The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents
Parents are a key part of the education system and we believe this is something that needs greater recognition. Our education manifesto for the next government is all about making schools work better for children and parents. What would you add to or change about our list?
Doing what’s best for children
Support special needs properly
All children with special educational needs deserve speedy diagnosis and specialist targeted and continuous support threaded through the school day. Parents should not have to fight to access limited resources. This will benefit both individual children and the wider school community.
What is in the best interests of a child should always be in the best interests of their school
Schools should maintain accountability for the performance of children who are excluded or transferred to other schools, further education, alternative provision or home education. In this way ‘off-rolling’ will not be incentivised and it will always be in a school’s best interests to do as well as they can by every child.
It should be possible for all children to be certified as having a good working knowledge of English and maths
If a child’s English and maths are up to a working standard, one that employers would regard as good enough, then that is what should appear on their exam certificates. At present 30 per cent of children are labelled as having ‘failed’ merely because of their performance in assessments relative to their peers.
Schools should be places where all children find it easy to focus on learning
Discipline and pastoral care policies should be clear and adhered to. No child should be permitted to continually disrupt the education of others.
Making schools work for parents
School days should fit better with parents’ work days
Giving schools the option and means of extending the school day would enable them to dedicate more time for studying the arts and other non-assessed creative subjects which are being squeezed out of timetables. It should also be possible for children to stay in school after lessons finish so that their homework can be supervised or extracurricular activities offered. With this as an option, children could return home at the same time as their working parents.
Make it easier for parents to find out which schools their children have a good chance of getting into
Parents deserve better, clearer and more user-friendly information about school admission arrangements. This could easily be done with a modern IT system if the base data is collected. Complicated and uncertain admissions policies further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.
Parents should be told, clearly and openly, what is going on at school
The best schools often have high levels of parental involvement and influence. This is something which should be actively encouraged in all schools. Every school should routinely keep parents informed about its performance and ambitions both academically and in the wider educational sphere. Ofsted should review how well schools are doing this when they inspect.
Parents should find it easy to communicate their views and concerns
There should be a real parent presence in the governance of schools. This would provide parents with a clear route for raising issues about a school and its policies, both with the school and ultimately with Ofsted.
Bridging the independent/state divide
Continue the development of links between state and independent sectors
A divided system is not a stable system. Many independent schools are already committed to sharing their advantages with state counterparts, but could arrangements be even more ambitious? Both state and independent schools should be encouraged to establish formal links between their sectors to the benefit of all pupils.
Independent schools should focus bursaries on the children who have most to gain
Some looked after children are already flourishing in boarding and day independent schools. We believe this option should be more widely available. Bursaries do most good for the children in the hardest circumstances.
How much do you agree or disagree? What would you add to our manifesto? Take two minutes to complete our online survey - www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/gsg-manifesto
Children’s book of the month
Everyone loves Jacqueline Wilson – including us. The former Children’s Laureate is a literary phenomenon who has written more than 100 books and sold more than 40 million copies around the world.
Tracy Beaker is one of her best-loved and feistiest characters and fans jumped for joy when she decided to bring Tracy back last year as a grown up, living with her daughter Jess in a rundown London tower block. Not surprisingly, My Mum Tracy Beaker became an instant bestseller and the good news is that she has written a follow-up.
In We are the Beaker Girls Tracy and Jess have left London for the seaside town of Cooksea and are happily settled in a flat above an antique shop run by Flo, a larger-than-life former actress. The shop is called The Dumping Ground, as fans will know this was the nickname of the foster home where Tracy spent her childhood.
It’s the summer holidays and chirpy Jess takes centre stage as she tries to do a bit of matchmaking for her mum, worries that Tracy might get back with her ex-footballer boyfriend and does her best to make friends in her new home town. Along the way Jess meets a local teenager who keeps picking on her – only to find that her enemy’s problems echo Tracy’s own childhood.
This is a wonderful read, with illustrations by Nick Sharratt and all the wit and charm of the previous Tracy Beaker novels. You can always rely on Jacqueline Wilson to tell a story that blends humour, warmth and genuine insight – and that’s exactly what she does here. It’s a book that’s bound to be in lots of Christmas stockings this year.
Going up, going down
Big in Japan. A choir of schoolboys from state primary schools in south London has hit the top of the classical charts in Japan with an album called Christmas Carols with Libera. The children, aged eight and up, have performed for two popes, sold out a 2,500-seat concert hall in Tokyo for two nights and saw fans queuing round the block to get their CDs signed.
Fairy tales. A study led by UCL researchers says that reading fairy tales and solving puzzles with your children can reduce their risk of developing dementia in later life.
Oxbridge applications up. Competition for places at Oxford and Cambridge will be fiercer than ever this year – thanks to a record number of applications. There were 20,155 applications to Cambridge, a rise of 5.6 per cent on 2018. Oxford has received 23,350 applications, up from 23,013 the previous year.
Internet access for under-fives. More than three-quarters of under-fives in the UK have access to at least one device connected to the internet. Research by Childwise says they also spend more than two and a half hours a day watching TV or videos.
Advice needed. Undergraduates have complained of a ‘disconnect’ between schools, where pastoral care is readily available, and university, where it’s sometimes harder to seek help. Heads report that some students return to their former schools for help and advice because of the lack of structure and support available.
Disadvantaged students. The number of students from poor families getting into top universities has stalled, according to Reform, a think tank for public service reform. The proportion has increased by only 0.25 per cent in five years.