The debate on home-school agreements during the committee stage of the Education Bill was at best confused. Stephen Byers, speaking for the Government, explained that the home school agreement "defines the responsibilities of parents and schools" but "does not place a legal status on the relationship between parents and schools". What happens when the responsibilities are not fulfilled on either side? It is not likely that good relationships will develop.
He also agreed that "we cannot legislate for a relationship" but went on to say that the clause (98) "establishes a framework that will be conducive to a constructive relationship between parents and schools".
Developing good relationships is not easy but needs to be based on principles of mutual respect, sharing of information and ideas and a commitment to regular, open and honest communication. Home-school agreements are not the answer - they are bureaucratic, unnecessary and are more likely to alienate than to bring parents and teachers together in support of children.
Developing home-school policies, however, would enable schools to open up the debate between all the partners - governors, staff, parents and children - and to agree ways forward in a far more constructive way.
MELIAN MANSFIELD. National executive member. Campaign for State Education. 57 Weston Park, London N8