One of the more unusual discussions I heard recently was that online reporting could alienate mothers and lead possibly to less parental engagement between home and school.
At first, this seemed quite a strange argument but there were quite serious concerns and issues being expressed here.
Let me try to outline how this discussion went.
The discussion initially centred upon online reporting and parental engagement using ICT. One member of the discussion pointed out that in her school, most parental involvement and home-school contact was via the mother. Even where a father might attend a parents’ evening or support other school events, it was usually the mother who had most contact with the school. In the event of the school needing to contact a pupil’s parents, the first point of contact was most often the mother, even, it seemed, if she was a working mother. The member expressed her concern that if reporting was moved entirely online, then we could lose the engagement of these mothers.
Several members countered by saying that we shouldn’t fall into a gender stereotyping trap and that many women knew how to use computers and would still be able to access the information online. The original member stood her ground, saying she didn’t disagree with this view and was trying hard not to stereotype women. She did feel, however, that there may be an issue with access to technology at home.
Her view was that where a household had internet access, such access might not always be equally available to all members of the family. Where a family had a single computer, its use would probably be mainly for the children or the man in the household. Where the family had more than one computer, it would most likely be the children who had their own. It would be rarer for the mother to have her own computer. A mother would have to argue or fight for access to the online information from a school. This could prove particularly difficult if the computers had been purchased for (or by) the children or provided for the man as, say, part of his work.
It was accepted by the group that this could be a common situation, though not one that could be held universally true. It was considered that this might represent another aspect of the ‘digital divide’; even where internet access and equipment was available in a family, access to the equipment ( and hence online content) might not be equally available to all within a household.
If the situation outlined were true, then it might be possible that some mothers might find themselves unable to access information about their child. This might possibly lead to alienation or disengagement of those mothers. To help avoid this, the group members generally felt that it would be best to continue current reporting strategies and not switch wholly to online methods. However, as the mothers realised the potential and importance of the online material, they could argue for better access for themselves at home.