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Campaign waves magic wand after conference is cancelled

Parent-governor representatives will go to the ball after all, reports Karen Thornton.

THE voice of parents on local education authorities looked set to go unheard this year.

The Department for Education and Skills cancelled its annual conference for parent governor representatives (PGRs), claiming lack of interest made the event uneconomic to run.

However, the Campaign for State Education has decided to play fairy godmother and is organising an alternative conference next month.

Case ran the very first national event for parent governors in Bristol in 2000.

The priority at this year's conference will be to discuss how PGRs can help develop an organisation that could give parents a voice at national level.

There are around 300 governors in England who are nominated or elected by other parent governors and have full voting rights on council decisions affecting education.

However, some of them claim the Government has failed to promote their role - despite introducing them in 1999 to inject a parental voice into local education authority decision-making.

At last year's annual meeting, there were complaints that many LEAs still did not understand their role or were failing to provide administrative support and training. Jan Krall, a governor in Hammersmith and Fulham, London, said the Government should have done more to promote their role nationally. Currently, they lack credibility with national and local government and the media, she claimed.

"We have no national structure, we are all acting independently of each other on a local level, and we have very little common ground. The Government has created a monster. They can't control it but they can just stop supporting it until it dies or becomes tame enough to train."

Also on the agenda will be the PGRs' role on local admissions forums and discussion on how LEAs can do more to support them. Key speakers include The TES's columnist, Joan Sallis, and Graham Lane from the Local Government Association.

Meanwhile, the DfES insists it remains committed to supporting and promoting PGRs. Since the first representatives were elected in September 1999, it has spent pound;101,520 on a website and email network and pound;87,475 on conferences. But it decided to cancel this year's event after only 71 delegates had registered by the January 31 deadline.

"This was lower than for the previous two years and our experience is that between 20 and 25 per cent of these would not attend on the day. In the light of this, it was not deemed financially and operationally viable to hold the conference," said a DfES spokeswoman.

The Case conference for parent governors, cost pound;10, takes place on Saturday, April 5, at Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square, Birmingham. For a booking form and more details, contact Case, co 158 Durham Road, London SW20 0DG, tel: or fax 020 8944 8206, email case@casenet.org.uk. See also www.pgrnet.org.uk and www.pgr-access.devotedparents.com for general information about parent governors.

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