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Labour endorses school boards

Parents are to be asked if schools boards should have a greater say in running + schools, with involvement in staffing and finance and an extension of their + veto powers.The Government's long-awaited discussion paper, issued yesterday + (Thursday), makes it clear that school boards are here to stay, with parents + remaining in the majority. Parents as Partners: Enhancing the Role of Parents + in Scottish Education says ministers wish to emphasise the wider role of + parents rather than the narrow one of school boards. Brian Wilson, the + Education Minister, has now effectively side-stepped Labour's election + commitment to set up up more broadly based school commissions. The + consultation document says this is "a matter of nomenclature and as such is a + secondary issue".Mr Wilson himself, in his introduction to the paper, prefers + to accentuate the manifesto emphasis on the fact that "every parent must be a + partner throughout the education process". He told The TES Scotland: "Our + intention is to strengthen the contribution of parents, a process in which + boards are just one part."Boards are currently restricted to approving + headteachers' per capita spending plans, taking part in the appointment of + senior managers, controlling out-of-hours lets and raising issues with their + education authority. The Government suggests heads should seek the approval of + boards for development plans, and involve them in monitoring the school's + performance in meeting targets set out under the Scottish Office's + standards-raising agenda.The document also raises the possibility that boards + might be given new financial powers. The previous government, bowing to + suspicions of boards as agents of opting out, restricted the parental veto to + approving spending on books and teaching materials. The paper suggests the + school's entire devolved budget could come under board scrutiny. It + acknowledges this "would significantly increase the board's role in the + strategic management of the school".The document sets out the arguments for and+ against board involvement in staffing, coming down on neither side, but rules + out any role "in relation to the syllabus, the content of the curriculum and + the breadth and depth of the curriculum". It does, however, suggest that boards+ might be consulted on the range of subject choices in secondary schools where + parents had "legitimate interests". Boards could also be given powers to + approve policies on discipline, attendance, bullying, school uniform and + homework. Any parent-school contracts would not be legally binding, the paper + stresses.

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