Study shows parents and teachers must talk

July 2, 1999

Requests from a school for parents to attend a meeting with the teacher must be the nearest a teenager gets to a harbinger of doom.

So the news that researchers have recommended that such meetings should take place on a regular basis will be met with wails of despair from the majority of the adolescent population.

However, a pilot study of the attitudes of Caribbean heritage parents towards their children's education has shown that schools can benefit from the role that parents play.

The Economic and Social Research Council-funded research was carried out by Kamala Nehaul, from the Centre for Caribbean Academic Achievement, and Peter Figueroa of Southampton University. Data was collected from classroom studies and interviews with parents, pupils and teachers from three schools in the same authority.

It revealed that black British parents went to great lengths to encourage their children to read, often despite financial difficulties. Such parental support came in response to the poorer academic performances by pupils from Caribbean backgrounds.

Face-to-face contact between parents and teachers was usually for negative reasons. "One parent summed it up when she said that there was 'plenty of communication for bad behaviour but not much for good behaviour'," the researchers said.

Schools can maximise performance if they make full use of parental partnerships. "We believe they need to listen to black parents more and capitalise on this untapped well of parental interest and support."

Dr Figueroa hopes that the research will help teachers wanting to build home-school partnerships. But he adds: "It also needs to be retried a local education authority level and nationally because schools are under such pressure."

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