SUNS 76 & 77: ‘SHARING INFORMATION’ and ‘PRIMARY PURPOSE OF SCHOOLS’
These columns were published in the Suns newspapers in January 2015
LITTLE THINGS CAN MEAN A LOT
At the beginning of each school year, it is important to know about or revisit some basic considerations. When taken into account they help to ensure the school year flows smoothly.
* Enrolment forms, once a simple page in length are now many pages long. In order to satisfy all social and legal requirements, it is important that enrolments are completed correctly. Incomplete forms can lead to future confusion and misunderstanding.
* Addresses and phone numbers need to be correct and updated if they change. It is particularly important that emergency contact details are accurate, because contact needs to be immediate if there is an emergency.
* Many schools have developed behaviour management policies requiring parents and students to read and sign an understanding of disciplinary processes and behavioural expectations. During enrolment, a discussion which includes students can help avoid misunderstanding.
* An immunisation history is included as part of enrolment procedures. This allows schools to be aware of students who may have not been immunised for particular communicable diseases. Parents are then informed if there is an outbreak of measles, chicken pox and other notifiable diseases. Phone contact with parents of non-immunised children is usually made, providing the school has that detail.
* While schools have sick bays, they are only for short term use. Parents of children falling ill during the school day are contacted and asked to collect them from school. Sending unwell children to school is unfair on them. They can also become a source of infection for other students and staff.
* Head lice infestations regularly afflict students, particularly those in early childhood and primary years. When schools send notes advising of head live outbreaks, it is wise to check heads at home, treating children if necessary. Students identified with louse infestation at school are generally excluded from classes and parents contacted about the matter.
* Schools have rules regarding use of play equipment and playing time. They are designed to encourage positive and accident free play. If accidents happen, parents are contacted. Most schools have ambulance cover in case children need to be taken to hospital because of broken limbs or similar misadventure.
* Most schools have high quality and regularly updated websites. Consider bookmarking the website of schools children attend as it helps keep up to date with what is happening. Some schools also place their weekly or fortnightly newsletters on the web. It is good policy to check the website at least weekly.
* Notes, newsletters, teacher letters and other information bulletins are sent home from schools quite regularly. Sometimes children forget about delivery. Regular checking of schoolbags can turn up information that would otherwise not be received.
* Be aware of speed restrictions in school zones, which apply from 7.00 am until 5.00 pm each school day. Most schools have short term parking for drop off and pick up of children. Speed and parking rules meet safety and student well-being needs.
* Roads in the vicinity of school become clogged with traffic in the periods before and after school. Driving to speed restrictions and other care including parking, watching for children darting out between cars is necessary.
* Schools in the NT set their own commencement and conclusion times. Arrival of children 15 minutes before the school day commences and collection no more that 15 minutes after the day concludes is ideal. Children arriving too early or leaving school ground too late in the afternoon are not subject to pastoral care and supervision.
Parents who are unsure about school processes and procedures should ask the school for clarification. This is part of ensuring that relationships between school and home are positive and happy.
THE PURPOSE OF SCHOOLING
In our modern times schools, especially primary schools, are supposed to be all things to all people. Parents are increasingly engaged with work commitments extending from early in the morning until quite late in the afternoon. It is small wonder that an increasing number of children spend time before and after school in care programs. Many children are at school by 7.00 o’clock in the morning and do not leave care programs until well after 5.00 o’clock each afternoon. These programs were few and far between until fifteen years ago, but have proliferated since then. Most school councils accept responsibility for Outside School Hours Care (OSHC), providing after school support for children. The number of before school care programs for children are increasing. Children are spending more hours each day in school and care programs than at home.
Preschool now commences for most children at the age of three, with timetables providing for full day rather than half day programs. This has been designed to fit in with parents work.
These key structural and organisational changes have contributed to redefining educational priorities. Pre and primary schools are as much about child care as education. This is added to by the fact that community expectation seems to be that children will be brought up by the combined efforts of parents, teachers and child care workers. That used to be the sole responsibility of parents.
If schools organise pupil free days for professional development, the response from many parents is one of concern because child care for that day changes. Children either stay at home (with work implications for parents) or are booked into all day care with cost increases.
In these modern times, parental responsibilities have in large part been outsourced to secondary caregivers. Governments have reacted to community pressures and endorse institutionalised nurture and care as being a good substitute for parental time and attention. The justification is that parents are so busy working to boost the economy and sustain the home front, that key parenting responsibilities have to be outsourced.
‘Schools are for children’ stated our first Educational Director, Dr Jim Eedle in 1979. Eedle was defining the prime purpose of schooling in an educational sense, taking account of academic and vocational needs. Schools are still for children but expectations have widened to the extent that education is but one element of their charter. The community expects schools and teachers to be involved with the bringing up of children.
Schools and staff play an important part in the development of children. However they can never take the place of parents. Without doubt, parents are THE primary caregivers for their children. That responsibility should never be outsourced to secondary providers and government agencies. Schools can do their bit. However if parents fail their obligations, children will be the losers.