Spuds 8p off - PTA meeting 8pm

A comprehensive finds the way to talk to parents is at Kwik Save, says Mark Rowe
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The Independent Online
A SCHOOL is broadcasting messages in supermarkets in an effort to improve relations between teachers, pupils and parents.

As well as announcing price cuts for vegetables, two supermarkets are reminding shoppers of parent-teacher meetings and community projects at the local comprehensive.

The scheme, started by Sir Henry Cooper's comprehensive in Hull, has been "phenomenally successful", said the head teacher, David Bird. "It worked so well we were taken aback at the parent-teacher meeting last week. About 70 per cent of the parents we targeted came along."

The announcements, broadcast in Kwik Save and Tesco on Hull's Orchard Park estate, were prompted by poor turnouts at parent-teacher meetings.

"We are an urban comprehensive facing a lot of the issues that urban comprehensives face," said Mr Bird. The school has one of the worst truancy records in the country. Many parents are on income support and about 60 per cent of the school's 907 pupils are entitled to free meals.

"This is a small part of a community programme," said Mr Bird. "A lot of parents either don't value education, find it difficult to come to meetings or feel insecure about going into a school. It is an understatement to say that if parents have no interest in the school, that affects the attitude of the children.

"Letters sent home by pupil post don't always reach the parents. We know that a lot of the parents will be in the local supermarkets at some point of the day, so this is one of the most effective ways to contact them."

The messages are broadcast every hour. Last week they reminded parents to attend the once-a-term parent-teacher meeting - noting that refreshments were included. "We haven't cracked the problem. There is still a hard core that will not come along," said Mr Bird.

Other broadcasts have given dates for community meetings, and the school may use the system to give examination dates so that parents avoid booking holidays during the exam period.

Garry Shipman, assistant manager of Kwik Save, drew up the 30-second announcement. "Shoppers are used to the old wallpaper music and ads for veg. It certainly turned a few heads."

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