Brits ask more of parents

British Education Secretary Ed Balls is promising parents better schools, but he wants parents to do their bit – or else.

In an interview, Balls told parents:

“If your child starts to fall behind, we should step in straight away and give one-to-one or small group tuition.”

 But there’s a kicker:

In return, parents will be under new obligations to support their child at school. They will have to sign stricter home school agreements and face fines of up to £1,000, enforced by the courts, if they fail to meet the conditions.

Like Core Knowledge Blog, I wonder about enforcement. What happens to the fines when the parents have no money? For that matter, can Britain really afford tutors for all students who fall behind?

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  1. Ragnarok says:

    “They will have to sign stricter home school agreements and face fines of up to £1,000, enforced by the courts, if they fail to meet the conditions.”

    This is clearly the right way to go, since the courts have such an exemplary record in all they currently do.

    But what should parents do if their children refuse to obey the rules? Take them to court? Disciplining them, as a myriad psychologists would tell you, would be cruel.

  2. Parent2 says:

    Britain has seen some horrendous child-abuse cases recently. Do their courts have the capacity to deal with a flood of “parental academic neglect” cases? Which cases should take priority–a child not doing his homework, or a child who may have been abused? If a mother is fighting for custody of her children, does the children’s academic performance now become a potential criminal matter? It’s all very well to say, “enforced by the courts,” but there are unintended consequences to that decision.

  3. Most of the pop psych stuff I’ve read lately is aimed at teaching parents how to discipline (and that, indeed, they should) their children. I thought the Nanny 911 TV show was an interesting development. People really have no idea. My neighbors, for example. I once watched the son, at age 5, kick his mother squarely and *hard* in the knee when she said no to something. Kid was out playing in the yard not 20 minutes later — no consequence. Is it any surprise that now he’s a teenager he’s tossing his Colt 44 beer cans all over the street on weekend nights? Hmm. Didn’t see that one coming!

    I’m not sure it can be regulated by the Courts. Some attention to the problem isn’t a bad thing, though.

    In an unrelated matter: anybody have a source of negative images of schools? I’m pretty deep into google images and am not coming up with much. Tweaking my search terms is bringing up some stuff a bit too spicey for a high school lecture on visual rhetoric.

  4. Parent2 says:

    Try a Google image search of “mean teacher,” “boring school,” or “lazy student.” Is that the sort of negative image you’re seeking?

  5. Thanks… not a whole lot, but maybe enough to make the point. Even negative bits about schools seem to be illustrated with the same old stock images of apples and blackboards. Did find a funny image of a teacher with guns that actually looks a lot like me, but I figure I don’t have that much tenure :).

  6. ironic that the british government is taking away the right to homeschool with one hand, while making parents responsible for getting their children up to grade level on the other.

    one would think if you can’t handle being in charge of your child’s schooling, you couldn’t be expected to complete the job the school was unable to do.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    Interesting to read this post in light of the one above it about schools that don’t share curriculum guides with parents. Also interesting to compare the willingness of some educators to launch headlong into the punishment of non-educators (students and parents) as good teaching/improvement strategies, while other educators decry the “punitive” approach of NCLB requiring improvement planning and other consequences. I cannot quite say that schools have about as much parent involvement as they are willing to handle. But, in some cases, I suspect that this is the case.

  8. Margo/Mom says:

    BTW–LS–did you try Googling Detroit and schools?

  9. No, Margo, but I looked for my local urban system. It is actually becoming a more interesting lecture/lesson to ask the kids to explore why the imagery doesn’t match the content in the same way photos of politicians and other issues do. Kinda cool.

    Thanks for the ideas. I enjoy when these things take unexpected directions. FWIW, “Boring School” and “Lazy Students” mostly turned up student blogs and the same photos of droolers over and over again.

  10. Parent2 says:

    Lightly Seasoned, “decrepit school” brings up images of, well, decrepit schools. “Confused student” is pretty effective, too.
    “Cheating on tests,” and “bullying in schools” produce images.

    More on topic, the promise of tutoring might help–but then, given the state of British finances, I wonder where the money’s supposed to come from.

    I also wonder how effective tutoring is, especially when students are falling behind due to apathy. Yes, affluent parents pay for a great deal of tutoring, but has anyone studied whether the tutoring increases a student’s knowledge of a subject? I’d refer to the satirical novel, “Schooled,” by Anisha Lakhani, in which the affluent students are held together by tutors. Other novels set in the same milieu also don’t suppose that having tutors is a magic bullet.

    I think that tutoring correlates with better results, because it correlates with parents who place a premium on education, and who have the means to change schools when necessary.

  11. Ed Balls was Gordon Brown’s PR guy when Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer, before Brown became PM and Balls ran for Parliament. What exactly is his supposed expertise in education?