Balls puts parent power at heart of schools blueprint

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The Independent Online

Parents will be guaranteed the chance to play a central role in their children's schools, according to a 10-year education blueprint published by the Government today.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, will make a new "partnership with parents" a central plank of his Children's Plan. He will concede that secondary schools in particular need to do much more to keep mothers and fathers informed about their children's progress and to involve them in their schools.

Under the plan, parents will be contacted by a staff member at secondary school before their child starts and be able to attend information sessions. It will also mean every child having a personal tutor who acts as a main contact for parents; regular information for parents about their child's attendance, behaviour and progress in learning; and "parents' councils" ensuring that parents' voices are heard within the school and that complaints will be managed in a "straightforward and open way". The number of school-based parent support advisers will be increased; a personal progress record or "red book" on each child's development from early years to primary school will be introduced, and a new parents' panel will be able to represent their views to the Government.

The blueprint will say schools should become "a vital community resource". New services that could be located in them include child and adolescent mental health and speech and language therapists so that children would not have to travel for support. Social services could provide counselling and support for parents and young people in schools.

It would also mean Sure Start centres and nurseries working more closely with primary schools to ease the transition into formal education, and the expansion of pre-school education to include free nurseries for children from the poorest families from as young as two.

Mr Balls told the End Child Poverty group yesterday: "The Children's Plan will set out what we can do to get excellent individual services Sure Start centres and midwives, schools and GPs, youth centres and youth offending teams working together with parents and services co-located in schools to spot problems early, tackle barriers to learning and then act effectively. That is our vision for schools in the 21st century and 21st century children's services, to make England the best place to be a child." The document will also say that pre- and after-school activities should become the norm.