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Schools: give parents a break and stop the annual Comic Relief and World Book Day costume drama

PUBLISHED: 11:44 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:44 08 March 2019

A cracking effort at Howard Junior School in King's Lynn. But Steven Downes thinks it's time to drop the costume dramas      Photo: Victoria Pertusa

A cracking effort at Howard Junior School in King's Lynn. But Steven Downes thinks it's time to drop the costume dramas Photo: Victoria Pertusa

Archant 2019

I have a friend who is bringing up two daughters on her own, while also working, shopping, and dealing with all of the daily dramas of family life.

Like so many parents, she gets to relax when the children are in bed - by which time she is so tired that all she can do is sleep in preparation for the next day on the hamster wheel.

She is a dedicated and caring mum, but she loathes the additional pressure that is put on her and other parents by schools.

The worst of it is the all-too-regular “dressing up day”.

This week it was World Book Day: an excellent idea that encourages children to read. But it also applies passive-aggressive pressure on parents, to come up with a spiffing costume for their child to wear for the day.

Do schools have any idea how hard it is for parents on a day-to-day basis? And do they realise that they are adding unnecessary pressure - and even pushing some mums and dads to the edge of a breakdown?

Here is just a taste of the menu of demands that parents and carers face from schools:

■ Monitor your child’s homework progress online

■ Ensure their dinner money account is regularly topped up (yes, I did say “dinner money account”. Apparently it’s no longer de rigueur to give little Tarquin a few coins to buy his tapioca pudding and chips)

■ Hand over £1 for non-uniform day

■ Buy a red nose and make a silly costume for Comic Relief (oh, and give £1, or be judged by the playground mafia)

■ Factor in parents’ evenings, school plays, consultations, sports days and recitals

■ Dig deep for school trips - which, of course, you don’t have to pay for. But you also don’t want to be the one who is seen to need handouts.

It’s not possible to opt out of any of this. For if you take a stand, your child will suffer for being the only one wearing uniform when everybody else is dressed as Harry Potter or Hermione.

You’ll be persona non grata to the parents and simply hated by your youngster. So, you’re damned tired if you do, damned if you don’t.

I think schools need to treat parents with the same care that they generally do the pupils.

Life is high-pressure and can be super stressful, so they should think twice before sending out a letter for the latest dress-up, dress-down, bring-a-quid or show-and-tell.

It is making parents and carers ill, which isn’t likely to help the children.

In Norfolk, one school swerved the traditional World Book Day costume drama and invited children to come to school in their pyjamas. So, no less fun for the children, but much less stress for mum and dad.

I’d like to see a return to the more straightforward school days that I can remember.

The parents’ job then was to get you out of bed and into your uniform, give you a pack-up or your dinner money, then kick you out of the door.

Apart from the odd parents’ evening and a school footie match to attend, the only other role was to nag about homework - futile, of course.

There was a nice strong line in the sand between the school and the parents: one educated (up to a point), the other parented (up to a point).

Now, the demands are unbearable in both directions.

Pushy parents over-analyse the schools and make teachers’ lives a misery if something is perceived to be wrong. Meanwhile, the schools over-compensate by putting too much on the parents.

It’s time for everybody to chill out.

They could start on Friday March 15 by ignoring Red Nose Day, which has never been funny for hard-pressed parents.

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