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27th February 2024

Book Review: The Good Parent Educator by Lee Elliot Major

Evgenia Lazareva

I have been following Lee Elliot Major’s inspiring work for some time now. A global leader in his field, he advocates for social mobility and empowering parents. The captivating title perfectly defines a new era of parents post pandemic, which we all became involuntarily. Raising a young child in London puts immense and constant pressure to get it right education-wise, despite me working in the industry, so as soon as I saw the book, I clicked order.  

It was just what I needed. A comprehensive step by step guide, an insightful education roadmap – from birth to workplace. Backed up by solid and thorough research, yet so easy to read, it is cleverly structured, with fascinating facts, key takeaways, and useful bits of advice. You can independently explore each area and dig deeper thanks to helpful additional reading and references provided at the end of every chapter. The author speaks as a parent and educator, thus making it very relatable.

It also could not have come at a better time: emerging from lockdowns, still slightly traumatised by home schooling, it’s the right time to be rethinking education entirely. As parents, we desperately try to get our children ahead in this turbulent reality. We are also exhausted, confused, and some even consider relocating to the sunnier climates and leaving this “educational arms race” behind (I know I am). Wherever you end up, the information that Elliot Major presents in this book is applicable to any family. 

It compels the reader to “reflect on what you think education is for”. It is not “just grades”, but the fact remains that certain university degrees result in much higher earnings. Do you then aim for Oxbridge, or look at the bigger picture? “Parents are the single biggest predictor of children’s life outcomes”, says Elliot Major. No pressure then. It is about balance, finding out what matters most to your child and using available resources and information. The good news? “Most things turn out to be ok in the end”.

So how do you become a good parent educator? If you do only one thing, “instil a love of reading” in your child. Ok, I think I have nailed that one. If you are struggling, Elliot Major offers practical and realistic tips to succeed. The section on choosing schools struck a (painful) chord. It completely consumes parents and often is a significant expenditure. Read that chapter very carefully before going to any school visits, and you will be well equipped.

Unfortunately, parents can’t solely rely on schools to deliver results. The evidence in the book states that “what happens outside, not inside, the school gates” and “stable and supportive home background” are key for academic success. Work needs to be done at home, and not just the homework (which is more important in secondary than primary). Children need help with their mindset, motivation, and efforts, and to “light the creative or sporting spark.” Elliot Major believes that “children should devote as much time to arts and sports as to scholarly study” as they are “central to human development”. I could not agree more and instantly felt better about myself as a parent educator by the end of chapter seven.

The research on attainment of summer born children was eye opening. It is disappointing that our rigid system needs that much challenging. But there are things that can be done: in particular, don’t be afraid to become your child’s advocates. Elliot Major further explores tutoring, digital exposure, learning styles, assessments, and a few other significant areas that parents must be aware of. The book culminates at life after school: apprenticeships, universities, Oxbridge, and venturing into the job market. Once again, Elliot Major stresses that no matter which path you choose – and there is a case to be made for each of them – “nurturing essential life skills’ is crucial when stepping into the real world of work (and avoiding your adult children living with you).

Wherever you are on your child’s educational journey, the knowledge and advice in this book are valuable. There is even a little quiz at the end for readers, which took me completely by surprise, but I did well. I will be re-reading this book as my child grows and in moments of parenting doubts, and will continue to empower my inner Good Parent Educator.

The writer is the co-founder of Collab Education

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