Parents' evening requires patients

13th October 2006 at 01:00
Our school is looking into the idea of reorganising parents' evenings. All the most trendy options are up for discussion, including the use of learning mentors - aka form tutors - who would talk to parents about their children's progress in all subjects.

I have my own pet scheme for running them. I think we should adopt the NHS hospital outpatients clinic system. Like them, we should use computers that are not compatible with anybody else's, so that data-sharing becomes an impossible dream. We would never have to pass data on to other schools when pupils move house.

We should never shake hands with a parent or introduce ourselves, because patients - I mean parents - are a nuisance, after all, and must be made to feel uncomfortable from the outset.

We should ask all parents to queue at reception to say they have arrived, then make them walk to a waiting room where they would sit for an hour. We would then call their names and walk them to another waiting room and keep them there for another hour.

When they do finally get to see us, we should spend just two or three minutes actually talking to them - eye contact to be avoided at all costs - and we should always pretend to be doing something far more important when they speak to us.

Then we could send them off on a wild goose chase to the far ends of the school, where they would be patronised by other nameless professionals (after queuing again, it goes without saying) and finally come back to be told exactly what they knew before they arrived: their child has problems, isn't happy but we can't tell them what to do about it because we aren't specialists in behaviour or child psychology and there is a waiting list of seven years to see the relevant professional.

This system wouldn't work, of course, but they have been using a similar one in NHS hospitals for decades. Even with all the unnecessary queuing, I'm sure it has cut their waiting lists - because the thought of the ordeal you have to go through is enough to put anyone off being referred to a hospital clinic in the first place.

So, in schools, the system could only have one effect: to stop parents coming to talk to teachers. Stupid idea you may think. So why are we trying to sell the idea of form tutors as learning coaches who can give parents advice and information on a diverse range of subjects that are outside their professional experience?

It makes the NHS system look quite sensible in comparison.

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