What is parental involvement?

7th October 2011 at 01:00

In the most recent issue of TESS (30 September) Julia Belgutay's piece on the educational conference #EduPic11 highlighted the widespread perception that there is a distinct lack of trust across many relationships within the Scottish education system. However, the examples failed to include parents.

For too long, parental involvement has been viewed as meaning different things to different people. For government and local authorities, it has mainly been about getting more parents involved with their own children's education and in particular about what schools can "pull" from parents in terms of fundraising proceeds, parent helpers etc, and less about gathering the collective efforts of parent groups.

At school level, many relationships between parents and teachers are poor, often founded on a lack of trust, which may in turn be down to a lack of mutual understanding of needs.

For some individual parents and groups of parents, the parental involvement agenda was seen as a green light to get meaningful input to the big education issues and policy discussions of our time. However, despite organisations such as the National Parent Forum for Scotland gaining well-deserved access to important national policy groups, there is still a feeling among many parents that when the really big issues are up for debate, parental involvement is down the priority list - it is usually a case of leave it to the professionalsexperts.

Such a sweeping dismissal of years of accumulated knowledge and experience is disappointing. Surely parent groups have demonstrated that they can be objective, creative and fully committed partners across a whole range of issues. Parent groups have an absolute desire to see the best outcomes for all of the stakeholders involved, in particular the pupils. There is also great support for teaching staff and their difficult roles.

Parent groups really want the opportunity for equal partner access and contributions to the real issues in Scottish education and not to be diverted to work on some backwater issues. If this level and quality of involvement can be pushed harder, the results could be spectacular.

So let the focus be twofold:

a) individual parents supporting their children, and

b) better use of parent group efforts.

How about it?

David Mitchell, Linlithgow parent.

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