3 Dec 2022

The parent-school relationship

An effective education has always required collaboration between parents and the school. Clearly, talking to your child’s teacher about goals, problems and progress is a fundamental expectation, but there are other more subtle ways of building a relationship with the school, which may involve giving up your own time for school events, volunteering to go on school trips, helping with fundraising drives and so on. All these activities will cement your relationship with the school and benefit your child.

Parents’ engagement with schools might be shaped by their own experiences as pupils. If parents did not ‘succeed’ in, or enjoy, their own education and have good experiences of the system, it may mean they are less trusting of teaching staff and may not be so supportive when it comes to homework and extra-curricular activities. It’s very important to put personal experience behind you and embrace the opportunities your child is being offered.

While communication between schools and parents has been revolutionised by emails, this is not always positive. Demanding parents, who may have unrealistic expectations for their children and a tendency to be highly critical, now expect an instant email response to their complaints – some teachers spend many hours a week simply communicating with parents.

It is important for parents to realise that the relationship is not single-sided. The school is not simply providing a ‘service’ (educating children) to demanding ‘customers’ (the parents). An education is so much more than a litany of classroom achievements. It involves developing social skills, building confidence, nurturing relationships, spotting special skills and talents, nipping social problems in the bud. A good education will create a well-rounded child, not simply a grade-achieving automaton, and parents have a vital role to play in this process.

If you are responsive to requests from your child’s school, involve yourself in the life of the school and build positive relationships that go beyond the classroom, your child will feel relaxed, secure and ready to learn.

These are the things you should always do:

• Take the time to say hello to your child’s teacher when you’re dropping off or picking up, and exchange a few pleasantries. If your child is young, the class teacher will be a major figure in their lives, so it’s a good idea to start building a cordial relationship from day one.

• Turn up for regular meetings with the teacher. If you can’t do it, make sure your partner can (both of you should attend if possible). Pleading that you’re ‘too busy’ to discuss your child’s progress will be a real black mark against you.

• Always fill out all the material that comes from the school, and promptly. This may mean signing a homework diary and adding a few comments, or filling out forms for school activities, assessments etc.  Lots of children are really forgetful about handing over this material, so inspect your child’s bag at the end of the day to check out what needs doing.

• Check your emails regularly and always answer emails from the school promptly.

• Always be available to help your child with homework tasks – they might need help or clarification or maybe you’ll need to forage for craft materials or pictures. Young children need a lot of learning support and you owe it to the school to do your bit.

• Always turn up for end of term concerts, school plays, carol services etc. if you've said you're going to be there. Your child will look for you and may feel anxious or disappointed if you're not there having said you would be.

Things you should try to do:

• Give a little time to the school – it may be assisting in the classroom, manning a stall at the school fête, putting together a newsletter in the evenings, or helping on a school trip.

• Try your best to answer all appeals for help from the school – be it for cash contributions, food for the harvest festival, old clothes for school plays, gifts for a sister school in Africa.

• If you have enough spare time, consider joining the Parents’ Association or becoming a parent-governor. You will be able to work with the principal and senior management team to make sure the pupils get a good education.

Things you should never do:

• No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never storm into the school at the end of the day and berate your child’s teacher. If you have a concern, always make an appointment. Even if you have a serious grievance, keep your language moderated and your temper in check – anger will only make people defensive…

• It is vital that you don’t embarrass your child in front of his/her fellow pupils or teacher. Aways take your cue from your child if you accompany them on a school trip. Behaviour that is acceptable in the privacy of your own home may be absolutely mortifying in a school context.


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