Issues - Education - Non-resident parents
As a teacher of special needs and science, these
notes are written from personal experience both within and
outside the system. There is a dearth of male role models
at Primary and an imbalance at Secondary level. Indeed, there
is a lack of teachers nationally of either sex. This has implications
for the workload of which teachers complain. So the first
piece of advice is please don’t bite off our heads.
The next is to recognise that schools are not centres for
child welfare as the national curriculum, paperwork and league
tables have forced teachers to deal much more pragmatically
with the ‘attainment’ and ‘league tables’
and ‘targets’ rather than with the social and
emotional welfare although now the latest buzzword is emotional
literacy created by our own successive Governments. Almost
any teacher will tell you of the effects of divorce and separation
on children, few are willing to take sides and this is only
to be expected. Whilst schools do have child protection procedures,
the training in child protection is woefully inadequate. Many
of the signs and symptoms are not recognised early enough
and often only become prevalent at a late stage of crisis
point or of manifestation of the symptoms from the previous
or long-term abuse. Many teachers are in a state of crisis
management due to the increasing misbehaviour and broken homes
are a major factor in this.
Contact the classteacher or tutor if you have
any concerns. Keep the school informed of any adverse goings-on
that may affect the education of your child or their behaviour.
Go to parent evenings. If there is likely to be fireworks
go at a different time to your ex-partner.
Show willingness and interest in your child’s development,
the school activities eg. fetes, open days, school plays,
parent/ teacher meetings and offer to help. Many schools find
parental support difficult to muster.
Help with your child’s homework and ask the school if
there is anything you can do to help your child learn outside
If teachers appear not to be interested, ignore us, we’re
just running around doing our job. Try to make it easy for
the school to help.
Offer to join the parent/teacher association or become a school
Provide the school with stamp addressed envelopes.
Make sure the school have your full contact details should
an emergency arise.
Make sure they know you exist as most Local Authorities operate
on a resident parent basis which is unfortunate when faced
with a hostile ex or serious concerns involving biased Child
The June 2000 guidance to Headteachers on parental
responsibility (that was only sent to Headteachers so many
persons including educational welfare are unaware of this
document’s existence). It is a useful document to acquire.
Ref: DfEE 0092/2000, This guidance is not law, but it is the
most comprehensive definition of parental responsibility so
far: ‘everyone who is a parent as defined (all natural
parents whether married or not, anyone with parental responsibility
and anyone who has care of the child).
Many Local Authorities have their own guidelines that rely
on the resident parent status to dictate access to full information.
It is worth quoting but don’t expect miracles as it
is not law. Try contacting the LEA and asking them for their
guidelines or ask that they adopt equal recognition as the
June 2000 guidance suggests. The guidance gives the right
to information on your child e.g. copies of school reports,
attendance records, governor’s reports; to participate
in school activities, to be asked to give consent to the child
taking part in extracurricular activities and to be told about
any meetings on the child.
The actual law is based on s.408 Education Act
1996 ‘provision of information’ and SI 2000/297
‘Education (pupil information) (England) Regulations
If your requests for information are met with a blank wall,
then complain to the Chair of the Governors direct. If that
does not work go the LEA. Probably best to copy letters to
the LEA initially as it tends to get the ball rolling quicker.
The next step would be to invoke s.409 of the 1996 Act ‘complaints
and enforcement’. This makes the LEAS have a complaints
procedure which would deal with complaints about requests
for information not being dealt with. One has to go through
this complaint procedure before going to the secretary of
state. A route here is to refer to section 409 and ask for
a decision within 21 days with the warning that you will approach
the secretary of state to complain. If there is no response
or the answer is unsatisfactory, then complain to the SOS
under section 496,497 asking him to exercise his powers to
give directions to the LEA or Governing body in regard to
the exercise of their powers and their performance of their
duties. If you have a complaint about the way your complaint
was handled then after the school/ Governing body/ Council
dealt with your complaint then you can go to the Local Government
Ombudsman but remember they ONLY deal with maladministration.
I hope that taking the matter to the secretary
of state is not necessary but the recognition of parental
responsibility as a concept worthy of full recognition is
a right that only seems to go with shared residence in law
and in practise despite what the media tells us. We can encourage
Local education authorities to start acting on this guidance
which is the intent of the DfEE.
Useful sites: http//:www.nrpa.telinco.co.uk