Parents are partners, not consumers

10th September 2004 at 01:00
We hold these truths to be self-evident: parents and teachers should work together to ensure children learn to behave appropriately; and both unreasonable punishment and automatic assumption of your offspring's innocence are not in the interests of the child, nor of schools as a whole.

So it is excellent news that the vast majority of parents believe teachers do a good job in managing behaviour and that there is a broad consensus in favour of the sanctions schools take against serious misdemeanours. Almost all parents support the random searches for drugs or weapons recently mooted even though the US Court of Appeals has ruled that they violate children's rights.

Sadly, more than one in three parents report that his or her child has been bullied. But again the encouraging news is that most felt the school dealt with it well. Most parents think behaviour in school is improving and only one in 20 are worried about bad teaching.

There are regional and national differences. Most Welsh parents think behaviour has got worse rather than better and London parents worry more about poor teaching. Wales has suffered social upheaval with decline of its heavy industry. And the capital faces serious teacher recruitment problems.

But the partnership between teachers and parents seems in good shape. This is in spite of the incitement to consumerism in which education is seen as a personal rather than a social good and rights are vaunted above responsibilities.

Schools and parents are still capable of making mistakes when accusations are made. That is why we have governing bodies to ensure the child's interest is properly balanced against those of the school and that sanctions reflect public expectations. Parents expect there to be an independent appeal against expulsion. The governors' job is to ensure that fair procedures mean appeals against injustice are never necessary.

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