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Mums and dads lend children support

Parents need to be more involved at schools if they are to back A Curriculum for Excellence.

That was the constant theme of "Making Partnership Work", an event in Stirling, organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the Scottish Government last week, to address how children's families can support learning in schools.

Keynote speaker David Cameron, Stirling Council children's services director, said parents had not been engaged enough in A Curriculum for Excellence. If they understood what it meant, they were more likely to support it. Everyone - at national, local authority and school level - had to work harder to get them on board.

Common ideas among teachers and other education staff had yet to take hold among parents. They needed help, for example, to understand the concept of developing a "capacity to learn", and the reduced emphasis on training to pass exams.

Other persistent concepts had to be overcome, he said. The idea of "potential" could be damaging: if a child's potential was second-guessed, it put a cap on how much they were expected to learn. He also wanted to spread the message that creativity was crucial in science classrooms, as it was more likely to produce innovative scientists than rigid curricular demands.

Lorraine Sanda, national parental involvement co-ordinator, told The TESS that the "remote language" of A Curriculum for Excellence would leave parents cold. Showing them what it meant in practice could yield dramatically different responses.

Co-operative learning was well established at Mattocks Primary in Wellbank, Angus, but parents only gave enthusiastic support after they were brought in to see it in action.

In Argyll and Bute, teachers in 10 primary schools had worked jointly on increasing parents' involvement, with backing from the local authority. "When the authority takes an active role, it is much more systemic and much more sustainable than a one-off project or the school trying to do it," Mrs Sanda said.

Delegates also heard about St Winning's Primary, in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, where a shake-up of homework had increased parents' involvement. Worksheets had been thrown out to encourage more talking and listening, and pupils of all ages were using iPods and mobile phone cameras. "As a result, parents were much more tuned into learning and supportive of homework," she said.

The event will be repeated in Aberdeen tomorrow.

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