ONE in four parents believe their children's teachers are not very approachable, a major survey reveals today.
And one parent in six feels that the schools do not want them involved.
Formal involvement in the parents' council or board of management is confined to a small group of parents, usually those with higher levels of educational qualifications.
The study found that working class parents with lower levels of education tended to have less formal contact with the school than other social groups.
Where they do have contact, it is more likely to be in response to difficulties with their child's behaviour or lack of educational progress.
The study, by Delma Byrne and Emer Smyth for the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), found that parents were broadly satisfied with their children's schooling.
But there was a need to develop broader competencies -- particularly computer skills, preparation for work and life skills.
Parents tended to be more critical of the Junior Cert curriculum than the Leaving Certificate.
'Behind the Scenes?' draws on surveys of parents of senior cycle students as well as insights from school personnel. It is the most comprehensive study to date of Irish parents' involvement in their children's education.
The report suggested that schools should provide a welcoming environment and should offer greater opportunity for informal contact with teachers.
Parents were particularly positive about the benefits of schooling to children's social and personal development, such as getting on well with others and increasing self-confidence.
But they were less positive about the extent to which their teenagers leave school prepared for the world of work and having the necessary life skills and computer skills.
This viewpoint is also shared by the young people themselves. And a quarter of parents are not satisfied with career guidance, mainly because they would like to see more provision in place.
The report said that young people whose parents frequently discussed how they had done in tests or exams tended to achieve higher grades than others. Females were more likely to report that they would approach a family member while males were less likely to be forthcoming to anyone about a problem.
They also found that increasing competition between schools for pupils led to some 'creaming off' of the brighter students. Vocational schools were more likely to experience this, with more than two-thirds reporting this pattern. By contrast, single sex and co-educational secondary schools were more likely to experience that they got the better students.