My second meeting of the day was a joint teacher-parent meeting in Thame Town Hall. This one actually came about because a parent contacted me out of the blue several weeks ago to say local parents were concerned about the white paper and, if they booked a room and invited both parents and teachers, would I come and speak.
We had a useful discussion about the threats posed by the white paper, followed by quite a practical discussion about how to engage parents in joint campaigning with teachers. Key points made by parents in the room were:
- We have to communicate our position effectively without seeming too biased. We are familiar with all the arguments around academisation but we cannot afford to skip these out when we speak to parents, many of whom may not know much about academies or may be ambivalent about their impact.
- We need to ensure that the concerns we raise are immediate, both physically and temporally, rather than talk about abstract or long-term threats. Most parents care about the impact on their child now, not general points of principle.
- We need to ultra-localise our approach. Although I teach about half an hour away, hearing the arguments presented by local teachers (in this case from local primary schools in Thame) is much more powerful. Part of this is about the existing personal relationships between parents and their child's teacher. We need to stop thinking on an Oxfordshire (or even Thame) level and get down to the level of the individual school.
At the end of the meeting, those there agreed to continue to circulate ideas, to get a school-based meeting on the white paper for parents set up at a local primary school, fronted by local teachers, and to work on material for circulation to local parents via social media, school newsletters and other networks.
An evening well spent and I feel very grateful to those parents who organised the meeting andngave up their time to come along (and of course to the teachers too).