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Parent forums backed by EIS

Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, has given strong support to the Scottish Executive's draft proposals to abolish school boards and set up more flexible parent forums in their place.

However, it has called for the new forums to be expressly excluded from issues such as individual pupil discipline, the selection of senior staff and the regulation of the school curriculum.

Unlike the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, which has been critical of key aspects of the draft Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill 2005, the EIS has said that it supports all of the main objectives.

With the Scottish School Board Association campaigning vigorously against the proposals but the Scottish Parent Teacher Council backing the new legislation, a similar split may now be emerging between teacher unions.

The EIS states: "The Institute agrees that the . . . objectives do form a reasonable basis for the construction of the Bill and takes us away from the sterile, bureaucratic governance debate and into a genuine attempt to improve and enhance parental involvement in school life generally."

It adds that it would support any moves to improve communication and partnership between schools and parents, particularly in the context of improving discipline and implementing the Executive's Ambitious Excellent Schools programme of reforms.

The EIS opposed the introduction of school boards under the Conservative administration during 1987-88 and said it now welcomed wholeheartedly the repeal of that legislation.

"The overly bureaucratic 'one size fits all' approach introduced has not been of benefit to the Scottish education system and its demise is both overdue and welcome," the EIS states in its submission to the consultation over the Bill.

It stops short of calling for "rights of attendance" for headteachers, teachers or councillors but suggests that future guidance should give the new forums a "pretty strong steer" in relation to co-option and invitation.

The EIS adds that it is out of place for parent forums to have certain functions suggested in the draft Bill, such as seeking to raise standards and seeking improvements in the quality of the education which the school provides.

It also suggests that the following functions and powers should be expressly excluded:

* Consideration of individual matters concerning pupil discipline.

* All human relations matters affecting all staff (including any powers of giving employment to and dismissing staff).

* The selection of senior staff.

* The regulation of senior staff.

* The assessment of pupils.

* Powers of changing the size of a school or amalgamating it.

* Setting up or discontinuing any stage of education in a school.

* Determining admissions policy for a school.

The EIS supports the retention of parent involvement in the appointment of headteachers and deputes, but suggests that this should be through an "umbrella" forum at, perhaps, local authority level, rather than via the parent forum for a specific school.

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