Are Parents Who Choose Private, Independent Schools Taking a Risk?

United Kingdom Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has criticized Education Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship free school policy, which he says allows unqualified teachers to set up and run schools — and he wants parents to know that they take a risk when they send kids to private schools.

Clegg said that parents who send their children to private schools are “taking a chance” with their education, writes Matthew Holehouse of The Telegraph. He wants free schools to hire qualified teachers.

“If you pay your fees you take your chances. The idea that in the schools system, for which governments are responsible supported by all taxpayers – which is far, far bigger than the smaller number of schools, where parents pay the fees and take their chances, that you don’t have a duty of care – that we don’t a duty of care towards parents and children with some basic standards, I cannot for the life of me understand,” Mr. Clegg said in an interview.

Education Secretary Gove said free schools headteachers should be given the freedom to employ untrained teachers in the same way private schools “hire the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils.”

The teaching unions also annoyed with Gove’s policy. They regard it as a cost-cutting measure that will harm children’s education.

The role of parents in UK education is coming under more scrutiny, as a new report found that schools in Wales need to involve parents in their children’s education to help raise attainment and narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers, according to Gareth Evans of Wales Online.

The Inquiry into Family Learning, sponsored by adult learning champion NIACE, found that all parents want to help their children – but they don’t always know how. The report said that taking part in family learning develops the skills of parents as well as children.

According to the report, family learning should be integral to future adult learning and skills strategies to help boost economic growth.

The report explores how family learning interventions could support the most vulnerable and at-risk families, giving them the resources they need to make the most of the opportunities available to them.

Baroness Valerie Howarth, a respected champion of family issues and chairwoman of the inquiry, said “evidence shows that family learning could increase the overall level of children’s development by as much as 15 percentage points for those from disadvantaged groups.

“Family learning has multiple positive outcomes for adults and children, for families and communities. It could, in one generation, change the lives of a whole generation. We would be foolish to miss such an opportunity.”

The report outlines six recommendations aimed at addressing specific issues within Wales. Family learning should be integral to school strategies to raise children’s attainment and it should be a key element of adult learning and skills strategies, the report recommends, and that every child should have the right to be part of a learning family.

According to the research, public bodies should target support where it is needed most and called on government departments to include family learning in their policies and regularly review the funding for and supply of family learning against potential demand.

The report also that there should be a joint national forum for family learning in England and Wales to support high quality, innovative practice, appropriate policy and advocacy, research and development.