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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Chalk flies in parent power clash
Classroom - generic
School boards would be replaced by more informal forums
The Scottish Executive has come under fire after insisting a new schools bill will give greater power to parents.

The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill will enable new parent councils to be established, with a wider focus than school boards.

The Tories called the move a "sham", the SNP said there were more important educational issues and school board chiefs questioned the bill's strength.

Schools were told they could retain existing arrangements if they want to.

Parents will be given a new legal right to raise unresolved concerns with HM Inspectorate of Education.

Independent research

The bill requires new detailed annual reports for parents on school performance and headteachers' ambitions for schools.

The Scottish Executive said it was introducing the reforms after independent research found that 69% of parents had no involvement with their children's school even though many wanted to get involved.

Education Minister Peter Peacock said ministers had listened carefully to the consultation responses.

He said: "This is not about forcing parents to scrap systems they are already happy with.

I want to dismantle these barriers and open up access so that parents will have more of a say in their children's education
Peter Peacock
Education Minister

"If a school board works well, parents can choose to keep those arrangements.

"But for the schools where parents want to try something new, something they think will suit them better, the bill allows and encourages this too.

"And instead of an emphasis on management issues, the new parent councils will be free to focus on any aspect of school life of interest to parents."

Mr Peacock said parents had a "vital" role to play in strengthening schools.

New methods

He added: "Our research shows that more parents want to get involved in the life of their children's school, but some are put off by the formality of the current arrangements.

"I want to dismantle these barriers and open up access so that parents will have more of a say in their children's education."

School boards are mainly comprised of parents, but also include teachers and "co-opted" members drawn from local business or the community.

The Scottish School Board Association (SSBA) said it was disappointed that moves to address some of its concerns did not go far enough.

It strikes me that it doesn't go far enough in demanding that local authorities involve parents
Caroline Vass
SSBA president

SSBA president Caroline Vass said: "It's still not sufficiently clear whether or not parents will continue to have meaningful representation."

She added: "This is, of course, our initial response to the bill but, at first reading, it strikes me that it doesn't go far enough in demanding that local authorities involve parents.

"It seems that if a local authority does not particularly want to involve parents in some aspects of schools operations then it will be able to effectively exclude them without breaking the guidelines laid down in the bill."

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) education spokesman, Councillor Reverend Ewan Aitken, backed the legislation.

He said: "The bill frees us up from rigid structures and lets us explore new ways of reaching parents who are not involved at the moment."

The Conservatives denounced the plan as a "sham".

The party's education spokesman James Douglas-Hamilton claimed: "The executive is taking power away from parents and school boards, whilst dressing it up as a new and improved bill of rights for them."

Scottish National Party SNP early education spokesman Adam Ingram said class sizes and teacher recruitment were more important.

He said: "While involving parents in school management is to be encouraged it should not be the major concern at this time."


SEE ALSO:
Fears voiced over parents' powers
09 May 05 |  Scotland
Bill proposes school boards axe
01 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Schools first for local authority
22 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Head teacher recruitment shake-up
08 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Peacock outlines schools shake-up
01 Nov 04 |  Scotland


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