Cold shoulder for boards that complain

28th March 2003 at 00:00
PARENTS and school board members have expressed continuing frustration at their lack of options when headteachers and local authorities fail to address their complaints.

One Falkirk parent, referring to an unidentified school in an unnamed authority, said parents had raised child protection concerns about a teacher but had been told the board had no locus on staffing matters.

"Parents have been going through the process and have not been able to effect change. Parents have been voting with their feet and the teacher is still in place and no action has been taken against the teacher. Where do we take a grievance to?" he asked.

A Dundee parent accused her authority of "closing ranks" after complaints against a school. She subsequently moved her children to another primary.

The conference also heard of the dilemmas facing teacher members of boards who feel unable to raise serious concerns in the presence of their headteacher.

Morag Brown, the Scottish Consumer Council's policy manager, said that the latest survey of parents showed they are still unsure how to make complaints, a point underlined in previous studies. Parents do not know how to find independent advice and where to go to complain.

Jack McConnell's pledge to give parents fresh ways to make complaints was supported by the findings. The First Minister promised as education minister 18 months ago to introduce procedures that were "open and transparent".

The issue has been on the backburner after ministers commissioned a wider analysis into parent involvement, carried out by Philip Banks, a former senior HMI.

George Waddell, education director in Perth and Kinross, said that authorities had some way to go to match the client-focused services of companies such as Kwik-Fit. Schools and authorities had to become more open.

"I sometimes think education authorities are a machine, with the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of a juggernaut," Mr Waddell said.

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