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Sign up to sleep and standards

Frances Rafferty reports on the guidance issued to schools on the wording of agreements with pupils and parents

SCHOOLS will not ask for financial contributions and parents will promise to send their children to bed at a reasonable time.

These vows form part of the draft guidance on home-school agreements, drawn up by the Department for Education and Employment. It says schools should avoid anything unreasonable or unacceptable for example "requiring parents to attend an excessive number of parents' evenings or meetings at inconvenient times, or requiring parents to agree to make 'voluntary' contributions to purchase expensive books or equipment".

All schools will be legally required to draw up such agreements from September 1999. However, children cannot be excluded if parents fail to sign nor will signing be a condition of admission to a school.

The guidance says it is important to involve pupils and parents in the consultation process and that they should cover the standard of education, the school's ethos, discipline and behaviour, homework and attendance. The Office for Standards in Education will monitor their quality.

Attached to the guidance are a number of examples. At All Saints school, Wolverhampton, children must sign an agreement to uphold golden rules which include, "I will walk inside the building", "I will talk quietly" and "I will keep hands and feet to myself".

The agreement at Cowick first school, Exeter, includes a Danish proverb:

"Who takes the child by the hand takes the parents by the heart." The school promises to give parents regular information on their child's progress, provide a secure and caring environment and a challenging teaching and learning one. Parents are asked to promise that their child will have sufficient energy (10 to 12 hours of sleep for five to eight-year olds is recommended), to support the behaviour policy and to contact teachers if they are concerned about their child.

Margaret Tulloch, chief executive of the Campaign for State Education, has lobbied for the home-school agreements to be recommended rather than compulsory. She said: "I welcome the document's emphasis on a genuine discussion between parents and schools and the encouragement of governing bodies to set up parent associations. Our concern is that in some agreements the school's side of the bargain is less easy to assess than the parents'. "

Pat Petch, chair of the National Governors' Council, said the agreements will work only if everybody affected is involved in drawing them up. "An imposed agreement will not work," she said.

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