'I wouldn't like my mum in the class'

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The Independent Online
"I would have liked my mum to come and help at my primary school - but not at secondary school because I'd be embarrassed," says Vicki, in her first year at Deptford Green comprehensive in Lewisham, south London.

Justine, her classmate, agrees: "If we had parents helping in our class, they'd be saying, 'Do your work neater' and they'd be hassling you. The teacher just tells you to get on with your work. If it was my mum, she'd want to come and have lunch with me and be in the playground with me, and I wouldn't like it."

Although many of the pupils come from primary schools where it is quite usual for parents to help with reading or on trips, Deptford Green has not yet been able to sustain parental involvement. Three years ago, five parents were regular helpers, listening to the 11 and 12-year-olds read and running a lunchtime reading club. This number has dwindled to two.

"I keep on asking for volunteers in our newsletters, but we don't get a great response," says Keith Ajegbo, the head teacher. "If we could have more help from parents, it would be wonderful."

Some of these first-year pupils are clearly uncomfortable with the idea. "I like to be by myself and do my work. If my mum was here, she'd keep smiling at me and waving," says Adam.

Vicki has asked her parents if they could come in, but they have said no because they both work. "They come in for parents evenings, but they don't know very much about the school. My mum doesn't think it's a good school; but if she came in regularly, she would find out that it is a good school."