Schools and parents share a sacred bond of trust. Parents leave their children in the care of schools – their safety is a school’s number one concern.
Schools rely heavily on parents to create an environment at home which helps to reinforce what goes on in the classroom. In the schools where this bond is at its strongest, children thrive.
If you have developed a good rapport with each family during good times, when tougher times come along, you are much more able to work constructively on behalf of the child.
All those long weeks where pupils were learning at home during the pandemic were a total education for families. Trying to motivate and cajole each child to keep studying, to keep handing work in and to keep attending virtual lessons gave parents a new insight into the hard work and dedication that teaching staff demonstrate in the classroom every day.
For their part, staff saw into people’s homes a lot more. Not just the glimpses of parents and carers in the background of a video lesson, but also each pupil’s home context – so important for educational progress – became more visible.
We know from research from groups like Parentkind that families say they want to be more involved and engaged with their children’s learning.
Schools too are much happier when parents are able to engage. Schools and families have never been closer, it seems. And long may that continue. Which is why it is such a worry for school leaders when government policies, however well-intentioned, have the potential to drive a wedge between the home and the school.
This week we have seen that the Government plans to offer the Covid vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds.
Whilst the Government needs to take every possible step to prevent transmission of the virus amongst people in school communities, no matter their age, and to avoid any more unnecessary disruption and missed education for pupils, if it does not get its vaccination policy right, a wedge could easily be hammered between schools and families.
For some, vaccination is controversial and for this reason alone, the Government should not expect schools to carry any responsibility for vaccination promotion, enforcement, or policing.
Historically, schools have been used as sites for some of the usual round of childhood vaccinations, and that is well understood by parents and schools alike, but staff have never been expected to administer jabs. The Government should keep any plans to vaccinate against Covid within the existing arrangements which take place for adults, which would see pupils going to designated vaccination centres, attended to by medical professionals.
School leaders have felt the effects of being co-opted into the Government machinery of dealing with Covid, dragging them into areas that are not their core focus.
For example, even though billions of pounds were directed at the Test and Trace system, it was school leaders who had to manage the administration of close contacts in school settings. Our members tell us that on average this took up an additional 44 hours over the course of this school year – around seven extra school days – while many logged over 100 hours. The Government just assumed they would do this, and not a penny of the vast Test and Trace budget was shared with schools to offset this extra demand.
NAHT argued long and hard for this responsibility to be removed from school leaders. Eventually, the Government made a change, but not until the end of the summer term just passed.
It should not fall to schools to “sell” the Government’s message or to make up for the Government’s failure to create confidence in its policies.
It is the Government’s role to make the case for vaccination and to enable every citizen to make the right choice for them. We have seen how powerful vaccination has been, so many people will welcome this week’s news, but for others making the choice will not be easy.
Therefore, schools should not be put in a position where they are expected to explain the science or make a recommendation to pupils or families. They simply don’t have the expertise.
And they should never be asked to report on which pupils have been vaccinated and which have not. Once a school is seen by parents as an unbending arm of the state, many will withdraw their trust.
If trust is lost, the bond is broken, and pupils will be in for another tough year.
This article was written by NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman and first published in iNews. Read the original article here.
First published 05 August 2021