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Parent bridge opened

North Lanarkshire, seeking to establish a reputation as the "listening authority", held a parents' conference at Coatbridge High last weekend.

More than 120 parents joined teachers, church representatives and councillors to discuss involvement in their children's schooling. Their views will be presented to the council's education committee.

Michael O'Neill, North Lanarkshire's director of education, said: "Parents are keen to work with us."

The council is anxious to continue with the parents' consultative group on the curriculum pioneered by Strathclyde Region. A parents' officer has been appointed and a development officer will work on raising levels of achievement in 170 primary, secondary and special schools. Mr O'Neill said: "This is not about some mythical standards which if you don't reach means you are failing."

Cameron Munro, formerly parents' officer in Strathclyde and now a member of the Quality in Education Centre of Strathclyde University, told the conference that parental involvement should be measured by the "quality of the learning relationship the parent has with their child at home. If we can tap into what parents are doing at home, we can use that as the context for learning in school."

Tracy McLay and Rose Theresa Skillin, whose children attend Sacred Heart primary in Bellshill, praised the efforts of the school to welcome them. Under the urban aid programme, Sacred Heart has a parents' room and a home-links officer who encourages parental participation at every level from curriculum discussions to fund-raising and even adult education.

Mrs Skillin said: "I used to go to the school with my head bowed but now I have the confidence to attend teacher in-service days. I feel the school listens and values what I have to say."

Mrs McLay added: "If you have a happy parent, you have a happy child."

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