Remote control parents

2009-07-29 00:00

“THANK you for making the effor­t to be here.”

The principal’s voice echoes off the empty chairs. It is a governing body election, and there are barely a dozen parents. A few weeks ago these same elections were called off because there was no quorum (the minimum number for a valid election). There won’t be one again tonight.

The faces around the room are familiar. We are the Usual Suspects. If there’s a hot dog to be served or recycling to be sorted, this same handful of families will be there to help. Out of a school of 400 kids, it’s fewer than five percent.

What the hell is wrong with the rest of them?

Okay, hot dogs at sports day are obviously not a huge issue. But the governing body is a different thing completely. It is a group with the power to decide what our school fee increases are, how the money is spent, what uniforms our children wear and what disciplinary measures will be followed.

They also, crucially, appoint the teachers who will spend more time with our children than most of us do.

To simply trust that the dozen of us who do turn up will make the right decisions is a scary sign of blinkered parenting. How do you know I am not voting for my cousin so he can get his hands on the school funds?

According to Mike Kessel of the Governing Body Foundation, our school is not unique in struggling to inspire parents to be part of school life.

“This is truly a problem in many schools around the country,” says Mike. “It is, we believe, part of the modern syndrome, of leaving the responsibility to someone else. In this case instead of parenting, leaving it to the school to ‘bring up’ the children. In the end, a few active parents carry the burden with the rest being apathetic — unless, of course, something is wrong (or they think something is wrong), then they will be at a crisis meeting in droves.”

Kessel points out that for some parents, transport to meetings may be a problem, but in the dozen at this meeting I can see at least five parents who I know have travelled a long way on public transport to be here. And it doesn’t explain why the many people who rock up in 4x4s to drop their children off can’t spend an hour in the evening doing their duty to the school and their children.

Why do so many parents think that they can drop their child off at school and take no interest in what happens there?

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