Parents need a face they know

9th April 2004 at 01:00
Minister tells the Association of Teachers and Lecturers to cultivate parental involvement. William Stewart reports

Every parent should have a designated teacher to whom they can turn for information on how their child is doing, the Government said this week.

Speaking at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference in Bournemouth, schools minister Stephen Twigg urged schools to build a new partnership with parents to get them further involved with their child's education.

Research shows that children aged 11 to 16 whose parents take an active interest in their schooling get results 15 per cent higher in maths and reading than others. In schools with matched intakes, those with strong links with parents do better.

Mr Twigg cited Hillcrest school and community college in Dudley, which has boosted parents' evening attendance from 25 per cent to 75 per cent in a year. Parents speak only to their child's form tutor about all aspects of their education.

"If we have personalised learning for every child, we should have personalised contact for every parent too," he said.

His speech came as ATL, traditionally seen as the most moderate of the big three classroom teacher unions, threatened strikes if the school workforce agreement was not implemented satisfactorily.

An ATL survey of teachers in 87 schools found that the administrative tasks teachers are no longer supposed to do had only been fully transferred to classroom assistants in seven schools. Another 43 had made progress but 37 schools, or 42 per cent, said nothing had been done at all. Only 10 per cent of respondents said they enjoyed a reasonable worklife balance.

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said her union would have no truck with schools or education authorities that did not implement the agreement and that local strikes were possible.

In a speech criticising the Government on several fronts, she was expected to warn that if it wanted personalised learning it would have to "slay some sacred cows" - including national tests.

She said that New Labour needed to curb its "control freakery" and obsession with charging ahead with policy without consulting those who had to implement it.

The Office for Standards in Education was in delegates' sights with a motion due to be discussed calling for it to be reduced to the role of regulator of self-evaluation systems, and possibly, abolished.

Motions were passed calling for heads to log any assaults on staff and to ensure that the pupil or parent involved was prosecuted. Delegates also backed a call for parents and pupils making malicious allegations to be prosecuted.

Phil Baker, a former assistant head at Headlands school, Swindon, said he had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after an attack by a parent two years ago.

He had been called to resolve a dispute between another teacher and a parent.

The parent suddenly ran at him. "He wanted to hit me so I leapt through a security door," said Mr Baker. The parent then tore the door off its hinges, forcing Mr Baker behind another door. There he had to wait in "sheer fear" for the police to arrive. The parent was given a conditional discharge, with pound;100 damages, for an incident that cost Mr Baker's career.

Martin Pilkington, ATL head of legal services, said the union had dealt with 55 cases of assault in 2003, of which just 15 had been reported to police. Heads were reluctant to make reports because of the fear of negative publicity, he said.

Jo Redmond, who won pound;92,000 damages after two years of assaults at a school for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, called for greater awareness. She said she had been kicked, spat on, punched, urinated on, had a tooth knocked out and lost the use of her wrist when she was hit with a fire extinguisher.

Hank Roberts, an ATL executive member and member of all three classroom teacher unions, continued his professional unity campaign by calling for a merger with the Association of University Teachers.

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