Wednesday, March 13, 2013

School is actually rather crap for working parents

Nuclear family is best, with mum doing 'schooly' stuff along with craft group, dad hard at work leaving all that to the missus.

I mean it. I'm just passing on the sustained message we have received from our first year and a bit at school.

Things are never going to be easy, dealing with fairly demanding careers while wanting to be part of our children's education. I have previously posted about the early, obvious challenges such as picking up at 3.30pm, or not, and a general emotional sense of wanting to be more involved. Not all of that can easily be fixed. But over and over I find decisions and planning take place with a stunning lack of self-consciousness about their effect on working parents.

If you are a working parent at our local state primary school, you will:

- Not be invited when a group of parents decide to set up a 'parents' group' and put the meetings on late Friday morning;

- Be left out of parent-teacher interviews, when they get moved to working hours only;

- Be the overt target of industrial action, costing you hundreds of dollars and shitloads of stress as strike days are wedged between 'pupil free days' and you take more work home, start earlier, miss more parenting time to catch up, while families with stay-at-home parents or a reliable granny around the corner plough on relatively unscathed; and

- Know virtually nothing about what goes on in the classrooms, given no information about schedules and no detail at all is sent out by email or other means.

I am feeling quite a strong sense of loss and detachment around schooling. As a public officer I can't fathom such a huge disconnect between a body and a huge slice of its stakeholders. Most of all, while I know not everything can be changed around to suit my way of life I am stunned at the unselfconscious way so much of this is done.

Beloved feels the same way, and it is hard to see how organising such a crucial institution around a 1950s conception of family really helps progress anything other than a very smug, crossed-armed status quo.