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Parent Engagement: Beyond Instrumentalisation

Haines Lyon, Charlotte ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8341-744X (2017) Parent Engagement: Beyond Instrumentalisation. In: Eurpean Research Network About Parents in Education, 5th -7th July 2017, Roehampton University London. (Unpublished)

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The neoliberalisation of education policy has led to the valorisation of particular parents and the consequential demonisation of others. Whether it is through apparent grading of parents (Ough T 2016), or encouraging northern parents to become as pushy as their southern counterparts (Saner 2016), it can be seen that the current educational discourse has individualised, responsibilised and residualised parents. This has had the effect of sidelining parents’ voices; voices are only heard with regard to their child’s progress, rather than the wider educational public sphere.

My doctoral research, a Participatory Action Research project, with elements of discourse analysis, has involved working with parents in a Yorkshire primary school to co-deconstruct concepts of parental engagement. The project particularly addressed the role of parents promulgated by OFSTED (2013) and the Government in closing the attainment gap between the poorest children and their peers. For example, participants deconstructed what it meant to support their child’s education and the notion of ‘disadvantaged’ parents.

Through this deconstruction, it was found that ‘knowing’ staff and the consequent relationships are
more important to parents than more traditional instrumentalist parental engagement initiatives.
Furthermore, far from the initial aim to maintain harmonious relationships, dissensus became widely
valued by the participants and the headteacher. The culmination of the project was an articulation of
parental engagement that is both relational and dissensual; a counter to the current instrumentalist,
individualist discourse.

This paper will explore how these conclusions were drawn and then argue that it is vital not to reduce parental engagement to an instrument for children’s attainment, or indeed social mobility. Rather, a relational, dissensual approach to parent engagement is essential to the democratic life of the school.

OFSTED (2013a) Unseen Children, HMCIs Speech 20 June 2013, London, Department for Education

OFSTED (2013b) Unseen Children: Access and Achievement 20 years on Evidence Report, London, Department for Education.

Ough T. (2016) School grades its parents on their support of children's education. [Internet] available
from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/12/02/school-grades-parents-support-childrenseducation/
[accessed 11/12/2016]

Saner E. (2016) Want to help your northern child? Become a pushy southern parent. [Internet] available
from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/shortcuts/2016/dec/05/want-help-northern-childbecome-
pushy-southern-parent [accessed 16/12/2016]

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/2361

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