Conflict as parents try to regroup

25th September 1998 at 01:00
Clare Dean reports on a planned re-launch of the ill-fated National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations

YEARS of internecine strife within the national parents' group representing more than 11,000 schools will come to a head next weekend.

The National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations - the subject of a damning investigation by charity commissioners - is set for a relaunch.

David Butler, director of client services at a Kent college, is about to be hired as NCPTA director, new trustees are to be appointed and the organisation is to be modernised, regionalised and put on a sound financial footing.

At least, that is the plan according to Richard Hill of KPMG, the interim manager sent in by the Charity Commission in the wake of its inquiry into alleged improprieties and accusations of high expenses and hotel bills.

But it is clear that next Saturday's annual meeting which will discuss the relaunch will be far from trouble-free.

There are claims that Mr Hill has refused to accept alternative resolutions, including one that the charity be dissolved and its funds shared between schools. He said he had never received any resolutions.

Sandi Marshall, one of the two former trustees ousted after instigating the highly-critical Charity Commission inquiry, is already planning the next stage of attack.

"We won't let this rest. We will take this to Parliament. Closing down the organisation and starting up something else is not addressing the problems we had in the first place. It is sweeping them under the carpet."

Both she and Sean Rogers, the former chair-elect who was also removed from the NCPTA's board of trustees, will be attending the meeting in Birmingham.

And while the arguments rage on, the voice of parents in the education debate remains unheard.

Mr Hill said: "We are actually poised to drag the existing organisation out of the shadows and put it squarely on its feet, facing the right direction. I get pretty irritated with the small minority who have personal agendas."

Much of the mud-slinging has been targeted at Margaret Morrissey, the press officer and former trustee who was given an OBE for her work with the charity.

The Charity Commission claimed that she and two other officers may have benefited from positions as trustees in being appointed to their jobs. It later authorised continued employment and Mr Hill proposes she remain in post.

Mrs Morrissey said: "Having been in the NCPTA for 12 years and being recognised by a significant number of people in the education world there is inevitably going to be jealousy.

"I have had to fight and put up with this for years, and I hope that this AGM will recognise the work that I have done."

Mr Hill believes the relaunch - closing down the NCPTA and transferring its business and assets to a newly-formed company - will end the in-fighting of decades.

He may be being optimistic. A special meeting early this year to discuss the Charity Commission report degenerated into procedural wrangles and personal attacks.

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