Falling membership and funding behind collapse of parent body

22nd May 2009 at 01:00
One of Scotland's main parent bodies is to disband after funding dried up and membership plummeted

The Scottish Parent Councils Association, formerly the Scottish School Board Association, will hold an extraordinary general meeting on June 13, when it is expected to pre-empt liquidation by agreeing to cease operations at the end of the school year.

On the same day, the Scottish Government will hold an event in Glasgow to discuss the creation of a new national parents' organisation.

The demise of the SSBA was predicted after the last Scottish Executive passed the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act, replacing unwieldy school boards with less bureaucratic parent councils.

Despite changing its name to the SPCA, however, the organisation's membership has fallen from a high of 2,500 to 300 at its first national conference last year under its new name. It attributes this drop in part to uncertainty over whether it would merge with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council - which has 1,768 members including 1,357 in parent councils - to form one body.

SPCA vice-president Donald Gunn MacDonald said talks had been held with the SPTC to discuss joining forces. But, he said, there was an "unwillingness in the SPTC to see a democratically-elected, geographically-spread representative body" come into existence, and it was "clear that they were happy to keep on going as they were".

SPTC development manager Judith Gillespie said: "These are the personal views of Donald Gunn MacDonald, and he is completely mistaken."

The disappearance of the SPCA, Mr MacDonald argued, would leave a "vacuum", with the loss of its "expertise and intellectual property" as well as training courses, although he admitted the organisation no longer provided training to as many authorities as it once did. He said the Government's concordat with local authorities, allowing councils more spending freedom, was partly to blame for the organisation's demise. The SPCA had asked in vain for "transitional funding" from the Government to keep it going before the formation of a new body.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Organisations such as the SPCA can offer their services to parent councils, who then decide whether to buy into these services.

"Parents and parent councils should decide how they wish to be represented - it's not for government to pre-empt this by funding one organisation over another."

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