Parents happy to confide in their children’s teachers

Irish parents have better communication with their children’s teachers than in other countries, but are among the least-involved in the running of schools.

The findings emerge from surveys of parents and schools, administered in tandem with testing of 15-year-olds in reading, maths, and science across more than 50 countries.

As well as testing more than 5,700 Irish students at 167 schools in 2015, the Organisation for Economic and Development (OECD) conducted surveys with their parents and principals.

Asked how many school staff they would feel comfortable bringing a question about their children to, the average response of Irish parents was 4.6. Across 16 countries where the question was asked, the average was 3.3.

Parents here are also likely to know more of their children’s friends, and their parents, than those in other countries.

The average Irish parent knows six of their children’s school-friends’ names, compared to an average of just over five in other countries.

They know the parents of five school pals, compared to just three or less among parents in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

Although parents of children at disadvantaged schools in most countries are likely to have fewer social acquaintances with school staff, friends, or their parents, the gap in Ireland is one of the narrowest.

The OECD report said the relationships established by parents with students, staff and other parents are an essential element of a collaborative school.

“Building solid parent-teacher relationships is certainly important for student behaviour, but the relationships that parents build with their child’s friends and their parents can be even more important,” says the report.

“When parents know each other... they can develop consistent norms and guide the behaviour of their children more easily.”

Despite strong direct involvement in their children’s education, Irish parents are among the least-involved in the running of schools.

Second-level principals in 55 countries were asked what proportion of parents participate in local school government, and the average is less than one-in-five (18%).

However, responses from Irish principals returned an average of just 11%, although 99% of principals said their schools involve parents in decision-making, much higher than the OECD average of 77%.

While the level of involvement in running schools was nearly three times that of UK parents, and higher than the 8% in the much-vaunted Finnish education system, it compares poorly to one-third or more of parents in countries including Brazil, South Korea, and parts of China.

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