Schools have to let parents help

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
As the parent of a child who has just gone into secondary, I welcome Peter Peacock's appeal for help on the home front, though I am surprised at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council's criticism that he is patronising parents.

Yes, of course, a lot of parents already help their children, but many still need encouragement to do so - and, more importantly, schools need to fufil their role in the partnership.

My problem with the minister's announcement is that it is so one-sided.

Parents can only help if schools give them the opportunity to do so, and in my case - and I imagine many others' - this simply didn't happen.

I wanted to encourage my child to do his homework, particularly in the run-up to secondary school, which I saw as a crucial time for establishing study skills, and found that his new teacher wasn't setting any. Instead of homework building up towards the end of primary, it suddenly ceased.

When I took this up with the teacher, I was told she already came in at 7am, and she certainly wasn't prepared to do more. If I wanted to give my child homework, I was welcome to. The school's homework policy, such as it was, mentioned "one hour" - it didn't stipulate if that was per day, per week or per term.

I eventually took the issue up with my son's headteacher and things changed, though the few tasks set appeared tokenistic and after a couple of weeks they just stopped again.

I regret to say that we did not pursue the issue any further but withdrew our son from the local school, because in addition to not getting homework, he was not getting regular PE, music or art. PE was cancelled if the class (mainly boys) was too noisy, music was reduced on occasion to a tape being played while the children "carried on with their work" and art only seemed to happen for a few weeks when a specialist teacher came in.

The parent-school partnership only works when both sides are doing their job. It is not enough to draw up policies and timetables if these are not implemented and monitored. If the headteacher does not do that, what hope is there for parents?

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