Educating parents;Letter

12th November 1999 at 00:00
Judith Gillespie draws the wrong conclusions (TESS, October 22) from her observations of the recent consultative committee in Edinburgh. She is right to say that parents' involvement should focus on their interests and their children, but she is wrong to suggest that it should not include aspects of management. The problem is that parents are not empowered to play the role of partners.

The questionnaire she mentions asked P1-P2 parents for their views on a proposed change to the closing time for those classes. We had a 51 per cent response, of which over 50 per cent wrote comments. Of course it was an issue that concerns their interests and their children, but they understood the educational and practical implications.

This approach contrasts with the normal pattern of consultation with parents. Budgets, for example, whether at school or departmental level, elicit very little comments from the parents to whom they are presented. This cannot be because they do not have a profound impact on children.

I suggest it is because they are presented in a form incomprehensible to any except those who produce them, without any options being given or further comment expected. This is not consultation but information giving, of which the effect is to irritate parents and foster their cynicism rather than to bring them into decision making and win their support.

All parties in the education system want parents' support, from the Scottish Executive through the local authorities and unions to the headteachers. But they appear to want this support to be unconditional and uninformed. Until they find the courage and good sense to take steps to make their agendas explicit and their calculations transparent, they are likely to find parents merely broken reeds or thorns in their flesh.

David Hill. Relugas Road, Edinburgh

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