Christine Gilbert, before sticking her head on that thankless spike as head of Ofsted, has written a great report on the future of schools. Ofsted has long supported the idea that parents really do matter in education while schools, unions and the educational establishment does everything to keep them at bay. At last we have a document full of sensible ideas that can influence policy rather than empty posturing around vague ideas on personalised learning.
It points to the need for:
parents to become more involved in the learning process
pupils to be able to choose what they study
ask each other for help in answering questions
mark their own work
grade their teachers' performance
marks would go, to be replaced by "feedback"
teachers duty bound to suggest what steps a pupil could take to improve performance pupils would be entered for exams as soon as they were ready to take them
Surely this is what teachers and schools were meant to do? They don't. The culture is one of classroom-based lesson delivery with minimum effort on; parental involvement, listening to student voices, meaningful feedback and real performance feedback for teachers.
Ask most parents and they'll tell you about the scrappy, erratic and often irrelevant homework (dull photocopied worksheets, no advice on quality or quantity, no objectives), poor feedback (ticks, a score and primitive corrections), the arcane language used in assessment (3 levels - qualification grades, key stages, various unexplained and obscure numbers), and a feeling of being excluded from the learning process (10 minutes with teachers who struggle to remember your child's name). Try finding out what your child is doing in his/her subject week by week and you'll be met by a 'why do you want to know that' response. Parents are prevented from helping their children by being deliberately ignored and rebuffed. Their response is to eventually give up interest. Their complaints, often about homework, as this is the only unmbilical link they have with the school, are routinely ignored. This fantastic resource, parents, is therefore squandered.
Chris Keates, Head of the NASUWT and expert in knee-jerk reactions replied to the report, "The report rightly seeks to address how parents can become more engaged in the learning process. However, the suggestion that this could be achieved through having access to teachers' lesson plans and schemes of work is misconceived. These are professional tools for the teacher not the vehicles for providing the meaningful and accessible information that parents actually want to assist them in supporting their children's education."
In other words, forget it - keep parents out.
Listen to Christine, Alan Johnson. Looks like she's on to something.