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William Clarence Education MD warns of the dark side of putting bright children on TV

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After watching an episode of Channel 4’s ‘Child Genius’, Stephen Spriggs penned a new blog article, expressing his concerns about the impact such formats have on children and warned of the long-term implications of focusing on knowledge over character development in education.

Back in March, Mr Spriggs tuned in to ‘Child Genius’, a programme that observes highly gifted primary school-aged youngsters battling it out to be crowned the UK’s brightest child. These children are asked to tackle specialist subjects, such as epidemiology and cryptoanalysis, and memorise complex spellings in a quick-fire knock-out contest to be declared the smartest.

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The founder and Managing Director of leading London education consultancy, William Clarence Education, found that watching these children compete and, subsequently, observing their tears over a single incorrect answer, spurred a feeling of unease.

Mr Spriggs commented:
“Watching these youngsters spell long words, make complex calculations in their heads and answer the most obscure questions is impressive and certainly ‘good telly’. But I think the producers and mid-programme advertisers get more out of it than the children.
When it comes to the spelling tests, do these youngsters actually understand these words? What is the point, outside of the competition, of being able to spell phelloderm, epyllion and churrigueresque? Is it a measure of real-life intellect or the result of sitting cooped up in the house studying a dictionary for weeks on end? I dread to think of the sacrifices they’ve made to compete in this programme. The parties, playtimes, football games, dance classes and lazy Sundays they’ve missed out on just to provide us with entertainment.”

The programme has been defended by some parents, who argue their children love this style of competition and made the decision to apply and compete themselves. However, Mr Spriggs was unconvinced, pointing out that if the kind of study regime these children undertake were to be implemented by a school, teachers would be charged with child abuse.

Mr Spriggs added:
“It’s not uncommon for children to break down on television and cry at their failure to identify the meaning of words such as darmstadtium… I watched as two poor kids got an answer wrong and were banished from the podium as the camera pointed at their grimacing parents. One ‘failure’ said, while sitting next to his nodding parents ‘This just proves I must work harder to achieve what I want in life’. Is that an 8-year-old talking or his parents? Is his life’s ambition to be able to sit in his room rattling off lots of long words or is this an ego trip for his parents to gain fame by showing off how clever their child is? What will be the reaction when they go back to school and face their classmates after such public humiliation? I dread to think. If I had a time-travel machine, I’d jump forward 10 years to see how these children cope as adults with this weight of expectation on them”

Mr Spriggs also highlighted that elite schools all over the world, including Oxbridge and US Ivy League Colleges, look for well-rounded individuals with passions and interests outside of the classroom. Harvard and Yale take a holistic approach and actively seek out students who have strength of character and have succeeded outside the world of academia. William Clarence Education works with schools and universities all over the world to secure the best fit that works for both school and student, regardless of background and ability.

To read the article in full, visit the William Clarence Blog. For more information on William Clarence, its international education consultancy team, and the services it provides to students and families all over the world, visit


The Dark Side of putting bright children on TV Stephen Spriggs. William Clarence Education. 27 March 2019.

About William Clarence Education:
The leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, William Clarence offers unbiased advice to students and parents from around the world; at every stage of their academic journey. From Independent School Application and Placement, full UCAS and University application consultancy, Oxbridge Applications, US College Admission and even Home-schooling programmes, William Clarence Education draws on a deep relationship driven network with schools, Universities and senior education figures within the industry. By putting the student and family at the centre of the process, William Clarence ensures their clients reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education.

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Stephen Spriggs –

“Watching these youngsters spell long words, make complex calculations in their heads and answer the most obscure questions is impressive and certainly ‘good telly’. But I think the producers and mid-programme advertisers get more out of it than the children.”

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