to think that parents should have a voice in how their primary school is run?(49 Posts)
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?
Well, there are certain things that I think parents should have some input into ie what they need to build a home-school partnership, how best to convey information home.
I also think there are some things that parents are entitled to be given reasonable explanations for if they ask ie why have 44 children in one classroom, what was behind the decision to not buy into the Forest School scheme. Explanations, even if one doesn't agree with them, help people feel part of a process.
The Governing Body should be consulting with parents as a minimum once a year. This is usually in the form of a questionnaire about your child(ren)'s experiences of the school. Most will probably have an 'any other comments box'. This form is often sent out in July.
Being a governor is not a forum for you to push through your own ideas. Governing Bodies are responsible to the children, parents and other stakeholders for the performance of the school and also are their to consider strategy both short and long term. As a Governor my main responsibility is to the children. Not to represent another body. So although I am a church Governor at my school I am not there to peruse a church agenda although the school may use my expertise in the area to help them. Similarly parent governors are not their 'to represent' the parents.
some GBs have Parent Forums. We decided to hold off as we have much more pressing matters to deal with. That will benefit all children.
Does your school not have any social activities where adults mingle and chat? I would have thought most schools would have fundraisers or other parent-teacher events where you can ask about stuff like this?
For the one-class thing in infants, could you not ask at your parent's evening? You could say 'wow it seems cramped, what are the advantages of all sharing the one classrom?' - quick question, easily asked, no acusations involved.
Forest school needs at least one really passionate teacher - it doesn't work if it doesn't come from the teaching staff, and i think most probably have enough on their plate but i'm sure if you wanted to volunteer to run an after-school or saturday gardening, nature or science club then that would be a step towards that.
The head cane be spending time Q&Aing all the parents in a school
In addition to Parent Governors and the PTA (who raise money to support some initiatives), my DCs school also have a Parent Forum. Parents can raise issues and ideas with their class rep (also a parent) who will then raise it at the next forum for discussion. I don't think there is anything to stop other parents (i.e. the ones who aren't class reps) also attending the forum meetings - the idea of the reps is to ensure that parents have an access to the forum even if they are unable to attend meetings (due to working/childcare etc.)
Perhaps you could suggest something similar to the school.
Oxford, who do you think should devote hours of their time to answering emails/letters etc from the parents? And do you think that time and resources should be diverted away from teaching so that parents can "have a voice"? Do you think that justifying and explaining decisions to people who are not part of the organisation and therefore not entirely au fait with how it works is a good use of very limited budgets? You are one parent, and you had two questions - do you think the management team have time to answer two questions every term from every parent?
Teachers are already massively overstretched and already have to justify every little thing they do, fill in mounds and mounds of (mostly unnecessary) paperwork, to the detriment of actual teaching and preparation time. Expecting them to do even more than that, and to endlessly explain perfectly ordinary everyday decisions to every parent is completely unreasonable and shows a total lack of understanding of the pressure schools are under.
CailinDana - you are wrong. Schools need to provide answers to reasonable questions from parents. A good way to do this is to have a FAQ section on the school website. Recurrent questions can be answered there and the FAQ can be regularly updated as needs be.
In Scotland, schools are judged on how they engage with parents. We are required to prove that we involve parents in decision-making. More detail at the How Good Is Our School? pages.
You asked the questions and they were answered. Do you think asking them in a meeting rather than by email is mire likely to get them to go with your suggestions?
My DC's primary school has parent working parties on things Luke homework and reports, and my DS's secondary has parent forums where potential changes are discussed. They all have a particular focus though, rather than an open forum.
Becoming a governor clearly isn't an option for everyone, but of you don't feel your questions aren't being answered by the HT appropriately, in the first instance, you should talk to one of the governors, probably the parent governor allocated to your child's year group if there is one.
Bonsoir most schools have newsletters for relevant information. I agree with you about reasonable questions. But IMO asking questions about budgetary or space issues is going to far - these are management decisions and the school staff have better things to do than explain their every move.
We've had a parents' forum for about 18 months. It is exactly what you are talking about - a forum where parents can talk about issues that they are confused/concerned about. It is attended by the Head and/or Deputy Head and the Business Manager. Sometimes they bring issues that they want a parents' view on (notably when they were rewriting the homework policy). Sometimes it is more a matter of giving the staff the opportunity to explain why they do the things they do. And that filters out to the playground, so there is more chance of the parent body feeling well-informed and therefore more accepting when things change at school. And sometimes parents bring up new ideas that the school is very happy to introduce (e.g. ideas about better ways to run sports day, suggestions for new clubs etc).
There is cross-over with the Governing body, because a couple of the parent governors are also regular attendees at the forum meetings. But the forum is much more accessible - you don't have to be elected or commit to lots and lots of meetings. People can drop in if there is something they want to air.
For the first couple of meetings, it was a bit negative, with everyone bring up their pet hobby horses. But it has settled down and matured into a very constructive meeting.
When space issues impact learning or otherwise cause discomfort for children, then parents have every right to raise their concerns and receive a fair answer.
Newsletters are good for informing parents of ad hoc issues, but a FAQ is a much better way of answering recurring questions (and 95% of parents' questions are recurring, IME).
I agree with Bellebois
Schools also need to have transparent and truthful responses to reasonable questions and to concerns that are raised repeatedly
I agree, to a point, but there may well be sensitive staffing issues(maternity leave,sick leave etc) that are not for the public forum, even colleagues can be left out of the loop at times as management are not allowed to say. So,sometimes decisions are made in schools (and I guess any organisation)which can't be explained to the general public due to privacy concerns.
Sorry but I think you are being unreasonable to think every parent should have a say. After all, there are twice as many parents as children in the school (roughly) and there is no way the staff have enough time to listen to all comments and potentially act on them.
If you are genuinely interested in how the school is run, become a governor. Just make sure you realise it is a lot of time and commitment only for many people to think you are just meddling.
I have been a governor for 6.5yrs now and it takes a fair bit of time to give it the attention it deserves but it is also very rewarding. Not an easy job though and particularly difficult when you have to make a decision for the good of the whole school when you know it is to the detriment of your own child. I have been there and it is very hard. Still a worthwhile job though.
Good luck with your application.
I found out yesterday that my DCs school has a parent commitee. Nice idea, but the members are one parent from each class who has been 'invited' by the head to be on it.
Poster: "The schools in my area all have terrible ratings. AIBU to try to get my DCs in to the local grammar school?"
Mumsnet: "YABU. Grammar schools are elitist. Get involved with your local school and make it better".
Poster: "I'd like to get involved with my local school and make it better. AIBU"
Mumsnet: "YABU. Schools are run by professionals, and you'd have no clue. Don't interfere".
Damned if you do and damned if you don't...
latebreakfast - no-one has said don't bother, they have said if you want to have a say then be prepared to get properly involved.
OP - if you really want to be involved in the running of a school then I suggest you either become a teacher or send your DC to a 'free' school.
BTW - becoming a governor doesn't always guarantee a say in how things are done either. IME it was more often than not just to nod and agree with the HT on things they wanted. Woe betide anyone who dared to speak against their ideas!
Am amazed at all the responses which assert that it's unreasonable to think that parents can get involved in a constructive manner, despite several of us describing structures that have been developed to do exactly that. I'm glad my children are at a school where the senior management team treats parents as intelligent human beings that might have some useful insight into school life. And also where parents seem to be perfectly capable of getting involved without trying to do the Head's job for her.
Not all governors smile and nod. Really. I know that I am a right PITA because I don't .
I invite myself to meetings, ask for policies which are shit to be changed, and generally get actually involved. I am no fan of the HT, I haven't done it to make friends but to try to help the school improve.
While I think they need to be consulted, it would be impossible for them to have a say on everything-I know for a fact that if one group think something another group think the exact opposite!
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