Headlines: December 10th, 2008

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has launched a new strategy for shaping the 21st century school. Parents feature prominently by being recognized as a valuable learning resource in the education process and by being treated as stakeholders.

The strategy recognises that more capacity is needed in schools to secure improvement and in part this will be delivered by improving parental engagement in the individual child’s learning. The parent is considered to be the expert on the child and the teacher the expert in learning. With the parent and teacher working more closely together in a systematic way it is expected that much can be achieved.

The stakeholder role of parents will be strengthened by requiring schools to provide annual report cards which will give an ‘at a glance’ guide to school performance and will show each school’s progress. The report cards will give parents a fair, balanced, comprehensive and easily understood assessment. They will be short documents of about four pages. The cards will be complemented by the more detailed but generally less frequent Ofsted inspection report for the school.

The cards will provide better information for parents and clearer accountability for schools. They will look not only at raw academic results and how pupils progress in their education but also at how the school provides for pupils and the community’s wider wellbeing. They will initially be produced for mainstream primary and secondary schools, including Academies.

Other measures in the strategy document, which will lead to a White Paper in Spring 2009, include developing schools as community hubs providing access to a range of services for children, young people and families, such as health, family support, adult learning and leisure activities. There are plans for making formal and informal links with local schools through sharing expertise in leadership, governance and children’s services. It is also planned to personalize learning by focusing on the needs of all pupils through a pupil centered approach to their learning and wider development. Every pupil should have someone who knows them well and can monitor their progress, responding quickly to any emerging problems, like a personal tutor.