Back to school


With summer now starting to recede in the rear view mirror, today is the day for kids to get out from under their parents’ feet and get back to school.

In our household, this means one boy hoping to build on his early successes and another off soon for his his very first day at school. It is an exciting time for them and for us alike.

When we made the decision to return to the UK, one of the many topics on our list for discussion was education. We wanted to be as sure as we could that there would be good options for our children when we returned.

We spent many hours pouring over websites and Ofsted reports, comparing the schools in our potential catchment areas.

It’s a minefield, but fortunately for me, having a teacher as a wife, we were able to work out where we did (and didn’t) want our boys to go.

Although our children are still young, some of our discussions centred around each school’s academic results. How do they perform on the great big UK schools league table?

And I know that these conversations go on regularly around kitchen tables up and down the country as parents try to do the right thing for their offspring in order to give them the best start in life.

But important though results are, I’ve always thought that a good education is about more than just exams and certificates and has a broader role in creating interesting and well-balanced individuals.

Which is why I was particularly interested to pick up a copy of that venerable old magazine Country Life in some waiting room recently.

Flicking past the endless pages of country mansions for sale, I came across an entertaining article entitled “39 steps to a better life”.

This article espoused a similar philosophy to my own, but went one step further and listed 39 ‘life skills’ that it felt were important in preparing today’s youth for the challenges of tomorrow.

Consider some of the following that caught my eye and whether they might enhance one’s education in some more qualitative way:

  • Make a speech, entertain an audience with a joke or an anecdote, and sing at least two songs by heart
  • Talk about five classics of English literature with authority and passion
  • Carve a joint of meat
  • Tell the difference between Gothic, Baroque and Palladian architecture

The full list of all 39 steps is here – why not see how many you score.

As a new academic year begins, I hope that my boys continue to learn and perform well on the official scoreboard. But, beyond that, I also hope that they end up with a well-rounded education, (and I see that much of the responsibility for that falling on us as their parents).

Maybe I’ll keep the Country Life list handy for future reference.


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