The 11th biennial conference of the European Research Network about Parents in Education was held at the University of Roehampton, South London on 5-7 July 2017 entitled ‘Intensification, constraint and opportunity: changing roles for parents, schools and communities. Addressing equity and diversity issues'. This was the first ERNAPE Conference in at least a decade where parents were not considered important enough to be invited, but after some negotiations we have managed to get a role in the forward looking closing panel that we paid ourselves into.
Member organisations of EPA were also present, there was a strong Nordic participation from Denmark, Finland and Norway and the Irish and Scottish members also made a joint presentation on the ‘Europaisation’ of Joyce Epstein’s Partnership School programme, including the child rights perspective and thus child participation, something that is not an issue in the USA.
Regardless the title most of the presentations were focusing on traditional formal education and subsequently the involvement of parents and communities of school/teacher led and designed schooling. The book of abstracts can be downloaded following this link.
The board of ERNAPE has decided to re-establish relations with EPA and we are yet to see if it will include a role for us in the only regular activity of the network, the biennial conference, but a number of network member researchers are determined to strengthen relations with EPA and to work together on relevant research. As a basis for this new relationship let us share a few ideas by EPA President Eszter Salamon from the closing panel.
‘I believe we live in times when educational inflation will soon cause a crisis. The drastically growing number of home-schooled and unschooled children is a good sign of it. However, the majority of parents will keep wishing for professional help in educating their children, but a different one from the current offer. There is a huge need for schools to change dramatically, also in engaging rather than keep involving parents, a new approach where parents are part of the whole process from planning to implementation. There is a huge need for teachers to change and to be trained for the new pedagogical paradigm where everybody, including children, is a learner and an educator at the same time. There is a huge need to focus on and cooperate with school heads. But for making decisions on the necessary changes policy makers need ample research evidence. Currently EPA, a training and lobbying organisation, sometimes needs to carry out research lacking available research evidence.
We need partnerships to reform schools rather than let them die in the case parents opt out in ever growing numbers. We need partnerships with researchers, if not through ERNAPE, then individually, to do comparative analyses and cross-border research, to find the way informal and non-formal education (apparently offering more useful skills and knowledge than schools in many European countries) to be acknowledged and included in schools’ routines, focusing on cultural differences and similarities, the applicability of approaches that work in certain contexts, migration including internal migration of the EU. We need research evidence supporting our case, parental engagement and child participation. We need research evidence to support the innovation we are doing. We need partnerships, this is why we have an MoU signed with ECER, a major education research network in Europe. The next step is to re-start working with ERNAPE on a basis that suits both parties.’