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My new app will be a must for every headteacher

March 6, 2023, 13:58 GMT+1
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  • Problem parents? Colin Dowland has had an idea....
My new app will be a must for every headteacher

I’m developing a new app for my phone. It’s called Parent-O-Matic and in true Dragon’s Den style, I need a software developer to help me with the technology and a donor to fund it. It will be a must-have for every headteacher.

I got the idea from an app I downloaded recently called Chirp-O-Matic, which identifies birds from their calls. You press a button, record the sound and it identifies the species, including its Latin name and a brief description - a bit like Shazam, but with feathers.

On recent dog walks, I identified a mistle thrush (turdus vicivorus), and a flamingo (phoenicopterus roseus), although I think I was in a 3G blackspot that day.

Chirp-O-Matic got me thinking about how useful this might be at school. I would be able to point my phone at new parents as they arrive and identify what we have in store for the next seven years. These are the types we will need to input:

The Cotton Wool Parent (Worrypottium helicopterae)

This family will force their offspring to wear several coats, scarves and a bobble hat, even in summer. The child will always carry antibacterial wipes and usually be on antibiotics.
The parent will provide copious mid-morning snacks to prevent ‘hangriness.’ These will be organic, completely unpalatable and be carried in a lunchbox made of recycled sandals. 
Prone to: Daily emails to the school office, arranging medical appointments during school time and making diagnoses of complex learning needs and allergies using Google. 
Most likely to say: ‘I’ve given her some Calpol, just in case.’

The Pushy Parent (Overtutorus horribilis)

These parents will be forever asking for additional reading books and more advanced spellings, as well as extra homework which, when handed in, will look so professional that it will be a worthy of inclusion in a Tate Gallery exhibition.
Their offspring will look pale, pasty and exhausted due to lack of exposure to natural sunlight. They will leave school promptly at home time to shoot off to daily private tutors and will carry a map of selective secondary schools. 
Prone to: Being over-critical of their child, lobbying for a starring role in the end of year production and moving into a better catchment area.
Most likely to say: ‘I know he’s only six, but we’re hoping for Oxbridge.’

The Laid-Back Parent (Virtualli horizontalis)

This parent will regularly arrive late for school. Their offspring will often be unkempt, with only a nod to the official school uniform and wear odd shoes.
The child will show a flare for arts-based subjects, become obsessed with imaginary friends and have an unusual affinity with chess. If homework is handed in at all, it will look messy, almost as if their child had completed it alone.
Permission slips for trips will always need chasing, they will often collect late from school without explanation and oblivious to school policy, will send their child to school loaded with peanut-based snacks. 
Prone to: Dropping their child at school on INSET Days and booking a holiday during term time as a genuine accident.
Most likely to say: ‘Just as long as they are happy.’

The Tricky Parent (Latigious maximus)

This one will complain about absolutely everything and will set up WhatsApp groups to air their views of the school, the staff and all the children except their own. They believe that their child is gifted, unfailingly honest and a perfect angel, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Although living locally, they will arrive at school in a huge 4x4, blocking neighbouring driveways and doing elaborate seven-point turns outside school at home time.
Prone to: Owing dinner money, questionable political views and wearing pyjamas at drop off.
Most likely to say: ‘I’m going to Ofsted about this.’

The Ideal Parent (Perfectus perfectus)

Grounded, trusting and rare, this parent is an endangered species. Fully supportive and positive, the ideal parent will have high, but realistic expectations of their child, back you up when needed and be understanding when sometimes you get things wrong.
These parents must be protected and nurtured at every opportunity.
Prone to: Sending in cakes for the staffroom, unprompted. 
Most likely to say: ‘Thanks for everything you are doing for my child.’

Colin Dowland is a primary headteacher in north London. He tweets as @colindowland