Finding the recipe for wellbeing

As the kids start back for the summer term, there will be parents everywhere feeling exhausted by the challenge of motivating their children back into their uniforms and out the door, not to mention concerns about homework and testing.

How important is education to our health and wellbeing? Hugely, I’m sure you would agree, but why is trying to determine the right education for our children or supporting decisions made for our grandchildren so stressful for so many?

As someone who has been through this and is to a certain extent still living with this stress – we have two school-age children, one who doesn’t fit the mould and recently gave a TEDX talk on ‘What’s wrong with the current education system’ – I am inspired by Sir Ken Robinson. We were lucky enough to interview him on Radio 2 recently on his new book You, your child and school — Navigate your way to the best education.

Ken has balanced various roles: as a teacher, writer, researcher, adviser and speaker and has directed and been involved in many initiatives around the world, with education systems and with corporate, cultural and community organisations.

The book is great and very timely because so many parents are deeply concerned about education that has become a minefield of politics and controversy. It’s so difficult to know what to look for in a school, and to know what we can do if we feel it isn’t right for our child.

With good schools oversubscribed and a panic to get the school of your choice depending on catchment areas, we can feel powerless, which leads to huge stress and anxiety.

Ken dispels some myths and challenges that many of us might feel are set in stone. He has argued in the past that art and dance are just as important as geography and physics, and that ‘Imagination is the source of all human achievement’.

In our interview he pointed out that there are many wonderful teachers, but in many cases they are straitjacketed by the system that perpetuates way too many tests and the ‘one size must fit all’ approach.

He suggests we should look to Finland, where they have a far superior education system, which revolves around ‘life skills’ and zero testing.

It’s an inspirational read, but if you don’t have children or grandchildren at this point, don’t pass Ken by, check out his New York Times best-selling book The Element, How finding your passion changes everything.

It doesn’t really matter what age you are, it’s never too late to find your passion and make sure you are doing what you love. Surely that’s the recipe for wellbeing.

You, Your child and school by Sir Ken Robinson is published by Penguin Random House.