Launching the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill, Peter Peacock said the intention behind the parent council is that it would act as a smaller, business arm of the forums, with the latter continuing as envisaged and automatically involving all parents.
This was welcomed by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council as meeting criticism that properly constituted bodies would be necessary when the school board legislation is repealed. But the mountain which must be climbed was confirmed in a Mori poll of 1,000 parents of school-age children. It found 69 per cent of parents had not been involved in any activity at their child's school - although 45 per cent said they would like to be more involved.
The Scottish Consumer Council, which commissioned the survey, said the reasons given for non-involvement were a combination of lack of opportunities provided by the school and the fact that they were too busy.
The Minister will be more cheered, however, by the finding that 87 per cent of parents said they had never considered standing for election to their school board. And 63 per cent felt they would become more involved in parent forums than with school boards.
Mr Peacock said: "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."
But he added that he did not wish to force parents to scrap something they liked. "If a school board works well, parents can choose to keep those arrangements," he said. The sense of this flexible approach was borne out by the research which illustrated the demand for systems adapted to local circumstances.
The bill will also place a new obligation on ministers to promote parental involvement in education, including a power to fund a single national parent body, and on education authorities to respond to parental representations. It confirms the move, already announced, for parent bodies to have the right to call in HMIE where they are concerned at the way a school is run.