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Parents trust primary staff most

Parents trust teachers more than teachers trust parents, research revealed this week. And parental trust is greatest in primary schools.

Academics have found that parents believe primary staff are more trustworthy than their secondary colleagues.

Educational psychologists were told this week that parental trust in teachers declines as their children get older and that it can be adversely affected by the way schools deal with families.

Dr Sandra Dunsmuir, of University College, London, said parents' view of their child's teacher was not affected by class or social status but dependent on the level of home-school communication.

Children perform better when their parents know what is happening at school and take an interest, she told the annual British Psychological Society division of educational and child psychology conference in Paris.

About 200 delegates attended the three-day conference which finishes today and featured presentations from Australian, Indian and Swiss researchers as well as those from the UK. It is the first time the conference has been held outside the UK and the society hopes that it will raise the international profile of members' work.

Hot topics were expected to include parent power, the education of refugee children and ways to improve behaviour in schools.

Early findings of a major international study of education and care for young children by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were also to be discussed. More esoteric papers included Hope and Vicarious Futurity and a study of educational psychologists' role in supporting adopted Filipino children.

Professor Kathy Sylva of Oxford university was expected to use yesterday's keynote speech to say that children who miss nursery education run a greater risk of developing special needs. But "wide variations" in pre-school mean even youngsters who start education early may not get the support they need, she said.

Pre-school is especially effective in reducing special needs among disadvantaged groups, the study of 3,000 children found.

Delegates also heard that many young people could be steered away from bad behaviour and crime, if given the right support at an early age.

Mariana Scriva and Sandra Heriot of Sydney university, Australia, called for an end to the "one size fits all" approach to aggressive children. They said such children may be suffering from depression and display aggression for different reasons and in different ways.

The same could be said of angry parents whose relationships with schools were also to be debated.

Dr Liz Todd, of Newcastle university, said staff needed a greater awareness of parents' concerns. "Professionals can unknowingly take power from parents when they believe they are trying to help," she said.

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