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It's their right to be involved

The Parental Involvement Bill has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament by 92 votes to 17.

The Scottish Executive said the bill, now awaiting Royal Assent, would give parents more opportunities to be involved with their child's education and school life, and leave them free to set up new, more flexible parent councils.

Parents should also have more access to information about the school's performance and the headteacher's plans for the future, and be more involved in recruiting heads and their deputes.

Implementation of the legislation is expected to take place over the coming year and be complete by summer 2007. Provisions relating to new parent councils, which will replace school boards, will come into effect in August next year.

The executive will issue guidance and practical resource materials in September for use by parents and education authorities.

Caroline Vass, president of the Scottish School Board Association, which has opposed the move to more flexible parent forums, said the final version of the bill still did not have enough structure. Nevertheless, greater involvement of parents was good news.

"This bill is what we have got and we will have to go forward and make the best of what we have," Mrs Vass said. "There have been a lot of changes following consultation and we appreciate and acknowledge that."

The SSBA and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council would like the national parent body that emerges from the new parent forums and their elected councils to be a membership body rather than an appointed one.

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the SPTC, welcomed the final version of the legislation because it was "an enabling bill rather than a prescriptive bill".

Mrs Gillespie said: "There were quite a lot of moves along the way to make the format of the parent councils quite prescriptive in terms of who had to be on them, but the bill has not ended up like that."

She said it was important that a national parents' body should not be directly supported by the executive, so that it would be seen to be independent.

New resources to help parents become involved have been published this week. The Parentzone website has been redesigned to provide more information and practical advice.

A CD-Rom on how schools can involve parents more effectively will be sent to all schools. Featuring case studies from 54 schools across Scotland, Involving Parents, produced by Aberdeen University, showcases examples of open afternoons, parent workshops and drop-in centres.

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