CONCERNS have been raised that pupils’ schoolbags are in danger of becoming “a battleground for commercial interests”.
Leaflets for additional tutoring, out-of-hours activities, events and products are being sent home in pupils’ schoolbags, and Green education spokeswoman Councillor Melanie Main claimed that in some cases, schools or parent bodies had been offered financial incentives to pass on the material.
Cllr Main said she was concerned that when parents received an e-mail from the school or a flyer in a schoolbag, it may seem to offer “some implicit endorsement of the quality of the service offered” when no such vetting has taken place.
Mother-of-three Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh parent representative on the National Parent Forum of Scotland, called on schools and the council to consult with parents about what information they would like to receive through schoolbags.
“It’s something that concerns parents, usually when they receive something that they don’t feel is relevant or is promoting something very strongly that they don’t feel comfortable about,” she said.
Among the materials being sent home with pupils are leaflets from the Student Support Centre offering maths, English and reading for children aged 4 to 17, and maths and English tuition for 5 to 14-year-olds with Explore Learning.
Cllr Main submitted a motion to the city council’s education committee yesterday highlighting the way in which “schools act as a route to parents for commercial companies” offering a range of services.
She said: “Parents get a lot of information home, either in schoolbags or through e-mail correspondence. I recognise the value of families being alerted to events in the community, sports clubs or a specialist activity which is not easily available in school.
“But, on the other hand, pressure can be such that it feeds anxiety in parents that they are not doing enough for their children and lead them to take up offers that they neither need nor can afford.
“That is why I am calling on the city council to draw up a policy and clear guidelines for schools on where the boundaries lie. I really don’t want to see children’s schoolbags becoming a battleground for commercial interests.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Individual headteachers currently have discretion over what information is provided to parents via pupil post. However, we recognise the concerns that have been raised, and council officers are looking closely into what type of information has been shared and whether we need to produce guidance for schools on this.”