Sir Anthony Seldon, the outgoing headmaster of Wellington College, has claimed that too many parents are "clueless narcissists". Our view is that Sir Anthony is misguided with one or two exceptions for these five key reasons:
1) The relationship between parents and schools is already strained, why intensify it?
My own two kids are currently in nursery, and this strained relationship starts within the first year. At my daughter's nursery only those who fully agree with the head no matter what she says enjoy a good relationship with the school. I've known other parents have to go on demonstrations to support headteachers' causes. And meanwhile the extent of parents' moving kids in and out of schools only increases.
Blaming the other side is only going to intensify this strain.
2) Parents cannot totally rely on teachers and heads' experience, which sometimes masks their own agenda.
I have seen teachers and heads authoritatively advise parents about pupils' ability, subsequent schooling, and how a child should be helped all under the guise of experience. That is fine, if it is really the experience and wisdom of teachers that are driving these judgments.
But some heads and teachers are actually driven by commercial considerations, pressure for school places, and make quick judgments taken without proper observation.
3) Schools' culture and ethos is sometimes valued to the exclusion of the individual child.
For example some schools interview the parents of children, to ensure they "fit in" with the school ethos. This ethos is then handed down to the children via Pastoral sessions. In these environments parents sometimes do not even get a look in, never mind the opportunity to be narcissistic.
I'm not saying a strong ethos is not valuable for children, in terms of giving guidance, but as with all these points, there are more than a few cases where it becomes extreme.
4) What about the kids?
In this atmosphere of mistrust between parents and schools, only fuelled by Sir Anthony's comments, it is the child who ultimately loses out sitting between pushy parents and teachers with their own agendas.
5) Concession - Parental pressure
There is of course an element of Sir Anthony's argument which rings true and it's the unnecessary parental pressure that encourages children into career paths that they neither are interested in or have the capability for. This is a shame....some pressure is fine but we say pushy parents push off!
What do you think? How do we start a more constructive dialogue between parents and schools?