Deputy Head's Blog: Parents as Primary Educators

This week’s edition of the TES (Times Educational Supplement) included articles and Social Media posts that present an interesting dichotomy between the responsibility of Teachers and Parents with regard to the personal growth and development of pupils. One of the articles, rather controversially, begins with an opening statement of:

“There's an expectation in our country that teachers will step in where parents have failed in their responsibilities”.

The author goes on to state that “Schools can't cure all of society's ills”, explaining that we have created a national expectation that Schools should fulfil literally dozens of roles that parents, irrespective of social class, have gleefully and irresponsibly abdicated.

The author continues by posing the question of:

“Since when did we communally decide that professionals trained and employed to pass on knowledge and skills to children in classrooms should also offer the kinds of advice and guidance which the fundamental qualities of family life – morality, religion, culture, and national and class identity – inevitably underpin”?

Perhaps more controversially, the author concludes his article by claiming that:

“There have been lots of experiments that remove kids from one school type and put them in another – largely because they make good television. But none dare go as far as to scrutinise the quality of parenting and assert that schools are not, and never should be, substitute parents”.

A more balanced point of view, and the resulting dichotomy, is provided by the second article, which is devoted to promoting how society sees education as being the most important factor in developing the well-rounded global citizens of tomorrow. This notion is developed by an investigation of the appropriateness of the expectation that the teaching of morality should fall to teachers.

The author of this particular article suggests that it appears sensible for Schools to develop moral attitudes and behaviour in their pupils. After all, Schools, and teachers within Schools, are society’s representatives in the development of our children.

The question of whether or not moral development is a School’s role rather than that of the parents, is currently being debated across many countries across the world. It is highly relevant in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), who have now introduced moral education into their curriculum.  

In addition to the two articles, this week’s TES is also littered with excerpts from educational Social Media posts. I reference three of them here:

“The teaching of manners should be, and always will be, parents’ responsibility.”

“Getting fed up with Schools being expected to solve all of society’s problems. At what point do we, as a society, make parents responsible for their own children?”

“Parents should teach manners and teachers should model and reinforce them. Not rocket science.”

So where does my allegiance lie with regard to this particular debate?

My teaching career, in co-educational Boarding Schools has instilled in me the virtues of pastoral care and community living. In Boarding Schools, Pastoral practitioners are acting ‘in loco parentis’ taking on the roles of surrogate parents due to the nature of the School environment. I have always regarded education to be a partnership between home and School.

Catholic School Boarding Education lays a heavy emphasis on the role of the parent, which I feel supports and benefits the pastoral care and subsequent development of the pupils. I have taught in Jesuit and Benedictine Boarding Schools.

The Benedictine philosophy of education is categoric in its expectations of ‘Parents being the Primary Educators.’

Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man” is attributed to the founder of the Jesuit order, St Ignatius Loyola.

Both mantras recognise the important parental contribution in the development of a child, without shying away from the responsibilities of the teachers and pastoral practitioners, reinforcing the importance of the educational partnership between home and School.

‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is a proverb which means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment, adding further credence to the notion of a partnership.

Whilst not a Boarding School, Cransley School is no less of a community. As a day school, this does not diminish my attitude towards the home and School educational partnership. I have no qualms about the responsibilities of Staff in contributing to the personal growth and development of our children, underpinned by the Cransley values that I feel encapsulates the essence of our School.

Add to the mix the expectations of the Regulatory Body responsible for School Inspections of Independent Schools – ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate), who lay a heavy emphasis on a School to deliver an educational experience that serves to contribute to personal growth and development outside the classroom.

The support, loyalty and partnership that exists between Cransley School and parents is impressive. We have a Governing Body consisting of existing and past parents. The Friends of Cransley School are an excellent example of support, loyalty and partnership. We are growing as a School, indicative of an increased number of parents who wish to engage with us on this educational journey and partnership.

Teaching is a wonderfully rewarding, interesting, even uplifting, career, even more so when teachers engage in the pastoral care of our pupils. But compared to successful parenting, is it fair or accurate to describe teaching as being merely a job?