Parents fed up of testing should consider home-schooling, says Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson says too many parents feel 'powerless' to act on concerns about the 'narrow' education their children are getting at school

Hélène Mulholland

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A well-known educationalist has suggested parents should consider teaching them at home instead of sending them to school.

Sir Ken Robinson, who has long argued in favour of a broader school curriculum and less emphasis on standardised testing, made the comment as an increasing number of children are being home-taught, despite concerns that this is not always in the best interest of the child.

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Ken said parents who were concerned that their children were not getting the right education had three main options. He said: “You can either work more closely with the school in partnership...good schools are always very inclusive and they want to do that, so I’m very keen not to demonise schools.

"You can [act] collectively – for example in America there has been a big push against standardised testing, which is a multi-billion dollar industry there, and parents have been saying ‘we’ve had enough of this now’ – so there [are] collective things you can do.

"Or you can get out of it. A small but growing number of people have decided that they want to home-school, and take a different route entirely.”

His comments come amid concern about the growing number of children being educated at home. Earlier this year, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator warned against the practice of schools encouraging families to educate their children at home as an alternative to being excluded – so-called "offrolling".

Last week, the Department for Education set out proposals for a compulsory register of all home-educated children. 

But Sir Ken, whose TED talk on whether schools kill creativity is the most watched of all time, suggested there could be good reasons for parents to take children out of school.

Most educational systems are focused on “a very narrow band of opportunities” which often fails to cultivate children’s natural creative capacities and talent, he told BBC Radio 2's Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Thursday.

He referred to the “persistent pressure of testing and homework” in the British school system.

He said he had canvassed parents for the views on Twitter and was “flooded with responses". As well as concerns over the impact of testing, parents were anxious about the costs of degrees, and whether their children were being encouraged to develop their own talents.

“The main thing is that they felt powerless to do anything about it,” said Sir Ken. “What I’m arguing is that actually, you can do something about it if you are a parent, and you should. You need to get parents involved in the conversation.”

He contrasted this to Finland, which he described as the “one of the most successful education systems in the world".

“The interesting thing is that in Finland, there is no standardised testing to speak of – there is one test at the end of high school. They have vocational and academic routes opened to everybody. They don’t promote competition so much as collaboration, they have a very broad curriculum - the arts, the sciences and technology.

"It’s the exact opposite of what’s happening here and it’s much more successful.

“The point is that also they’ve invested in teaching as a profession, so it’s hard to become a teacher in Finland, and when you are a teacher, they support you and it’s a job for life –as long as you keep doing the job well. It’s highly respected. You can’t improve education if you demean the teaching  profession.”

Sir Ken, who lives in California, has written a fourth book, You, Your Child and Your School, aimed at British parents who feel anxious and confused about the education system here.

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Hélène Mulholland

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