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Fathers feel excluded

While home-school liaison has long been known to have a positive effect on children's attainment, parent involvement usually means mothers' involvement. Fathers remain firmly outside the school gates.

A study by Children North East, a Newcastle-based children's charity, set out to discover to what extent fathers are engaged with their children's primary schools. Researchers talked to staff and parents of Reception children at six schools and found that they believed they were welcoming to both mothers and fathers, encouraging them to be involved in classroom activities, come to induction sessions and take part in other events. However, they felt that fathers didn't seem interested in taking part in events or programmes run by the school. One teacher said that fathers find excuses to stay away from school.

A diffrent picture emerged when parents were asked to comment. Fathers talked of having the will but not the time to come to school. Some felt excluded, either because of their sex or because a dominant parent clique seemed to "run the school".

The schools involved were "gender agnostic", says the report; they believed that they treated mothers and fathers the same and hadn't considered the possibility of needing to adopt a special approach towards fathers. The report suggests that schools focus on how to communicate effectively with parents and specifically with fathers, and should consider a policy on issues such as contacting fathers who don't live with their children.

Engaging parents in a primary school setting, published by Children North East. Phone: 0191 232 3741 or e-mail:

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