Brilliant Club

The Parent/Carer Voice Matters: Our Priorities for the Next Government  

01 Jul 2024

With the General Election only days away, we share what our parent and carer community most want to see from the next government.

By Harry Twohig, Communities Officer at The Brilliant Club

At The Brilliant Club, we know that parents and carers are the most influential people in a young person’s life. Yet, they often find themselves underrepresented in discussions about education.

Through Parent Power, we organise parents and carers from across England and Wales to campaign on the issues that matter to their local communities. With a general election on the horizon, we call on the next government to commit to centring the voices of underrepresented parents and carers in policy making processes.

Having listened to the parent and carer communities that we work with across England and Wales, we also call on the next government to prioritise the issues that matter to them.

Equitable access to work experience opportunities

Parents and carers across our Parent Power chapters in Cardiff, East London and Peterborough are taking action on the inequalities that exist in access to work experience opportunities. We call on the next government to ensure that:

    1. Young people have access to at least two weeks of good quality work experience during secondary school;
    2. Access to work experience opportunities is not dictated by family networks; and
    3. Work experience providers transparently promote their offer to underserved communities

Laura, a parent leader from Peterborough Parent Power, sets out the problem: “I found it quite difficult to find a work experience placement for my daughter as I wasn’t getting great communication from her or the school … the choices that she was offered were not desirable for her. We were encouraged to search ourselves. I tried my best but had to push some of that responsibility onto my daughter. She wasn’t great at doing this so, in the end, the school arranged something locally for her to do. It was so close to our house that she could safely walk. In that respect, it was brilliant. Her experience of it was not very positive, but the feedback she received from the work experience placement was outstanding. She even received a special award for her efforts.”

Laura’s experience is not uncommon. Parents and carers from across England and Wales have shared with us that there is a lack of centralised infrastructure to support with the organisation of work experience for young people.

Parent leaders in Cardiff are building this infrastructure themselves. They have organised a work experience conference for families in the city, which will be held at Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) in July 2024. They have also organised bespoke visits to local employers, and parents/carers in East London are currently working hard to do the same.

Connectivity in rural communities

In Fenland, parent and carer leaders are taking action on the lack of connectivity in their . We call on the next government to ensure that parents and carers are involved in the development of plans for regional transport infrastructure.

Nikki, a parent leader from the group, outlined the problem: “As a parent of children living in rural Fenland, it is disappointing that their education and social opportunities are stifled by the lack of public transport or cycle access to connect us with our nearest train station in March. By improving their access to this station, they would have unlimited access to opportunities in Cambridge, Peterborough and beyond.”

Maciej, a parent leader from Fenland Parent Power, added that the group “would like to raise public awareness of how dangerous our country roads are without cycle lanes. They are automatically added to every new road development across Europe but for some reason are not included in UK road planning.”

Parents and carers have important contributions to make to the development of regional transport plans. In Fenland, they have been working closely with the local authority to assess the feasibility of a key infrastructure route between Guyhirn and March, which would provide families in Guyhirn with a safe route between the towns and much needed access to the train station in March.

Fenland Parent Power’s work is a clear example of why parent and carer voice must be prioritised in the policy making processes of the future government. Their lived experience means that they’re uniquely positioned to identify the enablers of educational inequality in their community and take action to remove them.

Mental health support for young people

Parents and carers in Oldham and Norwich are working to improve the mental health support available to young people. We call on the next government to ensure that parents and carers play a central role in shaping what mental health support looks like in their community.

Over in Oldham, parents and carers have set their sights on securing mental health support for young people, given the pressure placed on them by the current education system. Jane, Oldham Parent Power Parent Leader, explains the need: “The campaign for a better mental health service especially for our younger people is important as so many are going missing or self-harming as there is no one or nowhere for them to turn to or ask for help.”

They have written to politicians to ask for mental health support for their young people to be prioritised and worked with representatives at Oldham Council to highlight their views. In response to a meeting with Oldham Parent Power leaders, the Council committed to introducing mental health provision in their family hubs across Oldham and offering Connect 5 mental health training for parents/carers in the group.

In Norwich, parents/carers are working on establishing an online safety charter, with the impact of social media on mental health in mind. Speaking about the campaign, Sophie Waring, our Community Organiser for Norwich Parent Power, said: “A common issue that arose when discussing issues that parents and carers are facing with their young people is navigating how to keep them safe online and how to encourage them to foster a healthy mindset around phone use. A positive outcome of these discussions was the idea of creating a family contract so that boundaries can be set that increase their safety online.”

What next?

These are just a few policy areas that have benefitted from the crucial perspective of our parents and carers, and our Parent Power chapters are currently working to influence more. By working with parents and carers, Parent Power identifies the local enablers of educational inequality and works to combat them. It demonstrates the power of working with and listening to parent and carer communities. We hope that the next government will commit to listening to and representing the parent voice – parents have been too long excluded from conversations about these inequalities, but offer an essential link between the home, communities, and education providers.