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Parents patch up their quarrel

Tense, difficult . . . positive and fruitful - just four of the words used to describe last weekend's crunch meeting of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations.

With the 40-year-old organisation facing crucial questions about its future, disputes between staff and trustees, and its chairman threatening to resign, things were never going to be easy.

Chairman Ian Price, who is also a special school head, had said he would go if the NCPTA did not become more democratic and accountable. In the event, he did not have to. A statement released after Saturday's four-hour meeting at a London hotel talked of a long and fruitful discussion during which staff and trustees identified much common ground.

It said: "We have agreed to establish a joint stafftrustee management committee which will be responsible for reviewing existing working practices and the job specification for the chief executive."

Michael Pepper, the NCPTA's previous chief executive, quit six weeks ago. The statement insisted that: "Staff and trustees reaffirmed their commitment to the appointment of a chief executive," adding "in the meantime day-to-day co-ordination will be vested in the national chairman and Margaret Morrissey will continue to be the central focus for media contacts".

Mrs Morrissey said: "It has been and probably still is a difficult time within the organisation but there are those people, including the staff, who are absolutely determined that the existence of a voice of parents will continue and that has to be our number one goal."

Years of wrangling over who actually runs the organisation - staff or the trustees who set policy - came to a head when Mr Pepper resigned after just three months.

Mr Price wants to put the NCPTA on a more regional footing in the belief that this will make the organisation more accountable and increase membership.

Federations had been due to stage their own meeting in Birmingham at the same time as the executive committee met in London. This has now been postponed until later this month.

The MSF union, which represents the staff, raised doubts about the validity of the postponed federation meeting and challenged claims that employees were to blame for Mr Pepper's resignation.

Saturday's executive committee saw a full turnout of the NCPTA's 15 trustees, four staff and their union representative.

Mr Price said that his resignation was never an issue and that he is now planning to speak to the federations at their meeting later this month.

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