Many secondary schools, especially academies, often implement these agreements, and I generally think they are a positive idea. However, regardless of how much you want your child to attend a specific school, it is important to thoroughly read and, if necessary, question these agreements, especially if your child has special education needs.
When my daughter's school converted to an academy, they provided us with an agreement and asked for our signature. The teacher appeared surprised when I took the time to read it thoroughly, as not many parents did. She thought I was joking when I asked what would happen if I refused to sign it. Since she didn't provide a response, I requested to speak with someone who could address my concerns, as I was not willing to sign without clarification.
To some parents, the issue may seem trivial, but previously the school could assign up to 30 minutes of detention without notifying parents. However, the new agreement extended this duration to 2 hours. The new principal attempted to assure me that, given my daughter's track record (she had never received detention), it wouldn't be a problem. I pointed out that she had previously been chased home by bullies, having to cross at least one busy road, and I couldn't wait for an additional two hours past her usual time to become concerned. Eventually, we reached an agreement that if she were assigned detention exceeding 30 minutes, the school would inform us.
During her final months at the school, my daughter called us in tears and anger to inform us that they had just been informed they would be staying at school for an extra 2 hours to continue studying English. The entire week was already dedicated to English lessons, with no other subjects, which upset her. They were told they had no choice because both they and their parents had signed the school agreement, allowing the school to keep them for up to 2 hours without notifying parents. I advised her to attend class until someone instructed her to go home.
I contacted the principal to inquire when they had decided to disregard the home-school agreement. When I explained the situation, he was not pleased. As my daughter recounted, he entered the classroom, asked me to leave, and had a conversation with the teacher in the hallway. I was later called back to discuss the matter with the principal and the head of the English department. They explained that the intention was to provide extra lessons and support to improve exam grades. Despite my daughter being predicted to receive an A, they felt additional pressure and stress would earn her an A*.
I pointed out that the section they referred to was related to detention, not an open-ended extension of the school day. I firmly expressed that my daughter's mental well-being was not worth the potential improvement in her final grade. I refused consent for her school day to be extended for this purpose and made it clear that if she were suddenly assigned detention, I would expect a detailed explanation.
She was the only student who did not participate in the extra hours and still achieved an A* in English.
Another aspect to consider is zero tolerance policies. Over the years, there have been numerous stories about children facing consequences due to these policies. While the media tends to sensationalize these stories, it is important to remember that zero tolerance means exactly that—there is little flexibility in enforcement. This policy can also result in even the best students facing consequences in certain situations.
Thoroughly reading and questioning school agreements is very important. You don't have to sign just anything that they give you. It's crucial to consider individual circumstances and prioritize a child's well-being over academic pressure.