In this paper Japanese and Scottish cultural and ideological expectations about the role of parents and communities in schools are examined. Findings from three case studies of a Japanese school, a Scottish school and a group of Japanese parents sending their children to a Scottish school show that there are clear policy differences between the two countries. These differences reflect each country's problems and the purposes of the educational reforms that have been introduced and the different strengths and weaknesses of the two systems. The policy differences in the two systems and how these are translated into practice are examined from the perspective of parents and the wider school community. It is argued that what is missing from the policy and practice context in both countries are the resources to enable teachers, parents and other members of the community to work as equal partners.