Tony Little: questions for parents to ask themselves

Source: Guardian (
I have only met Tony Little once - at a dinner in Eton for the friends of masters. Even in our brief meeting though he seemed to exude the kind of warm humanity that I have come to associate with the very best school leaders. Not for him anxious looks over the shoulder to find someone more important or interesting to speak to, nor cloying self-aggrandisement. I warmed to him immediately not least because we parted company with him making a self-deprecating joke - the ability to not take yourself too seriously being something I regard as a good indicator of character.
When, earlier this year, I spotted that he had written a book to coincide with his retirement I rushed out to buy it. Sure enough, it didn't disappoint. The book, written in an easy conversational style, is full of the sort of wise, sensible advice that results from years of on-the-job experience. It will now sit alongside my collection of John Rae's writings, to be regularly dipped into for inspiration and moral support.
At the end of Little's book he poses ten questions which wishes parents would ask themselves before considering his school. They are rather wonderful, so I record them here in full:
  • Do I believe my child is almost perfect?
  • Do I like rules and regulations until my child breaks them?
  • Am I happy gossiping about the school to anyone who will listen, but reluctant to talk to the head?
  • Do I go in at the deep end when someone criticises my child?
  • Am I an expert because I went to school myself?
As Little explains, if the answer to any of the above is 'yes', he would rather you sought another school for your child. His questions continue:
  • Am I prepared to work with the school and pull my weight?
  • Can I strike a balance between being velcro parent and a ghost?
  • Can I support my child and support the school through difficult times?
  • Can I suppress my frustrated ambitions and let my child be herself?
  • Will I deflect rumour and find out the facts from the school?
By contrast if the answer to any of these is 'yes', Little would welcome you with open arms.
Not bad advice.

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