Janis-Norton writes from huge experience as a teacher, head and consultant, and does an excellent job of describing what works in the home-school axis. She's particularly good on developing a non-confrontational relationship with teachers: recasting complaints as requests, knowing teachers' names, remembering to express appreciation of good teaching. In the end, though, I found the sheer efficiency of this approach vaguely depressing.

I was left feeling that surely there must be more to sharing your child's learning than turning to him or her in the supermarket with the words:

"Tell me the names of four salad vegetables you can see."

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