Raising your parent voice
What is parent voice?
A parent voice means having a say in the decisions surrounding your child’s education, and the outcomes that can be expected. It means having the right to information, an opinion and most importantly a respected role in the educational experience of your child.
Long gone are the days when parents weren’t welcome in the classroom (literally or metaphorically). Today, schools want parents to work alongside them to help young people get the education they deserve. The more positive, respectful and healthy the relationship schools have with parents and vice versa, the better outcome for all.
What can parents have a voice on?
Anything and everything. Parents should be participatory in school affairs and schools value their involvement, as it benefits all.
One issue that is particularly significant now is school funding, with the cost of living rising, it’s a very topical concern and over half of parents we surveyed told us they were anxious about the rising cost of sending their child to a state school.
Other issues you might want to have a say on could be:
- Conversion to an Academy
- The curriculum and assessment
- School policies, such as homework, admissions, behaviour and discipline
- Lessons, learning, curriculum and assessment
- Reports and parents’ evenings
- School trips, wrap-around care and lunchtime activities
- Uniform, healthy food and health and safety
Over recent years we’ve seen successful parent and teacher led campaigns, focusing on issues such as SATs, funding cuts and admissions policies. Whatever the issue, we have seen how the parent voice can work and instigate positive change.
Parent voice in Wales
Those based in Wales can also write to their Assembly Member (AM) about most matters to do with education. You can find out which Assembly Member represents you on the Welsh Parliament commonly known as the Senedd Cymru.
Each Wales constituency is represented by one AM, then each of five regions in Wales by a further four AMs. So, each Welsh citizen has five AMs representing them. Education is a devolved matter – that means that control of it has been passed by the UK government in Westminster to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.
The Assembly controls things like:
- the curriculum
- additional learning provision
- teaching standards etc
- And how the budget for education is divided across schools and other educational providers in Wales
The amount of money the Assembly has to spend on education is set by Westminster, though, so you would need to write to your MP rather than AM if you wanted to make a point about the overall levels of education funding in Wales.
Parent voice in Northern Ireland
If you have already complained to your school and Board of Governors, you can contact the Education Authority (EA) or the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS). They may be able to offer advice, or an independent appeal or review. The EA and CCMS are required to set up a procedure for dealing with complaints.
Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO)
The NIPSO will have the power to investigate and report on complaints about maladministration in all publicly funded schools in Northern Ireland.
This means that any pupil or parent who believes that they have been treated unfairly as a result of the actions or decision of a school’s Board or Governors will be able to bring their complaint to the Ombudsman.
Other ways to share your voice
Contact your local paper or radio station
Email the newsroom of your local media station (radio or paper). The contact details will be on their website.
Keep your message fairly brief with the most important points in your first paragraph. Refer to the local issues– i.e. mention your child’s school. Give examples of how the issue you’re concerned about is affecting local people. Human interest is very important to the local media.
So, if you’re writing about school cuts, talk about how your child’s favourite Teaching Assistant has had to leave and how that’s made them feel, or if you’re celebrating a successful parent-led campaign, describe why the success matters to people in the area.
If you’re calling on politicians or the local community to take some action, explain what change you’d like to see, in your school or elsewhere. If you’re celebrating something your school, community or similar has done, perhaps include an invite to others to find out more or take part. It’s a good tactic to be consistent with your communications, rally others to also reach out, so the media outlet feels it’s an issue that is affecting more than one person.
Also, local politicians listen and read local media to keep abreast of local issues. if they see the same issue cropping up again and again, it may make them pay attention.
Use social media
Social media is the bedrock in most of our lives and is a brilliant tool for galvanising support and raising awareness.
When campaigning on social media, it’s best to always be honest, transparent and responsive but considered. Explain what your involvement is in the issue and why it matters to you. Explain what you need and how people can help you. Whilst honesty is essential, always protect your own privacy, don’t post your own address or phone number in the groups, as much as you may feel it is safe to do so.
Many elected representatives such as MPs and Councillors use Twitter, and it can be a useful way to contact them and keep up to date with what they are doing. You can find a list of MPs on Twitter here.
Schools often have their own Facebook pages or groups set up, so posting in these is a great way to engage with audiences who are already invested. Facebook also offers the opportunity to build a (private or public) group specifically focused on your issue. You can signpost it and invite members to join your group. It’s an effective way to send targeted and relevant information to people who are engaged and want to hear more.
Also, you can connect with MPs, charities, businesses and the media by tagging them into your posts or messaging them directly through direct messaging. Many MPs are on Facebook, and you can keep in touch with their work by following their own pages.
This platform gives you the opportunity to build and engage followers through consistent hashtags and arresting images and videos. Set up an account specifically related to your campaign. Some MPs and local councillors use Instagram to communicate, you can engage with them by commenting on their posts or via private messaging.