Parent power swings into action in Highlands

26th October 2007 at 01:00
The Parent Teacher Association at a Highland school went to huge lengths to make life safer for pupils - providing proof that parent bodies can be far more than talking shops.

An unforeseen and unwelcome side-effect of those efforts, however, has been that parents at the small school have been forced into sustaining two representative groups when common sense suggests that one would suffice.

A narrow and dangerous turning area in front of Teanassie Primary, near Beauly, had been a cause of concern for decades, with children involved in a series of near-misses as cars, minibuses and tractors converged along the single-track road.

Parents had been calling for a new car park for several years when, having tired of bureaucratic hurdles, they decided to take action themselves.

From September 2006 the PTA started raising cash and galvanising local support, and in less than a year the new car park was built.

The project had been costed at pound;65,000, but after local organisations provided materials and labour free of charge, it came in at about pound;10,000. There was even some money left to go towards a new playground.

That should have been the final legacy of the PTA as the school's version of a new type of parent body, the parent council, came into being a few weeks ago.

But complications emerged after the owner of part of what was to become the new car park agreed to lease the land - on the condition that the leaseholder was a parent body.

It was discovered, however, that the new Parental Involvement Act does not permit parent councils to lease land.

There was no such restriction on PTAs - meaning that Teanassie Primary's PTA had to be retained.

This is not ideal for Teanassie Primary, where parents had hoped to deal with all issues through the body, given the school's relatively small roll of 72 pupils.

Chair of the parent council, Lara McDonald, is concerned that the existence of two bodies could place unnecessary demands on members, since both are made up largely of the same people.

"I think the main issue is time, if you're looking at the communication and administration of two bodies in such a small school," she said.

"I would also suggest it will be very confusing for parents, and we'll have to keep reminding them who they would go to for particular issues."

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