Schools told to involve estranged parents

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
ESTRANGED parents should be given more support from schools to allow them to play an active part in their children's education, according to a book published this week.

There was a danger of separated fathers being excluded from decisions about their children's education, the Institute of Public Policy Research warns in Parents Exist, OK!?

Schools have been teaching increasing numbers of children whose home lives range from temporary disruption to near-permanent crisis, researchers confirmed at the launch on Tuesday.

The new study urges schools to employ home-school "link workers" to act as brokers between schools and families, particularly for schools in disadvantaged areas.

The book also recommends that pupils take a one-term sabbatical from school in a bid to encourage more "individualised learning". During this time youngsters could participate in community or workplace activities.

"The proposals are based on the premise that the onus for change to improve parent-school relationships must fall on the school, not the parent," says the book's author, Joe Hllgarten. "The aim should be to create

family-like schools in all their shapes and diversity, not school-like families."

Ministers have insisted that they are sensitive to the changing structure of the family and have already offered guidance to schools on how best to encourage estranged parents to become involved in their children's


Recommendations included parents being able to participate in voting in elections for parent- governors, being told about meetings involving their child and receiving school information.

"We have offered guidance to schools on how they should manage their relationships with parents," said education junior minister Jacqui Smith. "Unless there is a court order limiting a person's exercise of parental responsibility then they should have the same right to information as the parent with whom the child lives. We would expect schools to find realistic ways of involving these parents."

Joe Hallgarten's book, "Parents Exist, OK!?" is available from Central Books, 99 Wallis Road, London, E9 5LN, priced at pound;10.95

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