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Mothers, gender and inclusion in the context of home-school relations

By Barbara Cole

Abstract

The last twenty years have seen the proliferation of policies calling for the development of home-school relations and home-school partnerships for it is argued that it is important for the educational success of all children that parents and professionals share aims, values and responsibilities. The dominant discourse around home-school relations refers to ‘parents’ as partners, maintaining that their voices are important and should be heard along with those of professionals. This is also held to be the case where children are categorised as ‘having special educational needs’ and a number of policies require that ‘parents’ are consulted wherever possible. However, this paper maintains that despite this rhetoric there is a boundary between home and school; between the professional, public space of school and the private, personal space of home, which reflects the power relations between public professionals and private parents. It maintains that the use of the gender neutral term ‘parent’ masks the gendered reality of ‘parenting’, making it easier for professionals to marginalise the individual voices of personal experience. The paper draws on research which suggests that the term ‘parent’ hides the fact that mothers are the ones generally perceived as having responsibility for their children and their relationship with school. It contends that the use of the term ‘parent’, in de-gendering the contribution of the mother, negates the voice of personal experience and prioritises the professional and expert voice. The lack of experiential knowledge is seen as especially important when children and their families are perceived as ‘different’ for example disabled children and children labelled as having special educational needs (SEN). The corollary to this argument is, of course, that while the term ‘parent’ negates the voices of mothers, it also negates the voices of fathers, despite research which strongly suggests the importance of their different but significant contribution in the lives of their children

Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1467-9604.2007.00467.x
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.ioe.ac.uk.oai2:3443

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