Parent – School Relationships

When the relationship between a school and parents is strong and healthy it can have very positive impact on the development, learning and success of the children. However, it’s a relationship that can be fraught with difficulties and sometimes appears near impossible to get right. Sometimes, there can be very different views about where ‘the line in the sand’ should be drawn when it comes to what is or isn’t school’s business.

Here’s a classic case – a news story from Scotland I spotted a couple of days ago: Deadline News Article – Scottish School

A couple of years ago we saw a tragic story play out in a prominent Delhi school. A Senior School student, a known asthma sufferer died as a result of an asthma attack that took place at school. At the time the vast majority of press comment was condemnatory of the school and its management for failure to save the girl and for lack of adequate precautions. Matters were taken to the courts and rulings given that declared every Delhi school would be obliged to have a doctor. There was great ‘outrage’ and anger directed at schools and their management in general.

I write this as a person who lives with asthma myself for both me and my son. Right now, he’s out playing with his friends and I haven’t seen him for over an hour. There is no doctor or nurse accompanying him and he is probably not within 1 minute of a nebulizer or an oxygen cylinder. Does that mean that I’m an irresponsible parent? Does it mean that I have a lesser duty of care towards my own child on a Sunday afternoon than I have towards other people’s children at 1.15am on a Wednesday morning?

The argument about ‘a doctor in every school’ was an interesting one. Doctors make good money in India. Schools cannot pay good money. Therefore, what kind of doctors would schools get, especially in the kinds of numbers for each and every school to have one? What about days when the doctor is off work, for any reason? I’m afraid people in ‘high position’ make themselves look rather foolish when they hand down such orders.

I have also been mystified over the last few weeks to open my daily paper and see the latest figures for deaths and hospitalizations due to swine flu/ H1N1 virus. While the newspapers are reporting and the figures are not insignificant I cannot help but contrast the current seemingly total disinterest in either the disease, it’s implications or the advisories on precautions with the mass hysteria that confronted us just a couple of years ago on the same issue. Then, I and my colleagues in education were besieged almost day and night, accused by journalists and parents of insensitivity, callousness and being uncaring for children because we dared to open our schools and refused to join in with mass hysteria. That can be contrasted with the struggle I know a School Head had this week to explain to a parent why she shouldn’t have sent her child with flu symptoms to school.

Schools, like many Institutions are a meeting point between individual and collective rights and duties. In an age when there can be a tendency to seek to defend individual rights far more speedily, schools and those who lead them increasingly find themselves with the thankless task of seeking to raise a voice for the interests and rights of all (including where they are dependent on duties of individuals) that people are less and less willing to acknowledge,


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