‘Class acts’: Home–school involvement and working-class parents in the UK
Partnership between parents and teachers has become enshrined in UK educational policy (DES 1985, 1986, 1988; DfES 2005). Parents are increasingly encouraged to become not only consumers within education but also ‘active partners in the production of educated children’ (McNamara et al. 2000: 474). The 1985 White Paper ‘Better Schools’ emphasised the importance of home-school links, arguing that schools could be more effective if they could rely on the cooperation and support of parents in the pursuit of shared objectives, and urged that schools should explain their aims and policies to parents and associate parents with their work. Three years later the 1988 Education Reform Act promised parents much more information, through league tables, about the performance of schools and individual pupils. The Conservative government’s aim with these changes was to produce better educational standards, based upon individual parents’ demands (David 1993). Parents were to be encouraged to become consumers within education. A further aspect of this consumer orientation lay in the promotion of parental choice. Parents were to be allowed to choose the best school to suit their children’s educational needs. The reality, however, has been somewhat different to the policy rhetoric. Since the inception of the policy there has been a growing body of reseach which demonstrates that educational markets are classand race-biased (Ball 2003; Crozier 2005). ‘Parents seem to make choices on the basis of the perceived class and, in some instances, racial composition of schools’ (Gewirtz et al. 1995: 184).