- 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.
Entries in school information (5)
Scottish Government Education Secretary, Angela Constance, has ordered a review of the impact and success of current legislation on the involvement of parents in their children’s education.
The review comes ten years after the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act was introduced, and will be led by the National Parent Forum Scotland (NPFS).
Ms Constance said:
“The NPFS, who will conduct the review on behalf of Ministers, will speak directly with parents, schools and children to get their views on how parental involvement in education works in practice and how it can be improved. We will also be able to use the review findings to inform the on-going development and implementation of the National Improvement Framework. I look forward to considering the review’s conclusions.”
Ian Maxwell, national manager of FNF Scotland has warmly welcomed the initiative.
"There is a raft of evidence from the UK and around Europe that children do better when both parents are fully involved in their experience at school - not only in educational attainment but also in their broader wellbeing in and out of school.
The 2006 Parental Involvement Act and the Guidance that went with it were quite explicit in placing a responsibility on schools and councils to 'work hard' at engaging with fathers in general and non-resident parents in particular and to ensure that both parents are treated with equal respect if they no longer live together. The experience reflected in our casework is that most schools and most teachers understand that. Unfortunately we still hear too frequently of examples of unjustified and unexplained hostility to some non-resident parents who feel they are not treated equally and who feel they are walking on eggshells with the school in case they are seen as 'difficult'.
We will certainly share our considerable experience with the NPFS review and make positive proposals about improving systems within schools to ensure non-resident parents are recognised in their own right; that communications within school and between school and parents are more explicitly inclusive of non-resident parents (fathers and mothers); and that schools and councils fulfill the expectations set down for them in 2006 that they will 'work hard' to include non-resident parents."
FNF Scotland published the Equal Parents guide earlier this year, outlining the legal rights for fathers with and without Parental Rights and Responsibilities and suggesting ways to approach the school.
Non-resident parents often encounter unnecessary obstacles to obtaining information about their children's education, in situations when they are perfectly entitled to obtain school reports, attend parents evenings and share in the flow of information from schoool to home.
FNF Scotland has published a guide to help these parents overcome the obstacles and clarify their legal rights.
It covers the legal entitlements of non-resident parents with and without parental rights and responsibilities and recommendations and situations in which school records can be withheld.
The first contact with the school is crucial, and we suggest that it is better to make the intial contact by letter or email rather than by phone call or in person. The non-resident parent may be anxious and fearful whn making this enquiry whereas the school receptionist may be trying to do three things at once and may come over unintentionally as negative.
The guide includes sample letter templates for various categories of parent.
This publication follows our research carried out in partnership with Children in Scotland. A guide for education authorities and schools will be published shortly.
Following separation some parents will find that their relationship with their child's school alters. Although you try your very best to stay involved you may find that the school does not actively engage with you. Unfortunately non-resident parents often become invisible to the important institutions in their child's life. However there are resources out there for all parents.
Parentzone is a website run by Education Scotland which is full of resources and support for parents. You may have questions about Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) or ways of getting involved which you feel are silly questions. There are never any silly questions but if you feel unable to ask your child's school about such information then there are other ways of being informed.
Parents have the biggest impact on their child's learning. Being aware of what is happening in school and conversing with your child can improve their learning outcomes. You needn't worry that you don't know the answers to their maths problems. What is most important is that children know they have your support. You may feel that you have little time with them and that homework is not ideal for bonding however learning is not just about academic study. Education Scotland have put together 2 booklets which highlight everyday learning opportunities.
If your children are older than 0-6 years then do not feel forgotten about. The National Parent Forum of Scotland has an online blog and produces newsletters in each school session.
If your children are at secondary school level then the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has information about the new national qualifications under CfE. The SQA website also has a mythbuster specifically for the new national qualifications.
No matter what stage your child is at in their education there are ways to make yourself informed. Although your child's school may not actively engage with you there is nothing to stop you accessing the resources available.
Families Need Fathers Scotland gave comments on the need to ensure that both parents in separated families receive school information in our response to a recent Scottish Government consultation.
We were pleased to see the following statement in the consultation report, published today by Scottish government.
"There is a need to be inclusive and provide and promote opportunities for communication with parents that might otherwise be overlooked."
Many parents have contacted us about problems in receiving school information, and we are currently studying the practice and procedures of local authorities across Scotland.
Please contact us at email@example.com if you have any good or bad experiences you feel will be useful in developing this campaign.