Save us from parent power

Peter King

Why does the expression "confusion worse confounded" come to mind as I contemplate the Government's latest proposals for educational reform? Maybe Brewer's explanation of its meaning, "disorder made worse than before", provides some clue. Essentially, however, it reflects my increasing feeling that things were better before the politicians began their relentless pattern of interference.

I, and many other teachers, can remember a time when we were regarded as professionals who knew their job and who were the upholders of academic and disciplinary standards. As an English teacher in a grammar school and then as head of department in a large comprehensive, it was unthinkable to me that discipline and the curriculum might be decided by parents, though we accepted and respected the expertise and experience of our governors.

Yet what do we now find? Under the proposed legislation, "schools will have to establish parent councils to advise on issues such as meals, discipline and curriculum reform". What evidence is their nationally that there are sufficient numbers of parents with the necessary expertise who would be prepared to serve on such councils? There's a fundamental irony in the inclusion of discipline given the overwhelming evidence of indiscipline in the home. If parents were already exercising discipline this would carry over into school, and there would be no need to advise teachers on the matter.

Similarly, how many parents are qualified to advise on curriculum reform? I have reservations about my own ability to do that across a range of subjects, and I spent my life in schools. We already have a body with responsibility for the curriculum, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and a teaching force capable of implementing it if only the Government would make up its mind what it really wants. Will parent councils, in fact, replace school governors? These proposals pose many questions, and raise many reservations.

Rather than persistent changes, couldn't we just have a period of calm, genuine reflection on what sort of education system we really do want in this country - and restore to headteachers and their staff their traditional independence to implement it?

Peter King is a retired English teacher

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