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Fruitful partnerships born in the Dog Duck

If you want to annoy a teacher, treat them like a babysitting service.

During the last national schools strike, parents were quick to call into radio phone-ins to express outrage at being lumbered with their own offspring. Couldn't the teachers just keep a watch on them for a day, like they usually did?

Predictably, this riled teachers, who felt that such comments revealed a lack of appreciation of the planning, skill and professionalism they put into their daily work. One of the only cheerful re-sponses came from a mathematically minded London teacher. He said he was happy to be treated as a babysitter for a bargain rate of pound;5 an hour . per child. This worked out at up to pound;900 a day, he reckoned.

The relationship between teachers and parents can sometimes be a fractious one. The decline in respect for schools among parents is arguably a much more striking trend in recent decades than any supposed worsening of their children's behaviour.

But the bigger picture is more positive. It is not normally parents versus teachers, not least because people can be both. Parents can be desperate - to the point of paranoia - that their children receive a good education, while teachers recognise the overwhelming impact that home factors have on a pupil's starting point.

So closer working between home and school is a Good Thing. The tricky part is arranging it. Many primary schools still seem to arrange events on the outdated assumption that a parent will be free to drop by in the daytime. This ignores the fact that in two-thirds of families either both parents will be working, or the sole one will be, and their hours are getting longer. Alternative approaches need to be found, ideally ones that recognise the input of fathers as well. So new trends, such as the dads' groups that meet in pubs (see pages 4-7), are to be applauded.

It will be annoying for teachers to rejig their working hours occasionally, but more can be achieved by meeting parents halfway. With closer cooperation, it will be not just the parents but the teachers who stop viewing the other group as glorified babysitters.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw

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