Parent group agrees revamp

In a very low turn-out members of the troubled national PTA umbrella organisation have voted for what they hope will be a peaceful modernisation. Karen Thornton reports

A TROUBLED parents' organisation looks set for a new start - despite less than 2 per cent of its members voting at a key meeting.

Only around 180 of the 11,000-plus members of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations voted by proxy or person at its private annual general meeting last Sunday.

But interim manager Richard Hill said they supported resolutions which will see assets and staff transferred to a new company before Christmas. A new director, David Butler, is in charge of day-to-day operations, and trustees will be appointed.

Last year, the Charity Commission condemned the NCPTA for becoming side-tracked by internal disputes and having no overall strategy or direction. The commission called for three key officers to quit, but later authorised their continued employment. Of the three, only Margaret Morrissey, public relations officer, remains in post. Belinda Yaxley, membership secretary, and Andrew Smetham, treasurer, have since resigned.

Mr Hill, a KPMG consultant appointed by the Charity Commission, said Sunday's meeting marked the start of a new era for the NCPTA. "I hope the NCPTA will focus on the present and future rather than living in the past - it has done that for too long. The steps we have taken will enable that," he said.

"It's time we actually concentrated on what the NCPTA was set up to do - which is to improve relationships between home and school for the benefit of the children. Unfortunately, that over-riding objective seems to have been forgotten about in the past few years by too many people."

But Sandi Marshall and Sean Rogers, two former trustees ousted by fellow trustees after they had instigated the Charity Commission investigation, have not ruled out appealing to Home Secretary Jack Straw about events at the NCPTA and the role of the commission.

Ms Marshall said: "We are not going back over the past for the sake of it, but there are issues that weren't resolved."

The pair claim that Mr Hill refused to allow an alternative resolution - calling for the dissolution of the organisation - to be heard at the AGM. They also claim that the reformed NCPTA cannot afford a proposed 10 regional officers to support its new regional structure.

Mr Hill said he received nine pages of what he called "commentary" by the published deadline but - having been granted executive powers by the Charity Commission - had ruled they did not constitute a resolution.

He said regionalisation was viable and practical, and the aim was to go to ten officers "in the fullness of time" - but not straightaway. Regional officers will be tested in a pilot project first.

Local federations welcomed the votes in favour of Mr Hill's plans to modernise the NCPTA.

Barbara Coppard, secretary of the Staffordshire Federation of Parent Teacher Associations, who attended Sunday's meeting, said those opposing Mr Hill's resolutions had had their say but been out-voted.

"We put our schools and our children first. It's a case of putting personal grievances aside. In the end, it was just a clash of personalities, which you get in all organisations. You can't keep going over old ground, you get nowhere."

Jean de Rijke, secretary of the Devon federation, said: "We hope the NCPTA will move forward and be a truly representative voice for parents. Heaven knows we need one."

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