Parents are 'living children's lives' for them, says Eton headteacher

16th March 2015 at 10:01

Pushy private school parents are increasingly "living their children's lives" for them and demanding a very specific type of education for their offspring, the head of Eton College has said.

Tony Little, who will leave his role at one of the world’s most famous schools at the end of the academic year, said that dealing with demanding parents was one of the biggest challenges of his job.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Little claimed that although the “vast majority” of parents he dealt with bought into the philosophy that his school promoted, he bemoaned the minority of mums and dads who needed closer management.

“In the main most parents are fine,” he said. “But it is still the case that a small minority of parents at my school – and at different types of schools – have a very specific agenda. [They are] living the life for their children.

“In other words they embark on an education with the end product that their son or daughter will be at X university, they will be achieving this, they will be doing that. And any deviation from the norm is a big problem for them.”

The driven nature of some parents can impact “pretty badly on their children”, he added.

Mr Little also suggested that sex education should be discussed in single sex groups to allow pupils to retain some level of “innocence”, and he warned that one of the biggest challenges facing both parents and schools face was the “acceleration of the growing sophistication” of children at a younger age.

"There are ways of talking about emotional development and about sexuality with single gender groups that oddly and perversely can get you further than with co-ed groups," he said.

“There is a need, even at the age of 9 now, to have pretty graphic sex education because of the pressures being placed on young girls, particularly from the age of 11 and upwards." 

Such sex education was “sadly needed”, he added.

Although he stated that he was not an “apologist” for either co-education or single sex schools, he said the latter, particularly at early adolescence, allowed boys and girls to “be themselves for longer”.

However, he was opposed to the idea of single sex schools introducing co-education at sixth form, something he described as a “strange habit” among schools in the UK.

“It doesn’t work because you are creating tensions that don’t need to be there,” he said. “For some students they find it difficult to adjust to that situation.”

Mr Little will take up his new role as chief executive at Gems schools, the international school chain, in September.

Related stories:

Eton headmaster: 'Victorian' exam system is 'unimaginative' – 5 August, 2014

Eton head dreams of a world without public schools – 5 February, 2010


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