Over the last decade, the change agenda in Scottish education has led to significant opportunities for improvements in parental involvement and in home-school partnerships.
The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act in 2006 gave parents new rights to information and involvement at school, local and national level. Then came Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) , with its focus on children and emphasis on partnership-working.
We parents have increased expectations of being informed and included. Communication and parental involvement in schools have improved and the tide has been turning, although not always at the same pace for everyone.
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There is a growing acceptance that education belongs to everyone and that the best outcomes for children depend upon us working together. The National Parent Forum (NPF) of Scotland, comprised of a volunteer parent representative from each local authority, has been at the heart of these changes for the past five years.
Relationship-building and communication are the key to effective parental engagement.
We try to join the dots, so that children and young people remain the focus of education and don't fall through the net of poor communication between home and school, between education sectors or between local and national policy-makers.
During the roll-out of CfE and the new National qualifications, we have listened to the concerns and interests of parents, articulating these to the Scottish Government, Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
We have campaigned for clear and accessible information for parents, pushing hard when we felt parents were not being given the opportunity to have their views taken on board or when answers were needed to questions such as:
l Why do we need change?
l What are the Nationals all about?
l Are they rigorous enough?
l How will my child benefit?
Creating opportunities for parents to ask questions is important. Last year, the NPF organised regional Q&A sessions for parents on the new qualifications. We recently launched our parent leaflets on the Nationals.
Dumbarton Academy parents of third and fourth year pupils parents were invited to find out more about the new qualifications, put questions and share information with school staff and representatives from Education Scotland, the Scottish Government, BBC Learning and Scholar. Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, took part.
These discussions enabled everyone to be open and transparent, to look together at the challenges and opportunities of the first year of the Nationals.
Parents learned more about the issues facing teachers, and teachers learned more about how they could reassure parents that their children were progressing well and coping with the changes.
This is the type of partnership that we believe can benefit everyone.
In direct response to parents' questions came "Nationals in a Nutshell", our series of summaries of the new qualifications. Written by parents, for parents, they attempt to demystify Nationals. A number of our NPF representatives have fourth year children: we are riding the wave too.
However, we are clear that the adult focus has to be on young people. Our children's hard work must not be discredited by the process of change; nor must their good faith be broken.
The NPF will keep pushing at the education door, because it can open wider still, until Scottish education meets the needs of all of our children and young people.
Communication built around children and young people will ensure they know we care about them and that their school lives matter to us.
CfE affirms that education ultimately belongs to our children and young people: it will determine their life chances and their futures.
It is crucial that we work together to ensure that their voices are heard.