Academic is all for non-teachers contributing in schools

18th November 2011 at 00:00
Scottish schools should embrace the prospect of non-experts coming in to work with pupils, according to a leading English academic.

The number of non-teaching staff working in English schools has almost trebled in the past decade, said Denis Mongon - and that was a good thing. Parental involvement had not had an impact on the number of teachers employed, he added.

"There was some initial concern that there was potential to usurp the role of teachers, but I think now it's almost universally accepted," said Professor Mongon, of the University of London's Institute of Education.

He spoke to TESS after addressing the annual conference of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), and gave several examples of how non- teachers - often parents - could contribute.

In a Devon school, people with connections to the dwindling fishing industry helped with an art project, which spun off into "all kinds of other activities".

"That school ended up with a group of local people working inside the school, and it radically changed the relationship between the school and the local community," Professor Mongon said.

He knew of schools with community-based courses for parents. One Midlands school specialised in PE and sport, and was offering national vocational qualifications in this area so that parents could work with teachers.

Professor Mongon found at the conference that "some people reported really thoughtful, powerful engagement between parents and school; others were reportedly feeling at a real distance".

It was a similar picture to that in England, although he felt there was "a stronger sense of common good in Scotland".

SPTC executive director Eileen Prior said that discussion groups at the conference had shown a desire for "a dialogue between teachers, parents and children about the purposes of the learning and the targets being worked towards" - although it was "clear that we don't always have that".

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