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School-parent communications are an interesting exercise in trust…or the lack of it.

Students taking GCSE Exams


It’s back to school day – at least where we live – and secondary school students will be being dragged from their beds in what, for them, will seem like the middle of the night. The weekend will be spent in some sort of jet lag conditions as they re-acclimatise to normal waking hours. Only son has already expressed his feelings about what he feels is the pointlessness of going back for one day. I’ve tried to explain that it is psychologically easier to go back for one day rather than go cold turkey and return in the dark of winter for a full week. He’s not buying it.

24 hours before the Great Return we got a ‘welcome back’ email from the school with a list of reminders for parents. We were advised to get students packing their school bags a day ahead, checking essential items, eg, a full pencil case. “It would also be beneficial for them to make sure they know where their uniform and school shoes are to avoid a rush in the morning,” stated the email.

It felt a bit like they were trying to parent the parents. Maybe this is necessary and no-one thinks 24 hours ahead these days. Maybe they are assuming parents are all so depressed about the new year that they will forget that school is happening and that kids need to be dressed appropriately. Or maybe it is something they have been advised to do to cover their backs and start the year with a series of detention orders for lateness and lack of a full pencil case. Who knows?

The email continued: “I appreciate that some of our students will have been wearing false nails, false eyelashes and jewellery over the past couple of weeks. So please support us by reminding your child that they are not part of our uniform code and must be removed (this may require an appointment today to manage this expectation) before arriving at school tomorrow.”

They clearly don’t hold parents in high esteem. I think if they could they would put the parents in detention. Or maybe the email is meant to help parents. They can brandish it at their children if they refuse to listen to them and take those eyelashes off.

Maybe it’s good planning. I’m pretty sure quite a few students do turn up with fake nails and I know from experience – daughter three came home from a party with huge fake nails back in the day – that it is very difficult to do almost anything practical in them.

But it feels like parents are being infantilised or treated like interns who don’t quite know what they’re doing. When kids start at school parents have to sign a parent-school contract so from the outset there is a layer of distrust lying at the heart of the parent-school relationship. Maybe it has to be this way nowadays – we seem to have lost trust in almost everything.

I know from my sister, who is a primary school teacher, that parents can be the hardest part of her work. In theory, both schools and parents should have the best interests of the students at heart and should work together, but, in our very divided world, it sometimes doesn’t feel as if that is what is being modelled in parent-school communications.

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