In need of parent skills

16th July 2004 at 01:00
Young teachers say they feel ill-prepared to deal with today's demanding mothers and fathers. Joseph Lee reports

Fewer than half of newly-qualified teachers believe their training has helped them deal with parents.

Of the 13,000 teachers who responded to the annual survey from the Teacher Training Agency, just 39 per cent felt they were well prepared for working with parents.

"A lot of teachers are very comfortable working with children but when it comes to working with parents, they do not have the same confidence," said a spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations.

She suggested today's teachers faced more challenges from parents than their predecessors. "I think parents have become more demanding, because we have been encouraged by government to become more involved and ask questions - and if we don't, then we are called bad parents."

She said her organisation is keen to work with the agency in helping parents, teachers and heads to improve relationships.

Overall satisfaction with the training has fallen slightly, with 84 per cent rating it good or very good, compared to last year's record high of 86 per cent. But there are signs that initiatives to address some of the problems of previous years are succeeding.

More resources for training teachers to tackle disruptive pupils have led to greater confidence in establishing good behaviour, after a fall last year. However, 37 per cent of teachers still do not feel properly prepared to deal with bad behaviour.

Training for teaching ethnic-minority children has improved, with a third now saying they feel well prepared, up 3 percentage points on last year.

Teachers were asked for the first time how their course had prepared them for school leadership. More than a quarter said badly.

Anna Mann, 24, has just completed a graduate teacher programme year and will be starting as an NQT at St Mary's primary school, Chiddingfold, Surrey in September.

She said: "I would say I have had good training on how to deal with parents, mainly through observing parents' evenings. " A TTA spokeswoman said that many of those who responded to the survey were at secondary schools, where most parental contact was handled by senior teachers.

She said: "Working with parents and having the confidence to deal with them is very much something that comes from learning on your job and through your placements, and building personal relationships." She said the response should alert training providers to provide suitable training in this area.

Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the agency, said: "We still have a lot to do to keep up with the needs of schools, but by working closely with training providers on issues like behaviour management and by investing more in information and communications technology, we can raise our game further.

"It's very important that schools have new teachers who can hit the ground running."

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