What are home-school agreements?

Teacher reading with pupil
Your guide to how home-school agreements work and how they can improve communication between schools and parents.

A home-school agreement is a statement explaining your child's school's aims and values, its responsibilities towards its pupils, the responsibilities of the pupil's parents, and what’s expected of pupils. Since being introduced in September 1999, they have become part of the administrative process when a child starts the school.

What’s the benefit?

Research has consistently shown that active parental interest makes a great deal of difference to how well children do at school. Parents can help more effectively if they know what the school is trying to achieve and what they can do to offer support. Home-school agreements provide a framework for the development of such a partnership. The contents of the agreement will clarify what the school is trying to achieve, and the agreement will set out the role of the school, parents and pupils in this vital partnership.

What do home-school agreements contain?

Agreements vary from school to school, but they must meet certain statutory requirements laid out by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Home-school agreements should make a statement about the standard of education parents can expect at the school, such as the school's commitment to meeting the needs of children of all abilities and its targets for national curriculum assessments and exams. It should also talk about the ethos of the school.

The agreement is also an opportunity to remind parents that they are legally responsible for ensuring their children receive full-time, suitable education and that this requires regular attendance. The agreement will outline how parents are to notify the school if their child cannot attend school, as well as an expectation that parents will work with the school if attendance problems develop.

An outline of how and when communication should or is likely to take place is included in a section called ‘Information schools and parents will give to one another'. It should encourage parents to approach the school if they have any concerns, too. The general complaints procedure is also explained in the agreement to show how parents can go about raising issues they’re unhappy about.

Other areas that will be covered are guidlines around homework and disciplinary measures. Schools now have the power to prosecute pupils or parents who behave violently towards other pupils or members of staff, but the home-school agreement will make it clear what sort of behaviour is expected of pupils and where the boundaries are.

What home-school agreements cannot do

Home-school agreements cannot contain terms or conditions which would be unlawful or unreasonable, such as refusing to waive any requirement on school uniform in cases where the child cannot comply for religious reasons.

Other unacceptable demands might include asking parents to attend an excessive number of parents' evenings or to agree to make contributions to purchase expensive books or equipment.

Parents cannot be taken to court for breaches of the terms of the agreement. A child must not be excluded from school and nor should the school treat the child or parents in any adverse way because of the parent’s failure or refusal to sign a parental declaration. Indeed, schools cannot make parents sign the parental declaration before the child has been admitted to the school or to make the signing of it a condition of the child's admission to the school.