Peacock makes a pitch for parents
The parent, one of 2,000 over the past five years to attend parent workshops in East Renfrewshire, concluded: "It was great to know that children are all the same in the different phases in their growth . . . We are all in the same boat. It was nice to hear horror stories that makes yours sound great."
Another parent admitted: "It made me realise there are alternative strategies to dealing with children's behaviour. It was good to talk to others about their issues."
Around 100 parents took part in the course on teenagers in the summer term, delivered by the council's educational psychologists over four sessions.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, on Tuesday backed such local approaches to involving parents as he launched the national drive on improved home-school links at Forthview primary in Edinburgh, which he described as "truly inspiring" in its approach.
Ministers are aiming to provide "high level" general material on how parents can support children's learning but leaving the day-to-day details to authorities and schools. "We are not talking about the minister flying in a plane over Scotland and then pushing leaflets out of the back window," one insider said. "That would be patronising."
It was about striking the right balance between national and local input and allowing those closest to the action to decide the best way to provide information and support. Ministers have already tested their ideas on focus groups and found general support for their stance. Those who took part are said to be "real parents, as opposed to those who purport to speak for parents".
That less centralist approach dovetails with plans to amend school board legislation next year. Ministers want a more flexible and less rigid structure for parent forums but will have to wait for space in the legislative calendar before pressing ahead. They will back local authorities' pleas to devise local approaches so that, for example, small primaries can have different strategies to large secondaries in the central belt.
The Scottish School Board Association has already committed itself to such reforms and this week issued broad support for Mr Peacock's plans. But the Scottish Parent Teacher Council is more critical and called on schools and headteachers to show they really want parents to take part. Too many barriers were placed in the way of parents, it claimed.
In launching the campaign, Mr Peacock signalled a "new era" in parent involvement. "Supporting homework arrangements, for example, can make a big difference. Children who regularly do homework benefit from the equivalent of roughly an extra year's schooling but without the right support and encouragement from their parents, they can find it difficult to get into the homework habit.
"Parents, should be able to get the information they want, know how to seek advice or support, and know what to do if they have a concern of things go wrong. In return, they must ensure their children turn up at school on time, are ready to learn and behave well."
In East Renfrewshire, handling teenage behaviour was a key theme of the summer course. "I've got it sussed. Keep the head! Discuss things with all the family. Stick to your decisions. Don't make idle threats. Don't shout.
Enjoy your children," one parent said.
"The course helped me to look at my own behaviour as well as that of my children. It also made me look at what my strengths were, as well as my weaknesses," according to another.
"Listening to other parents' problems and the way they handled issues was very beneficial," another said. "It made me realise there are alternative strategies to dealing with children's behaviour."
East Renfrewshire also runs two helplines - a parents' information line and a childcare information services line. A website for school boards is being set up.
Advice, advice, advice
In their package of measures, ministers reveal that parents are to be advised how to become better involved in children's learning through a series of leaflets devised by the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University.
Learning and Teaching Scotland will launch further advice for schools on working with parents while Aberdeen University has been commissioned to collect examples of how schools successfully involve parents. A package of case studies will be distributed on a CD-Rom.
In Edinburgh, the city council has issued a leaflet to all parents on how to help their children learn.
Ministers stress that the Parentzone website is being upgraded.