Twenty one years of my teaching career were spent in two large comprehensive schools on estates in Hull, the last 9 years as a deputy head. During this time I initiated work that attracted national publicity. It was to do with finding ways to give parents more opportunities to be involved directly in the life of the school. By directly I mean assisting in the classroom, being part of a policy-making group, having the opportunity to define what parents saw as their needs in relation to their children's education, involvement in workshops for pupils with special needs etc. This programme proved very successful in developing a greater shared understanding of the school experience.
To find out what parents generally felt about the school we sent out a simple questionnaire with two questions: 'What do you think our school does well?' and 'What do you think our school could do better?' The response was overwhelmingly positive, but also led to some helpful changes being made.
Ultimately this was about improving the experience of students and there is no doubt that this was done. But it was also about making the school into a place within the community where people felt respected and valued and came to recognise the contribution they could make. This was something that became almost transformative for some parents as they came to understand that they had skills to offer, not just to their own children, but to others in the school.
I believe this is how local schools can be most effective. We can't transform society or the particular circumstances of our students, but we can show how working together is good for everyone when this is carefully and sensitively planned and developed.
The school has now closed and has recently reopened as an academy in a new building.