Don't dump on parents

27th August 2004 at 01:00
* An open letter to Peter Peacock, Education Minister What exactly are you on about? You are quoted as saying: "I want to see parents working to support their child's learning more . . . supporting teachers in improving their child's progress."

What does he mean by this in terms of the role of parents, teachers and our children? My gut feeling, reading between the lines, is that parents are going to have much more to do.

Like many parents I support my children's education in various ways - fundraising, walking the children to games and trips, and not forgetting homework. How much more do you want parents to do, Mr Peacock? From where I stand, it looks like parents, who already juggle work and home, and try to maintain a safe, happy family life, will be put under ever-increasing pressure.

Can we face facts, please? Education is changing but the bottom line is that teachers are paid to teach. Parents can support but, put bluntly, have to earn a crust too. I very much want to know what goes on in the classroom and I want to be able to help if needed. But if parents are to "engage in their child's learning", then parents will become overloaded.

As I understand it, one of the ways that parents are to "engage" is through personal learning plans. The ownership of these will be through the child who will take them home and work through them with their parents. Call it what you will - the nomenclature does not matter - it's homework.

Mr Peacock, you say that you want children to learn "in the home as well as at school". What a blinkered vision you have. Where do you suppose children have been learning prior to going to school? This is not rocket science - they have been at home with their mum or dad learning the whole time. This includes family holidays taken a few days before the end of term; you know, not all people who work in the real world can take holidays during term time.

Do not patronise parents, Mr Peacock. Even the exalted medical profession acknowledges that mothers know what is best for their children. Oh and by the way, if home is the best place to learn, then why has the "house corner" been removed from my child's early years class?

I find it totally condescending when you say, "taking a real interest in your child's learning doesn't have to be a burden". It is not about our interest, it is about living in the real world and finding out what actually works. Most parents would go to the end of the earth for their children. Why do you think many women work? They are not all pursuing a career. Why do you suppose there has been an increase in parents taking out loans and second mortgages? They are financing their child's further education.

For many schools, parents are no more than fundraisers and are only allowed a five-minute slot at parents' evenings. Parents are actually left out to dry.

You say in answer to parents wanting more time with teachers that parents and schools are in the best position to decide - it seems to me that the balance lies in favour of the school. If this is the way forward, then I am worried. Let's face it, whether you call it teaching or "engaging in learning", it amounts to the same thing. Teachers choose the career of teaching our children and that is what they are paid to do.

I do not endorse bureaucracy: teachers should be allowed to teach, parents should be allowed to parent and children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood.

Jennifer Stewart


Scottish Parent Teacher Council

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