Parents seek renewed rights

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Parents this week demanded voting rights as part of the Government's drive to give them a bigger voice on local education authorities.

They said they wanted accountability as well as responsibility and power, and warned against tokenism by ministers who are committed to putting parent representatives on LEAs. Parents already sit on many education authorities as co-opted members - but their voting rights were removed by the last government.

Church representatives on education authorities still have voting rights provided there are voluntary-aided schools in the area.

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations and a co-opted member of Dorset County Council, said not having a vote was an easy option.

"You can say or do what you like and no one knows where your commitment is. If you have got to vote, it makes you more accountable."

The commitment to increase the powers and responsibility of parents came in the Labour manifesto which pledged to put parent representatives on LEAs and was confirmed in the Queen's Speech.

It is not yet clear though whether parents will be given voting rights and civil servants are working on the White Paper that will form the basis of the Bill.

Privately, council officials see nothing wrong with such a move which could mean that in authorities where no party has overall control parents could be very influential.

"No one speaks for children like parents," said Mrs Morrissey. "Parents fight for their children. That is where their focus is."

CASE - the Campaign for State Education - believes that pupils, parents, staff, governor and the community should be involved in education policy-making.

It wants to see a parents' council of elected class representatives in every school, meeting regularly with the elected parent governors.

Margaret Tulloch, of CASE, warned against the new role for parents on local authorities envisaged by government. "Putting a single person on to something doesn't amount to anything. It is tokenism," she said.

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