Teachers and parents: enemies or allies?

Sunday 31 October, 1.45pm until 3.15pm, Café

The relationship between teachers and parents is increasingly under scrutiny. Schools are already judged by Ofsted on the effectiveness of their engagement with parents and carers, and from September 2010 it will be a legal requirement that all secondary schools are able to offer parents access to online reporting about their children. Parents will be able to access information including school grades, attendance, special needs information, and home and class work schedules online. Parents are also encouraged to use the system to communicate ‘frequently and freely’ with teachers.

With parents increasingly treated as consumers of school services, to be consulted at every turn, it is perhaps not surprising there has been a rise in parental complaints about everything from the content of the curriculum to pedagogic methods.  The internalisation of the ‘pupil-centred’ model of education can mean parents have little regard for the authority of teachers. Parents at the school gate complain, ‘That teacher doesn’t have the right to say/do that to my child, just because they can’t control the class’.  At the same time, many a staffroom conversation about badly behaved pupils ends with the teacher saying, ‘Well, what do you expect? Have you met the parents?’

It is now assumed that engaging parents in their child’s education is the way forward.  But is it? What is it a way forward to? We have a very confused situation. For example, it is a widespread view that parents need ‘expert help’ to bring up children, yet they are also expected to do more work educating their children. Teachers are encouraged to ‘outsource’ parts of their core work to parents, whilst simultaneously being given more powers to refer to the council families they think may ‘benefit’ from Parenting Order. This is ‘the naughty step’ writ large – but with no obvious Supernanny in sight!  Both parents and teachers seem to be defensive, neither fully trusting the other to do their job properly. But what is the proper job of parents and teachers today? The 2004 Children’s Act put the responsibility for children’s happiness and emotional well-being with teachers, while home/school contracts are used to encourage parents to read with their children and help with homework. It seems that the roles have been reversed, or blurred at the very least. Can this lead to an improved partnership between parents and teachers? Or is it undermining relations of trust, without which neither teacher nor parent can do their work of developing the new generation properly?

Listen to session audio:


Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
educator, writer, doctoral researcher

Dr Hilary Cremin
senior lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge; author, Peer Mediation: Citizenship and social inclusion revisited

Julian Stanley
chief executive, Teacher Support Network

Dr Eleanor Updale
author, award-winning historical novels for children and adults; Royal Literary Fund Fellow, Queen Mary, University of London

Sally Millard
co-founder, IoI Parents Forum

Produced by
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert educator, writer, doctoral researcher
Sally Millard co-founder, IoI Parents Forum
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