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Check your child's school file says campaigner

RECORDS: Paul Phoenix says black parents should familiarise themselves with their child's school file

A PUPIL’S file is one of the most important documents in any child’s school life. Yet many black parents or guardians are not aware of it or what it contains.

It doesn’t just record a child’s academic progress.

The file is a permanent record that accompanies a pupil from school all the way to university and beyond.
Pupil files provide a synopsis of academic ability, general level of behaviour and conduct, and can be used to ‘draw a picture’ of a child’s school years.

CONCERNED: Paul Phoenix

Checking your child’s school file isn’t just about keeping tabs on school teachers. It’s also a way of letting you know when your involvement may be necessary. For example, your son or daughter may tell you that they are being bullied at school and the teacher is doing nothing about it. If it has been recorded in the file, then you can check what is being done about it. A school file can also highlight patterns of behaviour that may alert teachers to the fact that your child needs extra resources or help.

As a community activist and founder member of Parents Against Racism In Schools, I’ve been asked many times by parents to help them on various issues. And many times I’ve found that what is written about the child in their files and what the parents say are completely different.

Sadly, many parents are not aware of their legal rights to access their children’s file. According to one parent, “you are made to feel as though you are asking for something that they have to give you under the counter.”

If you are worried that a teacher is constantly calling you up regarding your child’s negative behaviour but he or she is denying this, you should insist on seeing their file to give you a better understanding of the situation.

The following action points can be useful:

1. Contact the school’s secretary to request a copy of the file. This can be done by phone, but if you are asked to put your request in writing, do so.

2. You can ask for copies of sections or the whole file. Depending on the size of the file, some schools may charge for making copies.

3. Allow time for your request to be met.

4. If you’re asked why you want to see the file, give a reason. This can help the school in identifying areas that may have been missed.

In the unlikely event that the school refuses your request, you can appeal to the school governors and the local education authority, who can advise you if you need to take your case further.

Paul Phoenix is the founder of south London-based Parents Against Racism In Schools. If you want to know about the issues, you can contact him on 0203 444 0007 or email

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