The White Paper on excellence in schools strongly emphasises that 'Parents playa crucial role in helping their children learn' (DtEE 1997a) and promotes close coIlaboration between teachers and parents. Baseline assessments, home-school agreements on fostering reading and numeracy, supporting homework, ensuring regular school attendance: all are - in the words of the Under Secretary of State for School Standards - geared to 'encouraging parents to get involved with their children's school career at the earliest possible opportunity ... [and to] encouraging the all important dialogue between home and school' (Clarke, c., MP 1998).