LBO Feb 2018
January is Annual Survey time. We survey staff and students and the views of these key stake-holders are of course important. But I confess to finding the views of parents even more revealing.
This year more parents than ever chose to respond to the invitation which is a good thing because the greater the response, the more representative the views expressed are likely to be. Surveys notoriously attract responses from the ardent enthusiast and the most pessimistic cynic and their views count of course. But I am most interested in the generality of parental opinion on a whole range of questions. These views are gathered anonymously, collated into some meaningful shape and fed back.
A common source of tension has traditionally been homework with views often polarised between some who think it a good thing but want more and those who do not like it and want less. This is an argument no school will ever settle.
But this year I detect a definite hardening of view among those who disapprove of homework. While still small in number there are more comments along the lines of “children work hard in school so give them a break at home” and more suggesting that homework puts pressure on children and that this may be having an impact on well-being and mental health.
The anonymous nature of the survey is both its strength and its weakness. I believe respondents provide their opinions in good faith and honestly, encouraged by anonymity to say it as they see it. This is what we should want. But it can be frustrating not to be able to respond directly to clarify a misunderstanding or correct an untruth.
The section of the survey I most enjoy is undoubtedly reading the suggestions for “what single thing would most improve the school”. This attracts comments such as “sort out the sea-gulls”, a reference to the occasional bird swooping around after school break time hoping for a tasty morsel, and “let boys wear skirts”, no doubt picking up on a recent national news story.
Whatever the individual contributions, collectively the responses provide invaluable feedback that is taken seriously and on many occasions has been acted upon and in ways that students and parents would recognise. If you are a sea-gull, watch out.