Prize and Prejudice

How might we as parents recognise teachers’ efforts and help them to help our children…

Life as a teacher

When I was a primary teacher, end of year gifts for members of staff were simply unknown. Today, an internet search will produce many gift lists which children (financed by the Bank of Mum and Dad) might give to thank their teachers. A tradition has been created whereby children, parents and carers are recognising that their teachers work extremely hard to ensure that every child in their classes makes the best possible progress during the year. All ought to be in harmony between parents and teachers since both groups clearly want the best possible educational outcomes for the children concerned. However, a recent survey shows that a third of all primary school teachers experienced derogatory behaviour from parents either online or on school premises at least once a month. Among secondary school teachers, one in five experienced derogatory behaviour once a month.

Female teachers are more likely than males to experience abusive behaviour by parents on school premises. A fifth of teaching assistants were exposed to negative words or behaviour at least once a month. A third of newly qualified teachers who started jobs in English state schools in 2010 had left the profession by 2015. Acceptances to teacher training courses dropped by 7% this year. The government has failed to recruit its target number of teachers in England for the last five consecutive years. So despite the gifts, perhaps all is not as well between parents and teachers as we might like to believe.

Life as a parent

Several schools have found it necessary to take actions to engage the support of parents in their children’s education. Some schools have drawn up ‘homework contracts’ with parents to make clear that not only children are held to account, but their parents too. Others have been praised by inspectors for the improvements in children’s progress and attainment that occurred since the schools decided to grade parents on how much they support their children. Parents are marked from A to D based on the involvement they have with their children’s education.

Fortunately, not all schools need to resort to such measures to ensure adequate parental involvement in children’s education. The real surprise is that any schools need to, since the evidence that parental involvement in their child’s education is of fundamental importance to the child’s progress and ultimate attainment is undoubted. So, if we really value the good, hard working teachers – how might we as parents recognise their efforts and help them to help our children to do their best at school?

Life as a child

Perhaps we could start by ensuring that our children are really ready and prepared for school at the age of 5 and are able to: • Sit still and listen • Be aware of other children • Understand the word ‘no’ and the borders it sets for behaviour • Understand the word ‘stop’ and that such a phrase might be used to prevent danger • Be able to go to the toilet • Recognise their own name when spoken • Speak to an adult and ask for needs • Take off their coat and put on shoes • Talk in sentences • Open and enjoy a book.

Throughout our children’s time at school we might also consider how we are doing our best as parents to ensure that our children:

  • Know that they are loved and can always seek our support and help
  • Are always under our supervision or that of an adult well known to us up to age 11
  • Are always ready for school with the necessary equipment and uniform.
  • Have time every day in conversation and play with one of us, and their brothers and sisters, without the distractions of mobile phones, tablets or television.
  • Know that we trust their school staff and are in regular contact with teachers to determine how well they are progressing.
  • Hear one of us read to them every day, and read to us, so they learn to read widely and for pleasure.
  • Learn through experience that when we make decisions we do not easily change our minds.
  • Are taught to select what TV programmes/ computer games to watch or play, within a maximum time allocation we have determined with them.
  • Are helped by us to join an appropriate, organised youth, sport or arts group.
  • Know where we work, what we do there, and why it is important for us, them and other people.
  • Spend time every week sharing some activity or visit outside the home with us.
  • Are being shown how to remain safe and healthy by our examples.
  • Are helped by us to do something every week which helps someone less fortunate than themselves.
  • Know what we believe about things that are right and wrong.
  • Are helped by us to enjoy relaxing time with their friends.
  • Receive praise for some positive achievement from us every day.

All the studies show that children whose parents are really involved in their education achieve better, have higher self-esteem and are better behaved at school. If most parents regularly did most of the things outlined above, most of our hard working teachers would feel far more valued and supported by parents than they do on receiving an avalanche of trinkets to mark the end of another school year. And our children will benefit greatly from that.

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