One of the things I love about women (and there are many) is the way we introduce interesting people to other like minded friends. My friend Jane is great at this and through her I have met some really fascinating people. Last week she put me in touch with Madeleine Holt (ex Newsnight culture correspondent) to talk about her initiative Meet the Parents.
Knowing I am a passionate advocate of encouraging parents to support local state schools, Jane thought I might be able to help Madeleine promote her scheme.
Madeleine started Meet the Parents in September 2012 at Yerbury state primary school in North London as she was “frustrated at hearing such negative things in the playground about the local secondary schools, but when I spoke to parents whose children were there, they were generally very pleased with how their children were doing. I set up Meet the Parents is to provide a new kind of information service for parents, and ultimately to make the process of choosing a secondary school less burdened with anxiety.”
Anyone who has done the rounds of secondary school open days knows that schools all present a totally positive picture at their events, so Madeleine wanted to create Meet the Parents evenings to enable year 6 parents and children to meet parents and children from their local secondary schools and share their experiences.
Panelists obviously tend to be broadly positive about their choice of school, or they would not be keen to take part. But the events allow prospective parents to ask tough questions – for example about discipline in class or how well children achieve – and get answers from the horse’s mouth. The evenings seem to be particularly helpful if the speakers bring their secondary age children along to join them on the panel.
Keen to roll the scheme out across other London boroughs and beyond, Madeleine’s son currently is in year 6. She was prompted to the set up Meet the Parents after one of his friends told him if he went to the local school he would become a postman!!
Thank God Hackney and Stoke Newington in particular is not at all like that at all, with the majority of parents actively choosing the local school, even if they have the means to go private. The feeling of community across all classes and races is very special and my children have benefited from this enormously. But as house prices rise, I worry that this will change and initiatives like Meet the Parents are vital in order to encourage parents to make choices based on facts, not fiction and by facts I don’t mean league tables.
Education is about so much more that endless hours of homework, mind expanding activities and constant tests and I have never been able to understand many (middle class) parents obsessions with their children being “pushed” and exam results.
When I was a kid, we went to our local school and didn’t consider anything else. Nowadays (probably just in London) estate agents allow you to search properties by school catchment areas and Tatler (?!) magazine recently published a guide to the best state schools – which may as well be private schools, as the house prices in the catchment area are so insane!!
If your children have had a positive experience and good education in a state school, or you are thinking about secondary school choices, please do consider getting involved with Meet the Parents – if nothing else, in order to feel you have heard a honest account of what your local school is like.
Also check out Madeleines dad’s website Slow Education.