Ignore them at your peril

7th May 2004 at 01:00
The boundaries are blurred: where do teachers take over from parents in helping children learn? Four pundits offer their views

Given the very real benefits of parental involvement, I can't believe that we're still asking how much parents should be involved in their children's education. They should be involved to the fullest extent possible.

Schools and teachers should be asking what else they can do to get parents fully involved. And parents who feel they are being shut out or prevented from supporting their children's learning at home, should be lobbying the school for change.

As research has demonstrated, parental involvement is vital if children are to get the best from their school days. Professor Charles Desforges's report on parental involvement in education for the DfES in 2003 provides rigorous evidence of the real value of parental support at home. Any school that fails to capitalise on the parent factor is letting its pupils down and preventing them from achieving their full potential.

Parents are their children's first educators and provide a strong thread of continuity throughout their school days and beyond. Not only do parents make a real difference to their children's achievements at school, they can also help instil a lifelong love of learning by demonstrating how important learning is in their own lives.

It will hardly be a surprise to you that the best schools have effective partnerships with parents and strong home-school links. They also encourage parents to get involved in their children's learning. For example, at Lowgate first school in Hexham, Northumberland, the school and PTA worked together on a project to produce story sacks for use at home. Children and parents enjoy working with the sacks, and the scheme has encouraged a number of fathers to get more involved with their children's learning.

I call that a real success story.

It makes my blood boil to hear that there are still a small handful of educational establishments where parents are seen as a necessary evil, expected to drop their children off in the morning, pick them up in the evening, and otherwise never darken the school gates. These schools need consigning to history. They are failing both pupils and parents and shouldn't be allowed to call themselves schools.

If you're taking up your first teaching post, then one of the biggest contributions you can make to your students success is to play the parental involvement card.

Maria Carlton is policy and communications manager at the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations

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