Peacock sets out to woo parents

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
The Education Minister has signalled that major changes are on the way to bring parents and teachers closer together. This could include parent involvement in drawing up personal learning plans as well as sweeping away the present school board structure.

Peter Peacock embarked on a campaign this week to prepare schools for a new relationship with parents, using platforms provided by the newsletter of the Scottish School Board Association and Teaching Scotland, the journal of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

It is unlikely that boards would entirely disappear but a consultation paper on parent representation expected later this year may propose an end to the existing legislative requirements. These are widely regarded as too prescriptive and the Scottish Executive is known to favour more flexibility for schools and parents to decide on arrangements locally.

Alan Smith, the SSBA's president, told the association's conference at the end of February that he supports reform.

Mr Peacock indicated last November that he would be holding consultations on "reinvigorating the parental agenda". He told an Edinburgh conference that he wanted to put personal learning plans and pupil progress reports at the heart of involving parents in their children's learning and encouraging a better dialogue between home and school.

Mr Peacock writes this week: "Many parents are happy to drop their children off at the school gate and await the finished product. We need to encourage parents to support teachers to help create the well-rounded individuals everyone seeks."

He wants greater involvement by parents in their children's education, better access to schools and improved information on pupil and school performance.

Addressing teachers, he writes: "Picture this: more parents who take on board feedback on their child's development, discuss with you the next stage of learning and complement your work in the classroom by helping their son or daughter at home. Surely steps in the right direction."

Mr Peacock hinted strongly that traditional parent evenings would become a thing of the past, to be replaced by "more regular dialogue with parents about how their children are developing".

He pledged to bring down the barriers that discouraged parents, saying the structure of school boards was "too rigid and they "attract only a certain type of parent".

But Mr Peacock also stressed that parents would be expected to live up to their side of the bargain by taking more responsibility for their children's behaviour, attendance and learning.

And he tried to reassure teachers that they should not feel daunted by the prospect of doing more to liaise with parents. "Where it is happening, it is paying dividends," he writes. "This is about engaging more support for each child's learning."

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