Bring in parents to improve results

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Disadvantage is no excuse for bad outcomes, says Department adviser who backs community-focused learning

Ministers must put pressure on schools to work more effectively with parents in a bid to tackle "systemic failure" in Welsh education, according to a key government adviser.

David Reynolds, professor of education at Southampton University, said parental background should not be an excuse for poor results, and urged schools to bring parents on board to help them improve standards.

Writing in today's TES Cymru, Professor Reynolds, who is also a senior policy adviser to the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS), calls for so-called "community schools" to have a more prominent role and for local authorities to help parents to bring up their children.

The Assembly government has said it wants all schools to be community hubs, opening up their facilities to different interest groups. Since 200506, more than pound;18 million has been given to local authorities to fund the initiative in a bid to tackle social disadvantage.

"It should be possible to encourage parents to help our schools more whilst not permitting parental background to be used as an excuse," Professor Reynolds said. "Rather than concentrating only upon our schools, isn't it time to help our parents help us too?"

But his views have been criticised by Pam Boyd, director of charity ContinYou Cymru, which campaigns for community-focused schools, who said this approach was already being promoted:

"Schools and voluntary sector agencies are already supporting parents and families to support children's learning," she said. "I think we could potentially do more. But please, let's not pretend that a lot isn't being done."

Professor Reynolds said parents and family background have as much influence on pupil outcomes as schools, despite the "official reluctance" to talk about it.

However, the influence of social disadvantage, which Professor Reynolds claims is one of the "Welsh excuses for failure", is overstated and can be overcome by schools and parents working together, he said. "The current emphasis upon how schools can succeed despite parents is understandable, but may have blinded us to the possibilities if we got parents on board."

Professor Reynolds suggested schools could follow the lead of charter schools in the US and academies in inner London by reaching out to parents with detailed guidance and information on education, health and fitness opportunities.

"Schools and government could prepare children to be `school ready'. They could help develop `good enough' parenting. They could take the school into the homes of children," he said.

But Ms Boyd said parents would reject too much interference in the:ir lives. "I don't want to live in a nanny state where somebody gives me a manual and tells me how to bring up my child," she said.

Original headline: Schools urged to bring in parents to improve results

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