Boards back shake-up

5th March 2004 at 00:00
It may look like the proverbial turkey voting for Christmas but the school boards' president has again backed the demise of his power base.

Alan Smith told the Scottish School Board Association's conference in Stirling last Saturday that he is fully behind ministerial moves to revamp the 15-year-old legislation that set up boards.

Mr Smith wants to see elections scrapped and memberships widened to include community representatives.

Ministers have been reviewing ways to involve parents for three years but have yet to reach firm conclusions about how they intend to reform what is accepted as an outdated system of little interest to the average parent.

At national level, the philosophical and personal battles between the SSBA and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council - which represent boards and parent teacher associations - have pushed ministers towards a rethink.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, is carrying on the lengthy review and is believed to be taking his cue from the education directors who favour far looser structures to involve parents.

In an address last November to the Educational Institute of Scotland education conference, Mr Peacock promised to consult early this year on "reinvigorating the parental agenda".

Pupils' educational progress would be central through personal learning plans and progress reports, he said.

Mr Smith said: "Let's move away from the formulaic approach where legislation is handed down and let's look at ways of working in partnership with local authorities in meeting local needs in the community."

He added: "There is a wealth of talent to be drawn on in the parent body but it may be that people are hindered because of the election process. I can see it being removed entirely but that would mean new legislation which we are two to three years away from."

It is believed lack of legislative time in the Scottish Parliament is behind the delay.

Mr Smith wants boards, if they are to be retained, to include community representatives. "That is where the school board and PTA would work together. If you have a wide community involvement, you may not need two separate bodies. I think you could have a combination of both - but I'm not sure and I'm not sure the minister is either," he said.

In a revised role, boards would become "critical friends of headteachers" and should question and challenge.

Walter Humes, head of educational studies at Strathclyde University, urged boards to drop their conservatism and "take some risks". So far they had focused on nuts and bolts issues like transport and meals.

"It's time to be a bit bolder in how you interpret your remit," Professor Humes said.

"Parents tend to have an outdated and conservative view of schools because they think of them in terms of their own schooling," he pointed out.

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