Parent power’ in education? No thanks

spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics
  • AS A PARENT (the three magic words that all must utter to gain entry to the education debate), I should like to say thanks, but no thanks, to the Government’s generous offer of more ‘parent power’ in schools.

I have no desire to help to manage the school system, or to become ever more involved in our children’s education. Call me irresponsible, but all I want is an adequately funded, well-run school, where we can send them to be taught by properly qualified teachers without having to worry any more about it.

Despite fierce arguments over the Government’s latest education reforms, all sides appear to share the underlying assumption that increased parental involvement in schools is an intrinsically good thing. The results, however, have been rubbish.

In July Ruth Kelly the Education Secretary admitted that despite the Government’s investing billions to improve primary schools, the achievement gap between children from affluent families and those from poorer backgrounds had increased. This was interpreted as an affront to the Government’s commitment to equality in schools. Yet you surely do not need a postgraduate degree in education theory to see how this is closely linked to new Labour’s other educational obsession – the increased involvement of parents in education.

It should hardly be shocking to discover that middle-class parents do far more to help their kids. State schools are supposed to offer all children the same education, providing the opportunity to compensate for these differences in home environments. Instead, the fashion for handing over more responsibility to parents can only reinforce the classroom divide.

Neither is it good news for any parents who might hope that there is more to life than doing junior’s homework. When they are not being pressured to spend more time acting as unpaid teaching assistants, they are being patronised with invitations to come and ‘learn together’ with their children – as my wife said, she has already learnt to read once and has no wish to do so again.

The line is becoming blurred between educating the children and re-educating the parents to raise and feed their families in accordance with official guidelines. Ms Kelly has proposed that not only should truants be subjected to curfews, but that their parents be forced to stay home with them. When did imposing a system of house arrests become the job of the Secretary of State for Education?

One sort of parent power we surely should demand is the authority to close our front doors to those who would treat us like wayward children. Free teachers to teach, and parents to parent, and let the Government govern the country instead of trying to run our lives.

  • Speaking oF Mr Blair’s school of micromanagement brings us to the farcical fag-end of all the puffing and blowing about smoking in public.

The short-lived proposal to allow sealed smoking rooms in pubs was denounced as a charter for ‘cancer rooms’ that might ‘leak smoke’ (and, presumably, cancer) into the bar. The chairman of the British Medical Association denounced as ‘astonishing’ the Cabinet’s decision to backtrack from a total ban on smoking in pubs. To an ex-smoker, libertarian Marxist like me, however, what is truly astonishing is that the Government’s illiberal proposal to ban smoking from almost all public places should now be seen as too soft, an example of what David Blunkett used to call ‘airy fairy civil liberties’ (and toxic ‘airy’ at that).

  • Despite the Pythonesque appearance of a dead parrot, the ‘debate’ about bird flu continues to follow the script of a ‘We’re Doomed! Don’t Panic!’

Dad’s Army sketch. Health experts assure us that it is safe to eat eggs and chicken, but add that there remains a ‘theoretical’ possibility of catching bird flu by doing so. Ministers rightly remind us that avian flu is ‘a disease of birds’, not humans, but then broadcast the sort of precautionary measures reported in one headline as ‘Lock Up Your Chickens’. Meanwhile, sniffer dogs are deployed at airports to search for ‘dead or live birds, feathers and eggs’. A society that appears to be afraid of its chickens seems unlikely to handle sensibly the theoretical possibility of a flu pandemic. Perhaps the Department of Health should issue guidelines on saying boo to a goose.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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