Parent chief threatens to quit early

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Clare Dean on the disputes that are tearing the heart out of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations. The chairman of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations has threatened to resign just five weeks after its chief executive quit the troubled organisation.

In the latest twist in a long running saga, Ian Price said he would have to consider his position if the body dubbed "Neanderthal" by former education secretary John Patten did not become more democratic and accountable.

"I haven't come into this organisation to sit on my hands," said Mr Price, a special school head.

"If I don't have the support for the direction I want the organisation to move in I shall seriously consider resigning."

His threat came as NCPTA trustees prepared for a crucial meeting in London tomorrow. They intend to discuss the future of the 40-year-old organisation following the resignation last month of chief executive Michael Pepper.

His departure has brought to a head the row between trustees, staff and its network of federations and all appear locked in dispute on the way forward.

The federations had been due to stage their own meeting in Birmingham at the same time as tomorrow's executive committee in London, but that was postponed when staff called in their union, the MSF, which questioned its status and challenged claims that employees were to blame for Mr Pepper's resignation.

All federation secretaries are now being invited to a meeting either later this month or in October to discuss future moves with the executive committee. The NCPTA's 15 trustees are due to meet tomorrow.

Tensions have simmered for years over who actually runs the organisation - the four full-time and three part-time staff, or the trustees who set policy.

Trustees and the chairman are elected by the 11,500-strong membership although on average there are just 300 to 400 votes for each post.

Many staff have worked for the NCPTA for years - Margaret Morrissey, its press officer, is a past chairman.

The NCPTA constitution gives staff a place on the executive committee, although no voting rights. It is understood there were moves to remove this provision from the constitution but a recommendation from the executive committee is believed never to have been enacted.

Divisions within the organisation are both personal and political with allegations ranging from affairs and drunkenness to financial mismanagement.

There are even claims that just eight months short of a general election it would be in the interests of all parties - but particularly the Government - to have a national body of parents paralysed by dissent.

Mr Pepper's resignation was the second sudden exit from the organisation. Six years ago Phil Woods, its general manager, was dismissed after a weekend meeting of the NCPTA's executive.

Mr Price wants the NCPTA put on a more regional footing in the belief that it will make the organisation more accountable and also increase membership.

He says this will not mean sacking staff and suggests his plan might actually create jobs.

But he determined to continue the internal audit of the NCPTA started by Mr Pepper, a former project leader with the Benefits Agency in York, and is already planning three policy days for federations to express their views.

"I think the NCPTA is influential, but its influence has taken a knock, " said Mr Price.

"I'm trying to identify a compromise for all parties but one which will also be the best possible development for what I consider to be a potentially potent voice for parents."

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