Published: 00:01, 05 June 2015
A school has been accused of promoting outdated gender stereotypes by holding a "bring your dad to class" day.
Critics say the man-only event at Blean Primary is discriminatory against women, with the school saying it is a day for dads, granddads and uncles.
Kerri Hughes, of St Dunstan’s in Canterbury, has questioned why there is not an equivalent day for female family members, and says many pupils – including her son Atticus – will be left unaccompanied on the day.
She claims the school told her neither she nor her partner Claire Natall would be able to attend the event, but the head teacher says they were told otherwise.
Miss Hughes, 39, says when she called to complain she was told the idea was part of a government initiative aimed at promoting greater male involvement in children’s education.
Miss Hughes said: “I called the school and was categorically told that neither Claire nor I could attend.
“I do not understand why there would be a day for male family members and not for female family members. Is this not indirect discrimination?
“I do not understand how this day can go ahead without questions being asked.
“Atticus said to me that he would have liked his two mums and his dad to go.”
Miss Hughes encouraged Atticus to put his thoughts down on paper, with the youngster writing: “I feel very annoyed about the fact that there is a dads only day and that mums are not allowed to go, but if you don’t have a dad or have never seen your dad, what’s the point?
"I do not understand why there would be a day for male family members and not for female family members. Is this not indirect discrimination?" - Kerri Hughes
“I think it is very upsetting because mums do all the work and never get time to see the child’s work and do activities with the child, so I think it is wrong.
“And I wanted Claire to come in as well so that she can tell people about her job and any other thing that she does in her spare time. I asked my dad to come, but he is working so he can’t go.”
Miss Hughes says the school’s rules are outdated and ignore non-traditional family set-ups and working arrangements.
She said: “I realise that the father may work full-time, stereotypically, in order to provide for their child.
“But what about mothers that work full-time to provide for their children while the father is at home to take the child to school?
“Why isn’t she invited to see her child’s work? In a telephone call from a representative from Blean school I was told that a mother can find out about her child’s school work at a parents evening.
“What about a child whose father works away from home? A soldier? A diplomat?
“What about children in foster homes, in care or living with other family members that do not fit the criteria?
“What about families with two mothers? Perhaps due to IVF or other personal circumstances? As I understand it, there is an acceptability of homosexuality as a family relationship.
“Maybe one mother works hard and the other mother stays at home with the children.
“I have a partner who would love to go, I have a mother who would be in her element seeing what her first grandson does when he is at school and I have sisters that are equally proud of him and show an interest in his life.
“With this in mind, I believe my son’s idea of ‘bring a grown-up to school’ day is good.”
The school's head teacher Lynn Lawrence said Ms Natall was welcome to join the event, adding that a mum had attended a similar dads’ day last autumn.
She denied the claim that anyone at the school had told Miss Hughes or her son that Ms Natall would not be allowed to attend.
She added: “In common with many primary schools, we find that we have lower participation by male role models – fathers, grandfathers and other family members - than we do by mothers.
“Over the past two years we have worked as a school to achieve the Leading Parent Partnership Award (LPPA) and in developing our approaches in fostering parental involvement and information sharing, including encouraging involvement by fathers and other male family members.
“We acknowledge that there is a diversity of arrangements for bringing up children and that this may involve others who have a father role – stepfathers, adoptive fathers, foster fathers, brothers, uncles and grandparents and same sex partnerships for example, and our events are inclusive of these arrangements and of course there is always flexibility.
“By being creative and organising events whereby fathers or other male family members are specifically invited we have been successful in encouraging fathers to come into and get involved in learning in school.
“Whilst we recognise that both mothers and fathers make distinct and complementary contributions to both family life and learning in school, by inviting male role models into school we are being explicit in our belief that we are committed to engaging with both parents."
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