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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

For failing students, lockdown was freedom, school is 'prison'

School is "like being in prison," says 14-year-old Kieran, who has dyslexia and ADHD. He prefers doing physical labor with his father.

Ella, 13, loved being home during lockdown. She could work at her own, slow pace. She didn't have anxiety headaches.

School doesn't work for some students, writes Kate Adams on UnHerd. She works on a school mental-health team in England, where -- as in the U.S. -- absenteeism is rising. "One in four English children are persistently absent from school; one in 50 are missing more than half." They're "voting with their feet."

Counselors work with anxious, depressed and misbehaving students. Some hate school for good reason, she writes.

Kieran's mother "begged his teachers to let him sit certain classes out, so he could focus on a handful of core subjects rather than skip school entirely," she writes. They couldn't help. "In the name of inclusivity, the school is expected to provide a full curriculum for all children."

Special-needs and not-very-academic children are victims of "a doggedly one-size-fits-all approach which maintains that everything can be fixed with education," Adams writes.

Prime Minister Tony Blair "believed in sending half the population to university: his argument was that academically clever people went to university, so if everyone went to university, everyone would be academically clever."

Ella lacks confidence because she spends her day doing things she's bad at, writes Adams. "If the core of your anxiety is a belief that you’re not good enough, there’s nothing more effective at feeding that belief than not being good enough at the only thing you have the opportunity to do for most of your waking existence."

Activist groups, such as Not Fine In School which represents families of mostly neurodiverse children who are out of school, argue that the "inclusive" model is failing many children, Adams writes. They want parents to have more rights to decide what educational set-up is best for their children.

Many of these students would prefer to learn at home, but the U.K. education establishment is skeptical, at best, of homeschooling. There's no financial support for parents who are trying to educate their children.


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Sep 12, 2023

Teachers should be prepared to differentiate their teaching in their classes; it sounds like Kieran's and Ella's teachers are not doing so successfully, so their families should be able to access voucher-supported private schools, as they would be in Copenhagen, a model for raising happy children at this age.


Sep 11, 2023

I talked to the bio teacher at the closest public school, and she said that special ed students cover the same bio material as everybody else, only they have twice as long. The school has block scheduling, so instead of 2 hrs/day for 1 semester they have 2 hrs/day for a year. This is insane. Plenty of average students struggle with metabolism, transcription, and Punnett squares. I can't imagine subjecting students who struggle to read to this material (said as somebody who teaches biology to homeschoolers and loves this content!). I can see how students with all sorts of different academic challenges would find school to be miserable.

It frustrates me that we act as if all students can learn…

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