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What do parents want from schools? Read our guest blogger Fiona Millar's post and join the conversation

(43 Posts)
ElenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Sep-11 11:18:45

Do you want more feedback from your child's school? Do you think there should be more parent-teacher communication? Our guest blogger Fiona Millar's post discusses her recent report on what parents want from schools. Join the conversation started by Fiona, and share your views.

sfxmum Tue 13-Sep-11 12:35:35

Do I want more feedback? mainly I want the get the feeling that the school knows the child and that there is an individual approach to their development. I want to know what is being taught and have a generally idea of how this is being done.
I am off to demonstrate in favour of an inclusive secondary school being built in the borough, apparently some people think that building a Catholic school VA should be the priorityhmm

gazzalw Tue 13-Sep-11 12:51:56

Would agree with all you say sfxmum but would also like schools to help every child reach their maximum potential - not just working to the baseline SATS expectations!

piprabbit Tue 13-Sep-11 13:41:09

Interesting blog - I like the idea of termly reports, or termly parents evenings (if that is a less onerous task for teachers).

At the moment we get a parent's evening in December and then nothing until the report comes out at the end of the summer term (literally the very end of term - so no time to discuss the contents, and of course by the time school starts in September the children have changed teachers and it is difficult to discuss last year's report with this year's teacher).

My DD choose to share only a little information about what she does in school, which means that I have literally no idea what is being studied. It would be nice if class pages on school websites could at least give an indication of the work being done each week (perhaps based on a summary of lesson plans?).

I also think that there should be a requirement for teachers to give children feedback (possible in a home/school diary book) on their homework. My DD has never had any feedback on any of the homework she has done, it would be nice to know if she was producing work to a reasonable standard or not.

Insomnia11 Tue 13-Sep-11 13:56:03

A school where working hard and doing well is encouraged but it isn't so competitive that the children get overly stressed and ill. I mean, where you don't get called a "swot" for demonstrating ability and enthusiasm. Where the children actually want to be there and learn. Excellent, committed teachers who actually like their job and the children and believe in everyone reaching their potential. No teaching to the test. Zero tolerance of bullying and good discipline. With decent facilities and a relaxed uniform policy -i.e. you can buy it in a supermarket/cheaply.

anklebitersmum Tue 13-Sep-11 14:05:27

couldn't agree more gazzalw!
Should have seen DS's previous teacher's face when I told her "Average does not an Oxbridge student make." after she refused to 'push' my eldest because he was "already better than the National average".
On a feedback note though I'd like to see a more standardised school report brought in, one that shows baseline SAT's expectations, National average SAT's and then the child's SAT's so that parents are left in no doubt as to how their child is doing.
I'd also like to see a lot less 'fluffy bunny' speak in the personalised comments section. Let's say it as it is and credit parents with enough sense to want to know the truth without interference from the PC Brigade.

ForYourDreamsAreChina Tue 13-Sep-11 14:39:05

What I want for schools is for them to be allowed to do their job without the multitudes of parents complaining that they know best and forcing the schools' hands at every verse end.

Thankfully, am not in the UK, and am living in a country where by and large - here's a novelty- people tend to believe that because those who work in education have a fair bit of experience and training behind them they kind of know what they are talking about, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. They also have the unbiased interests of all children at heart, not just my PFB.

Generally speaking,what I want for my child's education is that she continues as she is now, enjoying herself, going in happy, coming home happy.

FionaMillar Tue 13-Sep-11 17:17:39

It was hard to really do justice in the report to all the data we got from the poll and the focus groups. One of the issues that would have been interesting to explore more fully was the wide variability that seems to exist between schools when it comes to reporting back to parents about their children's progress.
We found some parents who only got an annual report , and others ( who lived barely a mile away at different schools) who were getting monthly 'scans' of their children's progress, or being given the chance to log onto the school website with a secure password and see progress in each subject, detentions etc whenever they wanted.
This may be linked to the effectiveness of school IT systems - it seems possible that were beneficiaries of BSF and had received heavy investment in IT, were much better at offering online reporting to parents.
However by the end we felt it was very unfair that parents can't expect personalised reports but delivered in a standardised way so that wherever you are in the country you can get regular updates on your child's progress, simply and easily and at least once a term.

FionaMillar Tue 13-Sep-11 17:23:15

The uniform point is an interesting one. We met one mother who was very pleased to have been offered a place at a brand new build school with a very flashy new building. When she got to the introductory meeting, she discovered that pupils were only allowed to wear trousers in a particular shade of grey, which had to be bought ( at a higher cost) from a specialist supplier and couldn't be purchased from the local high street shop which specialised in uniforms to suit all local schools.
She was obviously worried about the extra cost involved in the uniform and we did wonder if this was a very subtle way of deterring some lower income families from applying to the school.

Not only do I want more feedback but I believe it is essential to my child's progress, given that he has a social communication disorder and cannot tell me himself.

I have found teachers extremely defensive and lacking in SN training leading them to deliberately withold information for fear of being criticised for the handling of a situation they barely understand. I am on my 3rd school (in the same Local Authority who I believe perpetuate this) and the attitude is the same. They are all Ofsted Outstanding.

Targets and IEPs have been set without the parents involvement and on receipt parents are told that they are 'set by county' or some other such nonsense.

On questioning there is severe lack of detailed baseline assessment for children with SN who's education needs to more than the 3 Rs.

We base far too much reliance on professional 'opinion' than empirical, objective data and evidence-based practice is taken to mean that asking a bunch of exhausted, grateful for anything parents if they are happy about the school or an SN intervention is what is used to measure performance.

Proper monitoring is held up to be a chore and worse still detrimental to the child's progress as it means paperwork, and paperwork means time away from the child. There seems to be no recognition that proper monitoring will mean that the time spent with the children is quality rather than fluffing around in the dark, and, on the whole, much more efficient, not to mention providing a template for good feedback to parents.

I would even go as far to suggest that through the use of IT the less interesting rote-learned stuff, and some of the skills which require practise should be set as homework, freeing up the teacher to generalise the skills, put them into context, projects and add creative elements.

Katisha Tue 13-Sep-11 18:46:56

I have been hammering away recently on a thread about spelling and grammar in schools. We fall roughly into two camps (broad generalisation disclaimer) - teachers who know and understand what their marking policies are designed to achieve and parents who think that books are not properly marked and who see their children repeatedly making mistakes. The two appear to be irreconcilable.

Schools need to communicate with parents about this sort of thing, they need to explain. We are not all up on current educational thinking. And, on the flip side, current educational thinking may be all very well but are schools willing to challenge their own status quo if many parents feel their children are not being required to master the basics?

For a start marking policies and other policies could be published on the school website. I wish our school made better use of its website, and have said so, but am told that the amount they pay for it means it is limited in scope.

On another point, I would also like to see sports fixtures etc published on the website as I am sick to the back teeth of getting a letter the day before a match. As a working parent I cannot make the arrangements in time, more often than not.

I want schools to give a month's notice for clubs, school trips and Inset days. I find it hard to budget for school expenditure when I get several letters at once asking for a few pounds for this or that thing. I would like to have a standing order account with school for a set amount each month from which all school trips can be taken, and any spare returned at the end of the year.
I would like term dates a term in advance so I can arrange annual leave for school holidays, and I would like all school letters to have an email counterpart, if not be just emails, as I usually have to decipher messages from mangled soggy shreds at the bottom of the school bag.

'What I want for schools is for them to be allowed to do their job without the multitudes of parents complaining that they know best and forcing the schools' hands at every verse end'

I strongly disagree with this. Schools should be doing their job WITH the multitides of parents who wouldn't complain if they felt they had some say in how their community school was run, and teachers should follow their own code of conduct and be open to coaching, ideas and be open to learning about new things or new ways of doing things.

Parents are, I'm sure, the less fun part of the job, but they needn't be with a proper communication strategy and engagement and a more flexible, family approach.

Why are we so stuck in the past with children stuck in a classroom with 29 other children with whom the only common denominator is the year they were born?

If children were to truly fulfil their potential there would be fluidity througout the school depending on stage, and this would extend to home, including flexible hours, not to mention pupils becoming independent learners.

"If children were to truly fulfil their potential there would be fluidity througout the school depending on stage, and this would extend to home, including flexible hours, not to mention pupils becoming independent learners."

At last some common sense! Apologies I haven't had time to read the blog - I am dealing with my 3rd lot of wet bed washing this week alone as my DS (age just 6) but already into Yr2 has yet another melt down over the daily homework and pressure of school. He is bright - he would do OK - he is just in the wrong year by a few days. I am fed up of being patronised by the school and told it's my parenting.
I long for flexible schooling - Have you heard about the summer dip in reading levels? Not for my DS - he thrives on the relaxed days and his literacy and numeracy improves enormously over the summer.

Who will do something about this?

JugglingNStruggling Tue 13-Sep-11 22:37:20

happy kids and the 3 R's

moondog Tue 13-Sep-11 22:46:12

Intefering busybodies liek Fiona Millar to stop telling people what choices to make, in particular with regard to free schools.

ellisbell Wed 14-Sep-11 08:37:13

A school should be a learning environment where children are encouraged to achieve their potential. You can not achieve that unless the staff are also willing to learn. If you have a school that doesn't listen to parents but always thinks it knows best then you have a school in decline because it cannot adapt.

My children are/were at a school perceived to be "good" and have achieved good exam results there. Yet a substantial minority of pupils will not achieve in the way they should based on attainment when they went to the school. The school is very successful in both distracting attention from this (all schools should have to publish their drop out rates) and in making child and parents feel it is the fault of the child, not of the school's culture and teaching. Other pupils have their future damaged by incorrect advice or misjudgements, parents are often not sufficiently well informed to challenge this behaviour. There should be a mechansim for parents to communicate anonymously with other parents about problems so that common issues are identified early.

While your child remains at a school or may require a reference from them it can be impossible to speak openly about problems. Ofsted should be required to accept complaints/comments from parents whose child(ren) have left a school.

I totally agree with StarlightMcKenzie that forcing children into groups based on age does not promote good learning. Schools are actually a way in which the elite controls who can be admitted to their ranks. Currently that is biased towards the physically advanced and the conformists. In the modern world we need to develop the skills of all our children.

juuule Wed 14-Sep-11 08:43:31

A part-time option at secondary where students can attend for subjects that they are interested in or want a qualification in (as with adult ed).

Secondary schools to be examination centres for the community enabling adults and home-ed children to take exams as private candidates.

BirdyBedtime Wed 14-Sep-11 10:15:06

A school which truly believes in parent participation and doesn't just pay lip service to it.

A school which is in the 21st century and communicates with parents in a 21st century way - admittedly our school is this year asking parents to sign up to get communications from the school by email BUT what about me having to write a note when DD has been sick, or to say that she has a medical appointment, or to let the teacher know she has a health issue etc etc. Surely nowadays this can all be done by email (for those parents who want it obviously). The idea of a secure website which parents can log-into to communicate with the school is great.

A school that actually tells me how DD is doing in reading, writing, maths, ICT etc rather than presenting me with a standard form stating that she is 'capable' in everything. And what we need to be working on with her.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 10:48:39

Hmm, I want:

Children NOT to be taught in mixed ability groups, I want them taught in streams so the teacher is teaching at the same level across the whole lesson. In schools, as in life, people have different abilities and work at different rates so we should accommodate this imo.

I want discipline - it should be utterly unacceptable to swear at a teacher / use violence / not do as you're told and there should be enforcable sanctions for not following these very simple rules.

I don't want violent and disruptive children tolerated and spoiling it for the rest, I want them punished and, if necessary, excluded.

I want my children properly prepared for the real world where they will have to get up in the morning, think for themselves and work hard. I will do my bit too and agree to enforce the things at home that are needed in order to make this happen (e.g. early enough nights, checking homework is done, praising when work is genuinely good and helping where it's needed)

I want them to have some fun but actually, they are there to learn things! So I want them to learn them and be able to pass the exams they need to pass in order to be able to do whatever it is they want to do for a living (whatever that may be).

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 10:54:04

Blimey and having read that blog, is that ALL that was concluded?

The problems with (some) schools are far more deep rooted than that imo!

LilyBolero Wed 14-Sep-11 11:07:32

www, interestingly statistically, it's better to teach the children in mixed ability groups, apart from the least able, who should be taught separately - having less able children (from just below average ability) in the group doesn't hinder the progress of the most able, and having the most able in the group DOES pull the others up, so they all do as well or better. But the least able will need specific teaching, separate from the group.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 11:08:39

Hm, not everyone agrees Lily.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 11:09:55

And I speak as the parent of an average but lazy boy who is currently in a middle set but keen to work harder to see if he can get into the top set.

I want the kids who are brighter taught harder stuff, makes sense IMO.

LilyBolero Wed 14-Sep-11 11:14:30

I think that is possible even in a more mixed group - and also, if the middle and top sets were mixed, then there wouldn't be the problem of having to 'move' from one set to the other - in areas where a 'middle' child was confident they could do harder stuff, in other areas they might need more support.

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