Children kept away from school by parents

On Monday, May 23, 2023 I saw an item on the 8 o’clock news about parents keeping their children away from school. This year in the Netherlands there are 1,800 pupils who are not going to school; two years ago it was 600 pupils. In this news report you saw a father with his a daughter at a playground. The daughter was riding a unicycle and the father’s lesson objective that day was to calculate the diameter of circles. His argument for not sending his daughter to school was that schools do not respond to students’ learning needs.

Personally, as a music teacher on a secondary school, I have gained a great deal of experience in responding to students’ learning needs and know what is involved. In the last three years of my career as a music teacher I have focused on the learning needs of students. Research about this style of teaching is done by the Evert Bisschop Boele.

Currently I am working with Nick Sorensen to translate this Dutch website into ‘Friendly and Fair Teaching’. That website is already largely finished: see

Nick Sorensen, Emeritus Professor of Education at Bath Spa University, has undertaken research into teacher expertise to highlight the importance of improvisation. He has written about this in his book “The Improvising Teacher: reconceptualising pedagogy, expertise and professionalism” According to Sorensen teacher development is a process which usually starts with the teacher ‘designing’ lessons in which the students do what the teacher says. On the ‘Friendly and Fair Teaching’ website this is called “Teacher-centred education‘.

However Sorensen argues that the more experience a teacher has, the more they can make students responsible for their own learning, encouraging what he refers to as “emergent learning”. We call this ‘Student-centred education‘.

Friendly and Fair Teaching advocates a shift from ‘Teacher-centred education’ to ‘Student-centred education’ in order to encourage ’emergent learning’. Teachers provide their students with more time to work independently. I feel that if several teachers in a school make this move then schools are places that parents like their children to go to and would not need to keep them away. The objections of the father who was featured in the news broadcast would be overcome. This father would be happy to send his child to a school in which teachers incorporate students’ learning needs into their lessons.

Finally: Education always consists of a combination of ‘Teacher-centred Education’ and ‘Student-centred Education’. What is important is that teachers give their students more and more space to make their own decisions.