Are we unnecessarily alienating parents?
I am accused of not knowing what’s best for my children, my family! People who are not part of my family, do not even know my family, judge me and find me guilty! The joys of my children attending primary school is quickly turning sour, a nightmare, for I am no criminal, have never been one, I will in the interest of honesty admit to one parking fine, and have now got to either hand over the money or spend countless hours fighting for what I believe to be just! I should spend that time with my children, supporting their education, playing with them, loving them, doing what all good parents do best! So the only crime I believe to be committing is standing up for my little world, saying enough is enough!
Each case is unique. It involves a unique family and a unique set of circumstances. These are families that we would like to, NO, expect to support their children’s education, their schools. Family support is the foundation of a healthy upbringing and its importance needs to be acknowledged. Where parent support is not given children do not fare as well academically. But surely parents should not merely have the responsibility but also the right to be involved in their children’s education, their future, their personal well-being, whatever that may be? Shouldn’t education thus be a partnership of equals, where families feel supported and trusted, their voices are heard not silenced? If cases are not considered on their individual basis where is the trust in this? Am I not a lot more likely to call my child in sick next time an important family event takes place? But no, SUCCESS, for that will not show up as unauthorised absence and the school can pride itself on reducing those!! Statistics and political policies matter, we don’t! Fining somebody is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, a power so easily abused, at times seemingly regardless to the effect it has on parents, families and ultimately their children. And who’s to blame for the situation we’re in now? The head teachers, for being given the ultimate power to say ‘I will not authorise this’? The Education Welfare Services who assist, advise and support them? The Local Education Authorities who opt for fining parents? Or is it the government’s fault for giving all of the above the power to do as they please? Pass the parcel of a different kind!
What are they even trying to achieve with these Penalty Notices? Even the NUT has been quoted as saying they don’t address the issue of persistent truancy and parents are not given an independent appeal. You can fight a parking fine but you can’t get away from this! Whether or not you personally agree with parents taking their children on holiday during term time this has clearly gone far beyond that and serious questions need to be addressed. Just for the record: I did not take my children on holiday, but that is irrelevant to any of this for we are all in the same boat and no, I will not pay the fine, not because I refuse to but because I believe in the democratic right to appeal, however I did not appeal my parking fine!
Signed: Karin Siemund (a mother, a responsible parent, a teacher).