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CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION SHOCK AT SCHOOLS BREACH OF INFO LAW

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Parents aren't getting vital information to make key decisions about their children's schools and how they are bein...
Parents aren't getting vital information to make key decisions about their children's schools and how they are being run, the Consumers Association said today.

Many schools simply aren't complying with their legal obligations on providing information through prospectuses and governors' annual reports, according to a new survey of 80 primary and secondary schools in England and Wales.

Just one out of 80 schools contacted by the association - College Town Infant School in Surrey - sent both an annual report and a prospectus which met all the requirements of information under the Parents Charter.

And a staggering 130 out of the 141 documents received didn't meet the legal requirements, reports the Consumers Association in the first series of policy reports tackling aspects of the education debate.

Only one out of 32 secondary school reports, and four out of 30 primary school reports contained all the required information. For instance, the report for one primary school said; 'governors have visited the school on numerous occasions', but failed to give details for the reasons behind the visits or the conclusions.

And the figures were no better for prospectuses - only one secondary school out of 45 and five primary schools out of 35 complied. Four secondary schools and two primary schools sent prospectuses which didn't include about half of the required information.

Variable presentation, a lack of balanced information and all too frequent educational jargon and legalistic language were among the other problems identified in the survey. Confusing or meaningless examples included a reference to 'enrichment activities' (school trips) and a statement. 'we aim to develop the moral dimensions of the students and nourish in them an empathy towards those whose beliefs are different.'

'Our findings are extremely disappointing,' said Philip Cullum, policy manager at Consumers' Association.

'There has been little sign of improvements since we conducted similar research three years ago - non-compliance is widespread. Parents simply aren't being given enough information to help them choose their child's school, and to hold the school's governors to some account.

'The quality of information in prospectuses was much better than that in governors' reports - but there are still problems.

'The best schools managed to sound welcoming - but the worst almost implied that parents were an unavoidable inconvenience, rather than encouraging them to become more involved with their children's education.

He continued: 'Blaming individual schools, their staff or governors is not enough - our results indicate a problem with the current system.

'Local education authorities should take responsibility for keeping tabs on whether prospectuses and governors' annual reports comply with legal requirements.

'There must be more training so head teachers and governors are aware of their legal responsibilities and best practice in all aspects of the reports, particularly content and presentation, should be encouraged. Only a combination of changes will go some way to ensure that parents get the information they need.'

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