When you voluntarily help to create or run an educational setting, you do so with an agenda that guides you. You might not be aware that you have an agenda, or you might choose not to examine what it is. But we all have at least one agenda, and probably several, that motivates our behaviour. The role of government, and of regulators such as Ofsted and the Charities Commission, is to ensure that our agenda is an appropriate one. And when it comes to agendas, you get the Good, the Bad, and the potential-to-be Ugly.
I’ve come across various agendas in my time on a preschool committee – most have been completely admirable ones. People have different motivations for doing voluntary work: to help provide a service for their local community; to do good because it makes them feel good; to gain social or professional benefits; to support an admired and respected colleague; to create a great setting for everyone’s children; to create a great setting for their own children; to create a setting that reflects a vision about what is ‘best’ for children; to promote their own interests.
If Tristram Hunt’s parent-led schools are to work, he should consider two key issues around agendas: (1) What happens once my agenda is met? and (2) What happens if my agenda is not appropriate? The answer to (1) is often ‘I move on’: parents typically stay on our committee for the length of time their children are at preschool; parents often move on from a school governing body when their children leave that school. This is completely understandable. Unless there is another pressing agenda in place, why would you continue to give up your free time for other people’s kids? In theory, regulation, good governance and integrity prevent (2) becoming an issue. In theory.
“Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act / Falls the Shadow.” T.S. Eliot