Parents encouraged to lead the way

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Glasgow wants to develop a new band of school leaders from an unconventional source: parents
Glasgow wants to develop a new band of school leaders from an unconventional source: parents.

In an event unprecedented for Scotland, dozens of city parents gathered this week to hear that they will be called upon to provide a pool of leadership talent, alongside heads, teachers and pupils.

National parental involvement co-ordinator Lorraine Sanda, who spoke at the Partners in Leadership Conference at Hampden Park, said: "This is the first time I have seen an authority bringing its parents together to talk about leadership."

Gordon Matheson, the city council's executive member for education and social renewal, is behind an idea that could see parents' influence on a par with that of schools' senior management teams. "To view parents as equals is exciting and has great potential," he said. "I am determined to realise that."

William Haughey, director of the Glasgow company City Refrigeration, said: "Sometimes, too often, we are relying on teachers to be teachers, social workers, psychologists and parents. I don't think that's fair. I think parents have to step up to the mark. They have a big role to play, but I also think they have to be encouraged."

It is not yet clear what the idea of parent leaders will mean in practice, but it is hoped it will bring more chances for them to spend time in school. One delegate suggested parents be invited to in-service days, which officials promised to consider.

Parents interviewed by The TESS were impressed with the efforts to give them more prominence in schools. Mags Boyd, of Caledonia Primary's parent council, was persuaded of the council's determination to make leaders of parents: "It's not lip service; they are doing it."

Sharon Henderson, of Merrylee Primary's parent council, was impressed that this week's event had an informal structure which encouraged parents to speak up.

Some parents took the chance to raise problems at their schools, from leaking roofs and diminishing space for sports to a contention that languages were being marginalised.

Bruce Malone, head of St Andrew's Secondary and chair of a leadership development group of all education sectors in Glasgow, is encouraged by hearing such concerns, as it suggests many parents already feel able to make their voices heard. "The more that kind of confidence is there, the better the establishment will be," he said.

Mrs Sanda said: "There's no reason why we shouldn't ask questions as parents; that's our role as leaders."

Mr Malone is expected to give feedback from the event to the city council later this month. It will then decide how to firm up its plan to encourage parents to act as leaders.

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