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Schools: Parents

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 5 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of levels of accountability of schools to (a) parents and (b) students since 1997. (253306)

Schools are accountable to the taxpayer, to parents and to pupils— both for their overall performance and for the outcomes of individual pupils.

The introduction of the New Relationship with Schools (NRwS) in 2004 brought about major changes to the school accountability framework, in order to make it more coherent and evidence-based. All schools now have a school improvement partner to help evaluate the school’s performance and identify priorities for improvement, and there is a greater emphasis on school self-evaluation and building schools’ capacity to drive their own improvement. The School Profile was also introduced to communicate with parents about each school’s progress, priorities and performance. Building on the NRwS, we now plan to make the accountability system even more coherent and better able to recognise the full range of each school’s achievements.

For example, school performance data are currently available to the public through the Achievement and Attainment Tables. However, we think there is scope for a wider range of information on schools’ performance to be reported in a clearer and more powerful way, so it can be more easily used by governors, parents and the public. In December, we launched a consultation on 21st Century Schools and the school report card. The school report card will set out a range of outcomes for which schools will be held to account and provide an indication of the degree of challenge faced by each school. The consultation will be followed by a White Paper in the spring and further consultation on the detail of the school report card indicators.

Parents and pupils also need to be able to hold schools to account for the outcomes they deliver for individual children. Schools must report individual children’s performance to parents and pupils at the end of the year, and many schools are now reporting pupils’ progress to parents on a more regular basis. We are supporting the development of teachers’ skills in pupil tracking through the Assessment for Learning Strategy, launched in May 2008 and underpinned by £150 million. We also expect that by 2010, all secondary schools will report online to parents on pupils’ attendance, behaviour, special educational needs and achievement, and that all primary and special schools will do so by 2012.

All schools are also required to have home school agreements, containing commitments made by the school and parents to support children’s education and well-being. In the children’s plan one year on progress report, we outlined a new approach to improving parents’ engagement and committed to review school reporting regulations and home school agreements and will shortly be consulting publicly on possible changes.

The inspection system gathers pupils’ and parents’ views about individual schools and assesses the extent to which parents are involved in their children’s learning and development. In April 2007 new powers were introduced to enable Ofsted to investigate complaints from parents about their children’s schools. These allow parents to raise concerns about systemic matters relating to a school which Ofsted can investigate. If the matter is of serious concern, this can lead to the immediate inspection of a school.