“Parents have not always had the information they need to challenge schools to improve. This must change.”
A keystone in the strategy for extending information for parents will be a new online “Parent Portal” to be launched in 2017. This will contain key facts a parent should know about a specific school, such as:
- age related areas of the curriculum a child will be expected to master;
- the range of extra- curricular activities on offer;
- comparative data on a range of key measures (what these are is yet to be decided).
The portal will also contain other, more general, information such as how parents can support their child’s education and development across their whole school career. It will also set expectations for parent/teacher interactions.
No longer will academy trusts be required to reserve places for parents on governing boards. This applies to all open and new academies. However, parents will still be encouraged to sit on governing boards (usually as trustees) – if they can demonstrate the right skills.
Governance structures are not the right vehicle for gathering parents’ views. Every academy will be expected to “put in place arrangements for meaningful engagement with all parents, to listen to their views and feedback”.
The paper states that Free Schools will empower parents where they feel a new school will better deliver the type of education they want for their children.
Much of the supposed new content in the parents’ portal is already in existence on schools’ web sites.
There seems to be a disconnect between the stated objective of putting parents at the heart of the system and removing the requirement for current and new academies to reserve places for parents on their governing boards. Many, if not all, schools will recognise the distinctive perspective that parents can bring to a governing board and will appoint them as trustees.
The rhetoric about choice conveniently avoids any mention of the lack of school places that currently exist which, in some parts of the country, is at crisis level. On National Offer Day it was estimated that some 19000 pupils had not been allocated their first choice. In Bristol, some 4.4 percent (251 children) were left without any of their preferred schools. Any new programme is unlikely to have an impact quickly enough to solve this problem.
Changes to the Admissions Code, proposed within the White Paper to help parents, do not address the tension existing between the Local Authority’s statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place and the right of academies to set their own admissions criteria.