Exclusive: Parents want more say in what schools teach

Schools are not asking for parents' views on the things that matter most to families, new research reveals
28th November 2018, 12:03am


Exclusive: Parents want more say in what schools teach


More than three-quarters of parents (77 per cent) want more say in their child's education at school, new research shows.

The report from Parentkind, previously PTA UK, a charity which supports parents in education, reveals a mismatch between what parents are interested in hearing from schools and what schools seek parents' views on.

It says that parents were most interested in getting involved in curriculum discussions - 56 per cent wanted to be consulted on this - followed by their school's discipline policy (51 per cent).

But the research, based on a survey of a representative sample of 1,500 parents, also asked what schools were most likely to consult parents about. 

And here the top topic was uniform, which 39 per cent of parents said schools had asked about, although it was something that only one in five parents wanted to be consulted on.

On the topics that parents most wanted to hear about, just 27 per cent said their school had consulted them on the curriculum, and 30 per cent on behaviour.

Getting parents involved in school

Michelle Doyle Wildman, acting CEO of Parentkind, said the survey showed a "growing gap between how parents would like to be involved and how schools, local authorities, school trusts and the government do that in practice".

The research, published today, shows that just half of parents (53 per cent) believed their school listened to them, and parents whose children were in schools which are part of multi-academy trusts or federations were less likely to feel listened to than those in standalone schools.

When asked if they were listened to, 44 per cent of parents whose child was in a school in a federation agreed, compared with 51 per cent of those whose child was in a multi-academy trust. The figures for a standalone academy and a standalone school were 54 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.

"This is an important finding, as it may be a sign that a federated governance structure makes it harder for parents to feel that their views on their child's education are heard at school level," the report states.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that he endorsed the importance of schools consulting parents.

He added: "The ability to think about what is the right curriculum for the children in your community is really important skill and the way you do that is by testing out some of those ideas with parents.

"But that is slightly different from saying to parents, 'What do you think should be in our maths curriculum?' You still want the professional expertise of teachers, but if it is about testing out about what is right for the students, of course you want parents, and employers, to have some say in that."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, pointed out that parents did not always want the same thing from schools.

"School leaders know that a close working relationship with parents is vital," he said. "However, it is important that we recognise that within a community of parents there is always a diverse range of views and it is rare to find agreement amongst parents on topics such as homework, behaviour and even curriculum.

"It is right that schools should be expected to consult with parents, but they must also be trusted to use their own professional judgement and expertise to take decisions and set policies that are in the interests of all pupils."

The research also showed that parents felt that a good education goes beyond exam results, with self-confidence topping the list of key attributes that parents wanted their child to leave school with.

The survey found that two in five parents (42 per cent) have not raised issues with school or contributed ideas at any level, over the past year. Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of parents were happy about the overall quality of their child's school, with two-thirds (67 per cent) positive about the school's effectiveness in communicating with them.

Ms Wildman said: "It's clear that parents have a desire and right to have a say in decisions that affect them and their children, but the needs of all mums and dads in our society are not being met by what is currently on offer. Our children's education is too important not to benefit from an input from parents."

The report calls for every school to have a consultative parent body where parents' views are sought and which has a direct line of communication to the school leadership.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The department is always keen to hear from parents, should we decide to review any areas of the curriculum, and frequently involve parents in consultations so that we are aware of their views.

"We believe that school leaders and governors are best placed to make decisions in the running of their schools - including setting behaviour policies. However, we would expect schools to consult parents and take into consideration their views when making these decisions."


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