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Parents 'don't want to vet heads'

An unlikely combination of Scotland's largest authority and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council has urged ministers to limit the involvement of parents in senior school appointments.

Glasgow City Council has warned the Scottish Executive of "significant delays" in appointing headteachers and deputes if parents are given too much say in their selection. Over the past three years, Glasgow has appointed more than 80 new heads and believes schools must fill jobs as quickly as possible.

The city states: "The involvement of parent representatives in consultations on the advertising strategy and on job descriptor and person specification can not only introduce delays, especially where a parent council wishes to organise a meeting for this purpose, but it is quite possible that difficulties could emerge in finalising the person specification."

It is pressing ministers to allow authorities more flexibility in setting up appointments procedures and to scrap plans for firmer regulations which would define more precisely how parents should be involved.

At the same time, the SPTC is reminding ministers of parents' limited role.

"Parents' unique contribution should be recognised and valued for what it is; not turned into something which it is not. Moreover, the limitations of their perspective should also be recognised," it says.

Parents, it argues, can bring specific knowledge about a school to the appointment process and ensure it is an open system - but they are not professionals.

"Parents' experience is limited to the school that their children attend; they are not aware that schools can and do operate differently. Parents tend to like 'their' school and want it to continue as it is, when the professional perspective is that some change of direction is needed. The parents' view should never be confused with that of a professional," it adds.

The SPTC is also opposed to the Executive's plans to establish local authority panels of "highly trained" parents to help in appointments.

Outside parents would be resented. "There is a clear inference here that parents in disadvantaged areas might not be up to the job," the council says.

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