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to think that parents should have a voice in how their primary school is run?

(49 Posts)
OxfordToLondoner Fri 16-Nov-12 10:26:38

DS has recently started school, and I have several questions/thoughts about how the school is run. For example
- With an intake of 44 children, why have they decided to put them all in one classroom (with 2 teachers...so, we're lucky the ratio is low, but the classroom environment is ridiculously cramped).
- Why his school doesn't participate in Forest Schools, when lots of other local schools do
When I've asked the school (by email - i work full time and don't get the chance to actually see the teachers/head usually) I get polite 'this is how it is' answers, but I feel frustrated that there doesn't seem to be any kind of forum for parents to actually discuss these issues. For example, an additional parents evening, where we get the chance to chat about the school, rather than the children.
What do other schools do? Do I have to become a Governor to have any kind of say? Do I just have to lump it?

PoppadomPreach Fri 16-Nov-12 10:32:56

become a governor. but remember that you will have to make choices which are to the benefit of the school (ie ALL the children) and not just your own.

Spatsky Fri 16-Nov-12 10:35:18

I see "be me a governr" a lot on herd. Becoming a governor isn't always that easy, I don't know about other schools but I ours there are always many more parents wanting to be governors than spaces and we end up with elections which, frankly, a working parent that doesn't really know other parents wouldn't have a prayer of winning.

Spatsky Fri 16-Nov-12 10:35:36

Become a governor

Bellebois Fri 16-Nov-12 10:39:16

I always find it interesting that parents feel that they are qualified to tell professional teachers how to do their job, even though they have no prior experience or qualification in the education sector... I presume you would extend this expectation to doctors, lawyers, business people?
Personally, as a primary school teacher, my worst nightmare would be a school which is run on the whim of parents. Parents have their own agenda - their child..... Not the 300 or so other children, which it is the Head's job to focus on and make decisions for.
I think YABU.

DeWe Fri 16-Nov-12 10:46:06

If you have parental debate on that sort of thing you will end up with 40% on one side, 40% on the other and 10% with other ideas, some of which are off the wall but the parent is totally passionate and won't give up the idea, and 10% couldn't give a stuff.
Really it isn't feasable.
And the school has to make choices sometimes they don't like. Do they dismiss the TA and get the desperately needed new reading books, or do they cope with the books that are held together very badly and keep a TA. Someone will be unhappy whatever, but a decision has to be made.

Parents will go for the option that they think will be best for their child. The school has to consider all children.

One local community group everyone has a say in anything. This meant a 3 hour meeting to discuss the colour of the new carpet. You'd be amazed how uptight people can get about the colour of a carpet, but I believe the meeting was heated and brought to a close with difficulties, and people were talking about leaving the group over the final decision hmm

schoolgovernor Fri 16-Nov-12 10:48:17

Well, we struggle to recruit parent governors, but that varies from school to school.
Forest Schools looks quite an expensive option to me. Maybe the school doesn't feel it's a good use of their budget and that they don't need an innovative approach to outdoor learning?
Schools are accountable for the attainment and progress of all the children in the school, so if they are running a class with 44 children and two teachers there will be a good reason and they'll be confident that it will work.

steppemum Fri 16-Nov-12 10:53:06

Interesting points

Some of this is parent governors territory. You don't need to be one, you can talk to your current one, and ask them to put your points forward.

Some things may have been discussed in the past and you have missed them because you are new parent. Some are costing decisions eg forest school costs, school may have decided to spend money elsewhere. eg in our school music is very well done compared to other schools, but that is a funding choice they have made (which I happen to like)

Some school do have a parent forum, so each class has a class rep and there are regular forum meetings.
Some schools use the PTA as a sounding board (ours doesn't)

Some schools are open to parents and welcome input. Others don't (ours isn't very good at communicating with parents, but they are a good school, and you have to decide which is better. Sometimes it really is time spent with parents v. time spent with kids. Schools are not perfect and there are compromises to be made)

Startail Fri 16-Nov-12 10:54:06

We had a parents council you could get to raise issues.

Joining the PTA lets you into the local gossip.

Some is informative and useful, some of it is inaccurate nonsense. So you do have to be able to judge.

Hearing readers and helping in school can also be a great way to see what goes on.

Being a governor lets you see the staffing and financial reasons behind the scenes. However, day to day management is still the HTs job. DF complains that as a governor she say has to say yes even when she disagrees.

Therefore, in the end if you don't understand something you need to ask the class teacher or the HT why it is so.

Easy at the DDs small primary you just wandered in and asked.

If the HT was being a twit you politely told him so as he walked back in from taking the bus DCs out.

At senior school you send Emails to the relevant people. It's a huge place so major changes are unlikely, but they have been great at things that just affect DD.

schoolgovernor Fri 16-Nov-12 11:22:32

All of the information given to the governing body, unless it's confidential because it refers to individuals, is a matter of public record. You can ask to see the public minutes of the governing body meetings and meetings of any committees. The summary information on the budget forms part of the minutes. That might give you an insight into the financial situation of the school.
This isn't really a matter of something being "parent governors' territory" because the the governing body is a corporate group with corporate responsibility. What I mean is, you don't need to seek out a parent governor to ask your question. Why don't you contact the school, or speak to a member of the governing body in the playground if you recognise them, and ask what forums the school has for parental engagement?

OxfordToLondoner Fri 16-Nov-12 12:08:51

Thanks, all that's really helpful. I'm not trying to be a pain in the arse parent, I just would appreciate a forum to ask questions, with other parents, and not feel that it's never going to be listened too. I actually think my head is rather wonderful, and is the reason i chose the school. I'm thinking of becoming a Governor next year, but thought I'd do my year of the fundraising side first, so I can show the school that I am interested in actively helping, not just meddling.

MagiMingeWassailsAgain Fri 16-Nov-12 12:12:39

I'm thinking of becoming a Governor next year, but thought I'd do my year of the fundraising side first, so I can show the school that I am interested in actively helping, not just meddling

Can I suggest you don't put this on your application when you are hoping to get elected? grin

FWIW I became a governor because I hate fundraising but love to meddle. So, ner. grin

WorraLiberty Fri 16-Nov-12 12:16:23

Blimey, Governors do not 'meddle'...they're an asset to the school generally.

Does the school have a PTA/Parent's council?

If not, you could always start one instead of fundraising.

ConferencePear Fri 16-Nov-12 12:22:41

44 children and two teachers in one room ? It sounds to me as if the school is very short of space. Are you sure that it is two teachers and not a teacher and a teaching assistant ? Is there a room elsewhere in the school that is empty ? You need to consider all of this before suggesting that the school could be run better.

WorraLiberty Fri 16-Nov-12 12:25:28

If the whole school only has an intake of 44 children, they'll have a very small budget.

Therefore, it's normally cost effective to do that as they can share resources.

cornflakegirl Fri 16-Nov-12 12:34:16

Our school used to have a 1.5 form intake (recently increased) and we had one classroom with two teachers. It makes sense because the children move about so much accessing all the different areas - water play, home area, movement area - you wouldn't really want to have to provide double of everything. Plus reception classes often have toilets within them, so again having both classes together would make this simpler and cheaper.

I'm a school governor, and it's great. I understand so much more about the really hard decisions that the HT and the leadership team have to take. It's opened my eyes.

steppemum Fri 16-Nov-12 14:36:58

our school reception intake is 60. The accomodation is one large classroom. It was 2 classrooms in the past, so it is big enough, but it is arranged so the children move around the whole space.

IMHO 44 is not a small intake. it is 1.5 form intake. Many schools in our city have one form intake - 30 kids. The rural school my dcs used to go to had an intake of 8 and just 2 classes, one infant one junior. Now that is a small school!

greensmoothiegoddess Fri 16-Nov-12 14:46:44

2 teachers to 44 Rec pupils is an excellent ratio. They would have to be actual teachers as well with that quantity of pupils. Sounds like the whole set up is geared for an open planned EYFS environment. Don't forget they will have an outdoor area too and I wonder if you are taking account of this space?

What does it say on the Ofsted report about the EYFS?

To be honest it sounds like a pretty good and normal set up to me.

CailinDana Fri 16-Nov-12 14:50:18

While I definitely think you should be able to raise concerns about your own child's education I think it's going too far to expect to question management decisions that you don't agree with. A school is a professional organisation run by competent people who don't take decisions lightly. Expecting a school to be run by committee with possibly hundreds of parents objecting left right and centre to every decision is a recipe for chaos. You need to trust that funding decisions like whether to join Forest Schools and space decisions like the classroom issue are taken based on a large body of information that you're not privvy to and that it's the best decision given the circumstances. Basically as a parent it's not your job to tell trained professionals how to do a job that you've never done. I doubt you would advise your doctor's surgery on the correct size of room for the nurse's clinic or whether they should join a particular scheme. You would assume they know what they're doing. Wouldn't you?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 16-Nov-12 14:54:11

Being a governor would be a good idea.

You have to realise that while staff at the school may be open to ideas from about how they run, there are plenty of teachers that have their own brilliant ideas too, and there is only so much time and money that a school has to put on these things. Listening to you is one thing, but doing what you tell them to do is another. Schools just don't have the resources to do what every parent wants, and not should they as the majority of parents aren't teachers.

If you want to help, the PTA is the way forward, but if you want to see things happen, you have to be prepared to do some/most of the work towards it yourself. You can't just make suggestions and then expect teachers to implement them. You also need to remember that the teachers are likely to have a better idea about what is needed most urgently than you have.

I would lose the idea of expecting teachers to give up another of their evenings to be in school to listen to you. They already do more than they are paid to do, and you asking them to do more is not likely to be well received.

whois Fri 16-Nov-12 14:54:58

Personally, as a primary school teacher, my worst nightmare would be a school which is run on the whim of parents. Parents have their own agenda - their child..... Not the 300 or so other children, which it is the Head's job to focus on and make decisions for.

^this

DamnBamboo Fri 16-Nov-12 14:55:05

Why do you think you're qualified to tell professional educators how to run a school?

ihavenofuckingclue Fri 16-Nov-12 14:57:05

why does having a child make you an expert on schools then?

And that's the reason why schools are not run on the parents whims.

OxfordToLondoner Fri 16-Nov-12 15:00:00

I didn't mean I wanted to suggest that they're not making the right decisions (I understand the reasoning behind the classroom and Forest School decision), my point was that AIBU to think that Parents should be able to have a voice i.e. to ask questions and make suggestions for the Head to consider, but of-course not dictate. Interesting and helpful answers all...I will definitely apply for a Governorship next year, so I can at least be part of the debate.

Bonsoir Fri 16-Nov-12 15:00:34

I think it is good practice for schools to regularly ask parents how they feel about a whole host of issues in order to gauge satisfaction. It is important that a sizeable proportion of parents respond to surveys to ensure that all views are represented.

Schools also need to have transparent and truthful responses to reasonable questions and to concerns that are raised repeatedly. Everyone can understand that some problems don't have workable solutions and that a school is doing the best it can in the circumstances. Silence/refusal to answer is not acceptable and makes parents anxious that the school is hiding the truth.

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