Leading Article: Drive with care

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The Independent Online

The Government's drive to persuade fathers to take a more active role in their children's education has to be welcomed. Boys, particularly from single-parent families where the sole adult is female and there are no male teachers in their primary school, would especially benefit from having an adult role model taking an interest in their education – a fact which is borne out by academic research into their attainment.

The drive includes reviewing school record regulations, placing a stronger obligation on schools to consult with all interested parties over their pupils' education – a move that may be trickier than it seems. Some schools already have a good record on contact with non-resident parents – mainly fathers. Others, for quite understandable reasons, namely family tensions, skirt around the issue. Those that are praised for good practice avoid contact with an absent parent where there is a history of violence in the family, for instance.

It may be that the spreading of good practice is the key to unlocking the potential of this government drive rather than hard and fast regulations over what a school's responsibilities are. A school may suppose it is under an obligation to make contact and err in that direction unless the regulations themselves also spell out when they should not make contact.

It should be stressed that the drive aims to encourage all fathers – non-resident or not – to take a more active interest in their children's education and, as such, we wish the Government well in its endeavours. However, we would ask that ministers take the caveats we have outlined into account before taking action aimed at fathers who are not resident in the home.

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