'Forget board shake-up'

24th April 1998 at 01:00
Local authorities have unanimously told Brian Wilson, the education minister, to forget any shake up of school boards and an enhanced role for parents.

They have dismissed proposals for substantial reform ahead of next week's deadline for responding to the Government's Parents as Partners consultation, writes David Henderson.

Ministers had suggested beefing-up school board powers and bringing in homeschool agreements which could include attainment targets for pupils. More widely, they want ways to extend parents' involvement in all aspects of children's schooling.

But a string of councils has told Mr Wilson not to join the bandwagon on parents' rights building up south of the border.

They claim, according to the submission from Perth and Kinross, that present legislation is adequate and "there is no evidence of a demand for increased duties either within the current statute or within new primary legislation".

It argues any chance of promoting a culture of partnership "could be undermined or derailed by an over-commitment to a model which was formal, legalistic and potentially litigious".

Like others, Perth and Kinross officials advocate a close parent school partnership but conclude that any agreement is "likely to be bureaucratic, unrealistic and unattainable and negative rather than positive".

East Ayrshire points out that homeschool agreements for all pupils would be difficult to manage. "The range of rights and responsibilities on both sides would create a minefield of complaint and litigation if the relationship between the home and the school broke down," it comments.

North Ayrshire wants any agreements to be "flexible, advisory and general rather than rigid, mandatory and individual". Officers have also rejected any thoughts of parent-advocates to act for individual parents. This should be done directly rather than through intermediaries.

All councils criticise proposals to give school boards greater budgetary powers. They are happy with the present consultative role and say parents have no wish to become further involved.

Falkirk's submission remarks: "Any extension of these powers of approval is to see the basic function of management move away from the headteacher to the board. It is precisely because the delegation has been to the headteacher that the Scottish scheme has been accepted and successful."

East Renfrewshire concurs and adds: "There is even less argument for delegating powers currently held by the local authority and it is difficult to envisage which powers could or should be delegated," it concludes.

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