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PARENTS AND SCHOOLS: Partners or Protagonists? By Gill Crozier. Trentham Books pound;12.95.

As a parent who's had more than her fair share of close encounters of all kinds with schools, I was relieved and fascinated to see so many of them mirrored in this study of secondary school parents' and teachers' views of each other.

Crozier re-examines the inequalities of class and gender that have always existed in British education. What makes the book timely is that she puts it into the context of New Labour's imperative of parents' choice and participation.

What Crozier so readably demonstrates is that while parents are an essential ingredient in the smorgasbord of initiatives and ideologies that define education policy, the relationships between parents and schools can, on some levels, be defined as a less than weet confection of mutual distrust, misunderstanding and mismatched expectations.

No matter what their socio-economic background, parents are perceived by the two schools in the study, one in a working-class area, the other in a higher-income district, as wanting. Working-class parents who don't take an "active" role are perceived as uninterested in their children's progress. "Involved" middle-class parents are seen as interfering egocentrics who take teachers' time away from children who need it more.

If true participatory democracy in education is ever to be realised, argues Crozier, the issues around cultural pluralism will need to be addressed more seriously. But what that comes down to, she argues, is not only parents learning to trust teachers, but teachers trusting parents.


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