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Entries in education in Scotland (4)

Thursday
Feb012018

Time to end two 'classes' of parents

FNF Scotland's submission to the consultation on the Scottish Government's proposed Education Bill argues that it is time to overturn the custom and practice that gives 'non-resident' parents a reduced level of engagement with their child's school.

Most importantly, there has never been an educational argument to defend that secondary status of the 'non-resident' parent. To the contrary, research from around the world and the experience of those schools in Scotland that have been active in engaging with non-resident parents shows that children benefit on a range of measures from the involvement of both parents in their learning.

However, FNF Scotland argues the current system that allows schools to provide a lesser level of communication with 'non-resident' parents - mostly fathers - breaches their duties in terms of Equality law. 

FNF Scotland supports the Scottish Government's overarching commitment to challenging gender stereotyping wherever it limits the expectations and opportunities of our citizens. The insistence of most schools that they will choose one parent as the main parent is unfair to both mothers and fathers.

The FNF Scotland submission says that not only the law but the administrative substructure of data gathering by schools has to be addressed. In particular it should be required that a standard Scotlandwide pupil enrolment form is devised to include details of both parents (or kinship/institutional carers). Without a standard enrolment form and the subsequent 'annual data update' form that gives both parents equal recognition the two classes of parent are likely to continue.

FNF Scotland accepts that in a minority of cases it will not be in a child's interests for the 'non-resident' parent to be given the same information flow.  Such a decision should follow some form of due process and should not simply reflect the preference of the other parent. This will involve overhauling the ambiguous terms of the 2003 Educational Records regulations, removing the burden of 'taking sides' away from school staff to an independent procedure.

Wednesday
Feb152017

Government has an eye on schools' engagement with non-resident parents

  • Glasgow Provan MSP, Ivan McKee, raised the issue of the patchy engagement of some local authorities in Scotland with non-resident parents in the Scottish Parliament on February 9th. Answering for the Scottish Government, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, agreed that research shows the educational benefit to children of the involvement of parents in their learning and anticipates further development of government guidance in this area.
  • The officlal report reads:
  •  Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that schools communicate with both resident and non-resident parents. 
  • The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney): The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 imposes a range of duties on local authorities and schools to promote the involvement of all parents in their children’s education. Paragraph 20 of the statutory guidance on the act makes it clear that: “It is important that education authorities and schools do as much as they can to support the continued involvement of parents who don’t live with their children.”
  •  The National Parent Forum of Scotland has been undertaking a review of the 2006 act and will make its recommendations to the Scottish Government in the spring. The Government will consider the forum’s report, including any conclusions that relate to communication and consultation between schools and non-resident parents.
  • Ivan McKee: There is much research that shows that children learn better when both parents are actively involved in their education. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of non-resident parents find themselves excluded from involvement in their children’s school life, often through the poor engagement practices of local authorities. 
  • There is good practice by Western Isles Council, which does not start from the presumption that all children live with both parents. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the issuing of guidelines to encourage local authorities to share best practice would benefit the educational attainment of the up to 30 per cent of children who do not live with both parents?
  • John Swinney: I agree with Mr McKee’s conclusions about the research evidence. The issue is strongly reflected in the national improvement framework, which highlights the involvement of parents in young people’s educational experience as a significant consideration that schools and local authorities should take into account. I am familiar with the good practice that emanates from the Western Isles on the question and I certainly agree that the quality of guidance is important to inform improved practice. 
  • As I indicated in my original answer, we expect a review of many of the issues from the National Parent Forum. I will reflect on that and on Mr McKee’s points, which will inform any further development of guidance by the Government.
Tuesday
Oct182016

November public meetings on education 'governance review'

 Education 'reviews' are coming thick and fast. As well as the current review of the effectiveness of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement Act) Education Secretary, John Swinney, announced last month that he is conducting a review of 'education governance' - the way in which Scottish state education is organised and funded. There has been much discussion about what he may have in mind and, if fundamental overhaul is needed, what form it should take.
You can see a summary of the announcement at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/thegovernancereview
This governance review specifically asks questions about responsibilities and functions at every level of our education system (from early years through to secondary schools) and how these can be improved to ensure Scottish education is world class for all our children and young people.  It also asks about how funding for education can be made fairer through the development of a needs based funding formula for schools.
 
The Scottish Government is keen to hear views from children and young people, parents, teachers, practitioners and the wider community and has scheduled a number of open events across the country during November. Most of the events will be attended and chaired by a Minister.
The venues are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, Aberdeen, Dunoon and Dumfries. You can see the dates and book online  at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/thegovernancereview



Sunday
May012016

Guide for schools supports inclusion of both parents

Two national charities have been working together to produce a new guide for schools and nurseries to encourage better parental inclusion in support of their children’s education.

 

Helping Children Learn, produced by Children in Scotland and Families Need Fathers Scotland, urges schools to be proactive in building positive and inclusive relationships in particular with non-resident parents.

 

Based on research and evidence, the guide identifies the benefits not only in children's academic attainment but also in their conduct and constructive relationships when both parents are involved in supporting their education even when they no longer live together.

 

Schools are required to draw up a parental involvement strategy and review it regularly to ensure both parents are encouraged and supported to become engaged in their child’s education and also to participate in the wider school community. However the researchers found considerable variation between schools and between authorities in the effort they appear to make to reach out to non-resident parents.

 

The report reminds schools of the current legislation, guidance and policy, and highlights examples of best practice across the country. Good practice case studies are drawn from Prestonpans Infant School, East Lothian and South Lanarkshire Council.

 

Marion McLeod, Policy Manager with Children in Scotland said:We know that in general, with some individual exceptions, children benefit for the active support and involvement of both parents.  This is particularly true in terms of educational attainment. 

We appreciate that often schools or other education bodies might find it difficult to manage differing parental expectations when families breakdown, but we know that the child benefits immeasurably when clear, transparent and constructive involvement is achieved. This is the best practice we must strive for.”

 

Ian Maxwell, National Manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland added:It is ten years now since the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act urged schools to 'work hard' to engage with fathers in general and non-resident fathers in particular and to treat both parents with equal respect. Regrettably, we still hear regularly from some non-resident parents that they have felt excluded from communication around their child’s education, or are made to feel they are causing bother by asking for their own copies of newsletters and school reports. We hope this guide will help schools and education authorities work towards a more inclusive approach, for the benefit of all involved, our children above all.”

The guide has been published to coincide with 2016, Scotland's Year of the Dad – although it is noted a non-resident parent may be either a mother or father.

 

FNF Scotland last year published EQUAL PARENTS - a 'user guide' for non-resident parents to clearing the obstacles to involvement in their children's education.