What do they mean?

25th June 2004 at 01:00
A home-school agreement is a perfectly reasonable thing to have. It just seems rather sad that we need them at all. After all, what does it do? It lays out what the school is there to provide, and gives some basic ground rules for the pupils; things like turn up every day, do some work occasionally, and don't burn the school down. It's like going into a shop and being given a document stating that the shop undertakes to sell things, and requiring you to queue up and pay for them.

Needless to say, the home-school agreement being a Department for Education and Skills directive, there are lots of recommendations for drawing one up, with phrases like "relevant agencies", "genuine discussion", "even-handed", "school ethos", "whole school approach", and "clear and meaningful".

The phrase they don't use, but which lurks behind the others, is "wish-list". The home-school agreement is a description of what the school would be like with unlimited finances and without all these children coming in and messing the place up.

Home-school agreements describe the school ethos in glowing terms, which are not quite borne out by the trench warfare going on in class 2B. And we would rather keep quiet about the relevant agencies, which probably include the police and probation service.

The worst of it is, parents don't even have to sign it if they don't want to, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It's a very sloppy way to run an education system. In an ideal world, the home-school agreement would be extremely binding: all parents and children would have to sign it in blood, and there would be a lot more where that came from if they stepped out of line. Attendance, discipline and homework would feature strongly, as per the DfES guidelines, but the communications and complaints sections could be quietly dropped. And as for their suggestion that this should all be agreed and not imposed: good grief, what do they think this is, a democracy?

If we're going to have an agreement let's do it properly, I say. All those in favour say "Aye", and that includes you at the back.


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