Cassandra Jardine uses her Telegraph column to look at the arguments being put by teaching unions that parents are too ready to blame teachers for the failings of their children. She starts:
Your 14-year-old is pregnant? Blame lack of sex education. Your 16-year-old is smoking dope? The school has failed to put across an anti-drugs message. Difficulty reading? Playground squabble? Again, blame the teacher.
She goes on to quote Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (a Forum member) who argues:
“Teachers are being held responsible for aspects of children’s and young people’s lives which are completely beyond their control.”
Reading this and the other concerns coming from teachers at the moment I’m struck by the different ways that parents and the teaching profession see the relationship between school and parents. You might remember that only a week or so ago BECTA published a report indicating the level of frustration parents have with school communication. And this week we hear about parents attacking teachers verbally and physically.
Ms Jardine argues:
There’s a clash of cultures between home and school. We of the post-Penelope Leach generation are desperate to be child-centred. We may deride crude yardsticks of success, but we have our own league tables of good parenting with points for children being free-thinking, outspoken and creative. Inevitably, when rampant little individualists go to school, there is going to be friction. The teacher who has 30 such children boxed in a room, and a narrow curriculum to follow, may not be able to keep order.
She goes on to highlight work being done to try and bridge this gap of expectations:
Save the Children has been running pilot advocacy projects which help to prevent exclusions – the single biggest determinent of later disaster – by bringing parents and the school together to discuss why a child is having problems. Often the parents who most need help are those least likely to go to parenting classes but Parentline Plus is finding ways to reach them. “Their African style of discipline can be punitive, sometimes violent,” says Marcus Muir, who has been working with parents of Angolan and Congolese extraction. “They understand that’s not acceptable here so we have been showing them alternatives.”