Joan Sallis Answers your questions
A GROUP of us parents are concerned about our new school. A cohort of infant-age children have moved from temporary accommodation and other schools into a new four-class building, the nucleus of a four to 11 primary. We are a close-knit group, concerned especially with building good foundations for future progress. We have taken the first steps to form a parents' association. At first the new head said she did not want this but someone in the LEA put her right. But now we are drawing up our constitution, she is saying it should not be concerned with school policies as that is for the governing body. But how can our new parent governors take account of our views if we have nowhere to formulate them? The organising group is happy to fund-raise, but I don't think there will be much support if we have no outlet for our concerns.
IT is amazing that after all the progress made, with PTAs accepted almost everywhere, there is still, as far as I know, no statutory framework for them. No law can prevent a group from forming an association, and if they want to meet in school outside school hours, the power to grant that rests with the governing body. And no law gives a head the right to forbid it. I hope your governing body will help you to make your association a success.
You should adopt a supportive tone of voice and bear in mind that life is quite hard for a new head too. But you will have a role to play in co-operation with your governors to develop a parent-friendly school where reasonable concerns are taken account of. It is important in a new school that there is a lively exchange of ideas, but it is important to have a structure for this. A short meeting of representatives with the head and with a governor present, every half term as a minimum, is a good idea. Your new head may not feel very confident about this as yet but it won't be a happy school without it. Discuss the issue with your parent governors, and if need be the chair.
Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert for the answers