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Analysis - Overtures to greater parental involvement

Schools will be expected to become increasingly parent-friendly this year. Officials admit there has been limited progress in fulfilling the expectations for schools contained in the parenting action plan launched in December 2005. Now they want to step it up.

Parents are seen as key partners in efforts to raise pupils' achievement. Struggling schools need mums and dads on side to raise their game, but there will need to be compromises.

Most teaching unions regard the introduction of the new-style school performance reports as a positive move. They appear to strike a balance between unfairly comparing schools in different catchment areas - the so-called league table mentality of England - and ensuring parents are well-informed of education standards at their child's school.

There will be no naming and shaming, no blame game, and the anonymity will hopefully prevent a mass scramble by parents to get their child into the best school.

This summer, it seems likely that the reports will become compulsory. But the parenting action plan is not just about providing better information. The Assembly government wants parental involvement in every area of school life.

The school effectiveness framework is another area where officials want parents to participate. The initiative, launched almost a year ago, aims to spread good practice between schools and teachers to help lessen the gap between the best and worst performing schools and classrooms. But the Assembly government realises teachers cannot do this alone, and parental support is key. By engaging more with parents, they may have greater influence on children who feel alienated by the curriculum and are ready to drop out.

Parents are also seen as an ally in plans to tackle rising obesity resulting from poor diet and a lack of exercise. Appetite for Life, the Assembly government's healthy eating action plan for schools, is all about children's diets, but officials recognise this is wasted if children eat junk at home.

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