Parents call policy 'utter waste of time'

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Parents should be allowed more than ten minutes with their children's teachers twice a year, a meeting of Aberdeenshire parents agreed last week.

They want nothing to do with outline Government plans for beefed up school boards, parent advocates, class contact parents and home-school agreements. Any agreement between parents and schools was unenforceable. One board member described agreements as "a complete and utter waste of time."

Meeting in Banchory primary, around 120 school board members, parent teacher association representatives and teachers dismissed the consultation document Parents as Partners.

Judith Gillespie, development manager with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "The wish to have more time with teachers is almost universal. Perhaps there needs to be a rescheduling of the teachers' contract to allow teachers more time with parents."

Michael White, Aberdeenshire's director of education, said: "As a parent, I would want to think the school was genuinely pleased to see me. I do not like the idea of the waiting list and teachers shouting 'next'. I want to know how my child's doing, when things are going well or badly and shown how I can help. I want to work together with the school."

Mrs Gillespie, who chaired the meeting, said the consultation document failed to talk about enhancing the role of parents. "The title and the document do not match," she insisted.

When asked what would improve partnership, parents suggested information about subjects coming up in the curriculum, volunteers to help with reading and guidance on helping with homework. One primary parent said: "I'd like to be a fly on the wall. I'd like to see how my child spends his time."

Mrs Gillespie said the Government's opening recommendations in the document on extra powers for school boards set the wrong tone.

A succession of parents rejected emulating the model of English governors. More powers over staffing and budgets would mean more board meetings when parents were already stretched. Boards were facing difficulties in recruiting members already, without additional burdens.

As the SPTC says in its submission to ministers: "The discussion paper seems to focus on organised parents, management parents, and not parents in general. It fails to recognise that most parents are involved in school education only through their own children and that their interest is quite naturally limited to what their own children are doing.

"The paper also fails to recognise that parents have lives and roles other than that of being parents. They are not endlessly available to serve on committees. The real aim of building up good partnerships between parents and schools must be about involving all parents."

The council adds: "The involvement of parents must be on their terms and not on terms laid down by the system. This is the way forward. The route may be harder than simply enhancing the power of school boards."

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