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Schools seem to have gone through three stages in their relationship with parents in the past 50 years. First was the era of "no parents past this point" and white lines on the playground. During the Sixties, parent-teacher associations and meetings about reading schemes came along. Even then, the agenda was less about partnership than persuasion - a well-meaning attempt to convince parents the school's approach was right.

The third stage, still developing, comes with recognition that teachers can learn from parents, and that the home-school relationship should be two-way. Of course this is a simplification, but the trend is recognisable.

In Partnerships with Parents In Practice (Manchester Inspection and Advisory Service, The Acorn Centre, Royal Oak Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 1EB, pound;9.95 plus pound;2 pamp;p) teachers at Newall Green Nursery and Infant School in Manchester show how to make partnership work.

Head Marsha Grime was previously funded by the Urban Aid Programme as a home-school liaison teacher, and in 12 subsequent years has gone on at Newall Green to make partnership with parents a cornerstone of the school's philosophy.

Newall Green's approach - and improved pupil performance - has attracted the attention, and praise, of Ofsted. This book, written by teachers with other teachers in mind, sets out how it is done and gives plenty of examples of documents and photocopiable pages.

Schools such as Newall Green challenge the old staffroom myth that "parents round here aren't interested in the school". Support comes in Working With Parents, edited by Ann Wheal of Southampton University (Russell House Publishing pound;16.95). he writes: "Many professionals assume that parents need, or indeed want, educating and support. In many cases this may be true. In others the reverse. Parents have a wealth of experience, knowledge and ideas to offer other parents and professionals ... Careful listening is the most critical aspect for anyone working with parents."

This is a collection of papers written by people with experience of the relationship between parents and professional groups such as social workers.

They are interesting and often revealing - Paul Tosey's account of what it was like, as a father, to be on the receiving end of "intervention" should give all professionals pause for thought.

Another chapter, by Ann Buchanan, points out that some of our notions of the importance of early childhood experience, and of the traumatic effects of family breakdown, ought to be modified. Things are not always bad for all children.

This view is reinforced in Early Experience and the Life Path by Ann Clark and Alan Clarke (Jessica Kingsley pound;11.95) They have looked at 40 years'-worth of research into the effects of early childhood experience and concluded that, contrary to the views of some influential childcare experts, there is plenty of evidence that early deprivation and disadvantage can be overcome.

With that kind of reassurance, you can feel happy about reading Gael Lindenfield's Confident Children (Thorsons pound;7.99) which gives good advice about helping children to face the world. Refreshingly, it accepts that perfection may be out of reach, saying: "Most of us are both sinner and saint. That's fine as long as the mixture is a 'good-enough' blend."


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