Parental participation in primary education
This thesis is a qualitative study of the power relations structuring interactions between parents and teachers in one inner London borough. The first three chapters consider the theories and practice of participation and the extent of its realisation in education. Individual parental involvement is seen as the accepted way for parents to intervene in their child's education; this tendency is heightened by the current New Right emphasis on the 'parent-asconsumer'. Such individual parental incursions can only have a limited effect upon the imbalance of power that defines relationships between teachers and working class parents. However opportunities for collective parental participation are found to be restricted. Chapters five to nine contain case studies of two primary schools, a home-school co-ordinators' project and a parents' centre. The ethnographic chapters use fieldwork data, gathered mainly through semi-structured interviews to illustrate the effects of social class, ethnicity and gender; firstly, on individual teacher-parent-officer relations, and secondly, on allowing access to school and LEA decisionmaking fora. These chapters illustrate the arguments of the earlier theoretical chapters, by showing how teachers as individuals and schools as institutions allow particular types of individual parental involvement whilst limiting opportunities for collective parental participation. The concluding chapter applies these findings to the theoretical arguments outlined in chapters one to three. It argues that allowing parents a role as participant would profoundly alter their relationship with the education system. Such a role - resulting in increased lay participation in a welfare state institution - is seen as an integral part of citizenship in a fully participative democracy.