Give parents more power in schools

    PTA UK, the UK’s leading Parent Teacher Association membership organisation, based in Tonbridge, polled 1,000 parents to gain their views on the education system. The body’s Policy and Communications Director, Michelle Doyle Wildman, reports on the interesting findings

    ONE SIZE MAY NOT FIT ALL How best to achieve ‘schools that work for everyone’

    LAST year the government launched its Education Green Paper – ‘Schools that work for everyone’ – to gather views on how its policy can best address the modern-day requirements of an education system that meets the diverse needs of families around the country.

    We were keen to put across parent views on education to the government as part of this consultation; so we polled over 1,000 parents.

    Our findings were striking: More than 85% of respondents wanted more of a say in their child’s education, but only 42% believed the Government listens to them when it comes to their views on their children’s education.

    When we asked about specific government proposals, we found 46% of parents agreed with an increase in selective [grammar] schools, while 51% agree that independent schools should sponsor state schools or set up new good schools. Also, 68% said independent schools should provide more bursaries for those who cannot afford to attend, and 59% of parents think universities should sponsor or set up new schools.

    On faith schools, 28% believe these offer a better education, but parent opinion was fairly evenly split with 33% saying they’d like the opportunity to send their child to a faith school, 29% saying they were unsure and 35% disagreeing. We found that 47% believed faith schools should be more diverse and inclusive, but 32% of parents think they should be allowed to have 100% children of that faith at the school.

    These findings demonstrate to me two key issues. My first observation is that although all parents want the best educational experience for their children, parents are a diverse lot with varying desires and beliefs.

    Secondly, too many parents don’t have a clear enough understanding of how schools operate, and so are therefore not well enough informed or given the opportunity to be involved in the debate.

    Given that many of the decisions made by government and schools affect parents in one way or another, I feel it is only right that they should be able to contribute their views and be listened to.

    As a society, I feel we need to find a more effective way of engaging parents in education policy and the future range of schools on offer to all families. But if this sounds daunting, it’s worth rem- embering that we can start closer to home, with schools and parents beginning to work in partnership to ensure their children – and those from all walks of life – are given the best opportunity to reach their full potential.

    To find out more information on the results of this poll, as well as ideas on how to get involved at your child’s school, log on to www.pta.org.uk