School’s never out for Parents …

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Why should you care?  Well, if you are a parent of a child in a school, you should care a lot.

Face it, parents are often disregarded and sometimes even disdained by schools.

Did you know that the growing number of “schools” which are governed by the Further and Higher Education Act are given the right, in law, to ignore parents completely?

Can you believe that your child’s educational institution may have no legal responsibility towards you, and that in fact, your child may have to give permission before certain information can be shared with you?

Parents are often caught unawares by the fact that modern “schools” are often actually run as corporations!

According to this Guardian article, Academy schools federation hopes to run college for profit,

The Barnfield Federation, which runs four schools in Luton, wants to be the first academy backer to take advantage of a provision in the Education Act 2011 that allows further education colleges to run on a for-profit basis.

The change – which is to be put before the college’s governing board at Easter – would mean surplus cash from the college could be used to pay a dividend to shareholders.

Whatever the arguments for or against this legislation may be — one point is beyond debate.  If a school is run as a corporation, it is inevitable that at times there will be conflicts of interest.  Corporation law demands that the shareholders needs come first, and choices will need to be made between spending money to best serve student needs, or best preserve shareholder wealth.

Proponents of Further Education colleges (such as many 6th form colleges), or Academies, will claim that to attract the students the colleges will need to improve teaching. That may be true over the long run.  However, it will not be true at times of crisis or the winding down of an institution, and the hard business choice may well be made to sacrifice a course, a student priority, or even an entire year of students, in favour of the long-term survival of the institution or to maximize profits in a downturn.  We will certainly risk losing idealism in favour of the bottom line.

So, what’s the point?  Simply this.  Parents may not have a legal right to have a say in these modern “schools” (the quotation marks are there because these institutions are no longer schools, but corporations).  However, the institutions would find it very difficult to resist the influence of a large number of motivated and organized parents — and so the best way to keep them on their toes is to make sure you, as parents, are informed and involved.

My experience, as the father of a soon-to-be university graduate and another soon-to-be university starter, is that the vast majority of teachers are commendable and decent people.  They truly want to make your son or daughter an academic success, and will often self-sacrifice to achieve that.  However, they have to do what they are told by their beauracratic taskmasters — who in turn are told what to do by the government.  They are hamstrung by the system, and it is our children who lose out.

The only possible loose cannon who can rock the boat is the parents, and the odd MP.

Most teachers rejoice when parents get involved — as long as it’s in a productive and positive way. That is what these forums are about.

Apply now to have a forum created for your school — we’ll create it, and then you can use it and get other parents involved.  We’ll adapt the forums as we get your feedback, to suit your purpose — you can decide whether teachers should get a say, or students, or just parents.

What do we get out of it?  We’ll put a small number of advertisements on the side of the discussions, hopefully that’ll cover our costs.  Other than that, what we’ll get out of it is a better educational system, better educated people, and a more prosperous society.

We think that’s worth it!