Parents' events 'a waste of time'

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Governors attack bureaucratic meetings. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Governors are threatening to break the law and boycott annual parents'

meetings.

They say the meetings, which are a statutory duty for schools, are a waste of time because hardly anyone turns up.

Last year, the Government relaxed the responsibilities on schools to stage the events. Governing bodies can opt not to hold them if fewer than 15 parents express an interest in attending.

But delegates attending the spring council and conference of the National Governors' Council, in Durham, last weekend threatened to defy ministers and stop organising the meetings.

A straw poll of the 300-strong gathering revealed that more than 50 per cent of schools attracted fewer than 10 parents to their meetings.

Governors said they were time-consuming and bureaucratic because they required governing bodies to produce an annual report on all aspects of school life.

The report is to be replaced later this year with the school profile, a standardised format for all schools designed to cut red tape.

Governors say that most issues covered during the meetings can be discussed at other times, such as parents' evenings when parents have the opportunity to discuss their children's progress.

Tony Longworth, a governor from Bury, Lancashire, said: "We are always being told by ministers that we are the largest volunteer force in the country and that they value our input.

"It is almost a universal view that the annual parents' evening is loathed and despised, so why don't we just stop doing it? What can they do to us collectively?

"These meetings are an unnecessary distraction, taking us away from the task of improving the education of our children.

"Let's just say to parents that it is a useless waste of time and that we are not going to do it."

Lionel Stewart, governors' chairman at Bedford Road lower and Robert Bruce middle schools, Bedfordshire, said: "If you are engaging parents through the year, you don't need a 20-page report - which is often no better than an Enid Blyton novel - or a meeting to discuss it."

Colin Davies, from John Ruskin school in Coniston, Cumbria, said: "The lack of attendance at the annual meeting caused us to discontinue it, although there is an issue of legality."

The TES governors' expert, Lindy Hardcastle, who is also chair of governors at Lady Jane Grey school in Leicester, said her school sent parents a survey beforehand, effectively allowing them to set the agenda for the meeting.

"At least now the parents out-number the governors," she said.

Neil Davies, chairman of the NGC and a governor at City of Portsmouth girls' school, said the organisation would inform ministers about the groundswell of opinion against the meetings.

"We will see what pressure we can bring to bear," he said.

Matt Buck, 31

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