For over six hours a day, on five days a week, for thirty nine weeks of the year, the majority of UK parents entrust the care of their children to the school system and its teachers and support staff. Education is deemed to be a right for children in the UK and is compulsory for 5-18 year olds, though school attendance is not compulsory. However, less than one percent of UK parents choose to home-school their children.
Outside of the family, the school environment will be one of the most pivotal and developmentally significant influences upon our children during the malleable years of their childhood and youth. The home-school relationship is therefore vital to our children’s educational success. In recent years, research and resources have been heavily invested in developing parental engagement in children’s learning as it is seen as a way of tackling the inequalities in educational attainment caused by differences in background, class and economic factors.
UNICEF states that every child has the right to an education which develops their personality, talents and abilities to the full. As parents this is exactly what we want for our children and so we carefully monitor how happy our children are at school and whether we believe them to be achieving to the best of their ability. If our child has any issues that affect their learning, it is our job to advocate for our child, to ensure that they are supported in reaching their full potential.
So how can we nurture a good relationship between our home and the school? Each family has its own values and priorities around what they want and expect from a school and each school has its own ethos and systems for delivering what it believes to be the best education.
Communication is an essential key to good relationships. When my children come home from school or from their out of school clubs, the first thing I ask is whether they have had a nice time. If the answer is no for some reason, my parenting instinct is to come over all Scrappy-Doo and say “Lemme at ‘em!” but I actually need to calm down and keep an open mind. Remember that we are only hearing one side of the story. Speak to the school as soon as you can if you find yourself in this position. Your child’s class teacher is your first point of contact, so make an appointment to speak to them or email the teacher or school office with your concern. You may choose to speak with other people at the school too, perhaps because the class teacher has suggested that you do so for some more specialist support. You may also choose to speak with the head teacher, the chair of governors or with the teacher who specialises in a particular curriculum area if it is a learning issue.
If you do have concerns and issues with your child’s school, be mindful of how you speak about the school in front of your child. You may choose to talk openly and share your very honest feelings and opinions about the issues with your partner or friends when the children are not with you. Your children place a lot of weight upon what you think and may be affected by hearing your raw responses, and become stressed and disaffected. Speak to the children at an appropriate level and with information that is appropriate to their age and need-to-know. Remember too that social media channels are not the place to voice these issues. Enjoying school at a young age is predictive of higher well being later so be mindful of the messages that you give your children about school. It is of course necessary that children feel safe, connected, cared-for and able to learn at school, and if you are concerned that this is not so, then you will follow the channels to ensure that it becomes the case.
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