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How Can I Get Involved In My Child's Secondary School?

If your child has been through the school system at primary level, you may be surprised at the different level of opportunity for involvement in secondary school. Most likely, you will no longer be taking your child to school every day so there isn't a ready-made opportunity to meet with other parents and to talk to teachers. It's also quite possible that your child will want to assert his/her independence and won't want you around the school. Whatever the reason, it's just as important as it ever was - possibly more so - to be sure that you know what's going on in the school.

School events

Secondary schools are likely to have concerts or special events, particularly at times of religious festivals or during Black History Month in October. At these times, in particular, the school might welcome your contribution. You may also want to attend any prize-giving evenings, especially if your child is receiving an award.

Some schools also hold meetings for parents to explain or discuss academic matters or proposed changes to school policy. These may be opportunities to have your opinion listened to and to hear what other parents think as well.

In addition, if the school has a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), it might organise a welcoming event for new parents and will have regular meetings during the year.

Try to find the time to attend parents' evenings. These are opportunities to talk to your child's teachers - and, unlike in primary school, there are not likely to be many of them. If you're given a report in advance, read it carefully and work out which teachers it's most important to see and what questions you want to ask. You can ask staff for advice on how you can help with any difficulties that your child might have.

Your child's school will also be inspected regularly by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) and at that time you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire giving your opinions, concerns or praise for the school. Again, this is a good opportunity to have your voice heard.

Children often forget to bring home letters and invitations from school. It's worth regularly checking the school website and keeping in touch with other parents.

Home-school agreements

It is likely that you will be asked to sign a home-school agreement that lays out what you can expect from the school and what they, in turn, can expect from you. It is not legally binding and you do not have to sign it, but do read it carefully to understand what the school believes are your responsibilities. Home-school agreements should be reviewed from time to time and parents should be consulted before changes are made.

What can I do to help in school?

You might consider getting involved in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and attending meetings to keep informed about what's happening in the school and any changes that are proposed. The PTA might also be involved in fund-raising and you can offer any skills or expertise that you have.

The board of governors of each school will have a parent governor and the opportunity might arise for you to put your name forward. Parent governors are chosen by election. You will probably need to put in writing your ideas about how the school might be improved and what contribution you think you could make to the school and why other parents should vote for you. You can try talking to previous governors or the retiring governor about what's expected. You could also ask to shadow a current governor.Being a governor may not be easy; a commitment of time is needed and some parent governors from Black and Minority Ethnic groups report that they feel isolated, ignored or sidelined. However, the rewards may be great for you and your child, particularly if you can get support from other parents or groups.