Tough on parents, not on schools.

In a schools supplement in last week’s Spectator three contributors reminded readers of parents’ responsibilities, to ensure that their children receive an efficient education.  

For children to receive an effective education they need to be prepared to work and co-operate in school. When parents fail then their children need to be distanced somehow from the culture into which their parents have brought them. There were once state boarding schools which did this.

In state and independent schools I learnt about the crucial importance of a good working relationship between home and school. As a head teacher I had to engage sometimes with parents who did little or cared little about their children’s education and, on a few occasions, I excluded pupils because other parents, to whom I could not divulge the nature of threats to their children’s education, had entrusted their children to my school.

The governors of the Oratory School in west London, to which Tony Blair sent his older sons, made clear at that time that their most important function was to interview the parents of prospective pupils to ensure that they shared the school’s values and would support the school.  Meeting parents before accepting responsibility for their children should be a natural starting point for such an important relationship. Such interviewing of parents was subsequently banned by Tony Blair.

How can we expect teachers to do their best for children unless they can meet the parents to begin the business of trust and mutual support? Interviews with parents should be compulsory, before their children join a school. At least in that way parents would know what would be expected of them and their children.

One contributor to The Spectator’s supplement wrote of “the dreaded Ofsted” which, apparently, is about to encourage schools to “get tough on disruptive students.” If only Ofsted would get tough on parents who don’t bother, schools could more effectively get on with what is surely the most important job in the world.

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