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Get the message on letters home

Children spend less than 15 per cent of their lives between birth and 16 at school and most teachers are now aware of the mountain of evidence to show that parents' attitude to education is the single most important factor affecting achievement in class.

Those still pondering how to improve home-school relationships might be interested in Home-School Policies: a practical guide, published last month.

Creating good relations with parents is a complex process and the guide sensibly divides the task into manageable chunks, such as how to make your school more welcoming - secondary schools, in particular, can be daunting for parents fresh from a cosier primary set-up - how to write letters home that do not go straight into the bin and how to develop the art of listening.

The authors, all directly involved in education, include lists of the sorts of questions schools should ask themselves about every aspect of home-school policies, and what sort of questions to ask parents.

Particularly useful are the numerous examples of how other schools handle things. For instance, a series of very different questionnaire-surveys of parents are reproduced in full.

One reservation. The authors recommend telling parents to "continue the routine of a regular time for homework, even during weekends and holidays". David Blunkett would approve, but holidays? Not, perhaps, the best way to encourage parents in the belief that teachers appreciate their problems.

Home-School Policies: a practical guide by Titus Alexander, John Bastiani and Emma Beresford. JET Publications, 67 Musters Road, Ruddington, Nottingham NG11 6JB. Tel: 01159 845960

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