Parents should be heard

14th January 2005 at 00:00
-here is unlikely to be much argument among either professionals or the laity in education that a strong parent voice at national level is desirable. The question is how that can be achieved. Despite the criticisms advanced by the Scottish Consumer Council this week (page five), the truth is that the parent voice has probably never been stronger in education, both at policy-making and school levels. It is not just a matter of the odd parental representative (or "unrepresentative", as the SCC might choose to call them) sitting on a few committees: schools, cajoled by the Executive, are probably more aware than ever before that they need parents more than parents need them.

The looming legislation will try to address the issue of a single representative body for parents, who are currently spoken for by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and the Scottish School Board Association.

The SCC's intervention may be seen as opportunistic in this evolving context, but its call for a national body to give parents a voice "to challenge the vested interests of education providers" is not to be dismissed.

The council's arguments, however, that parents are not adequately catered for in terms of information from schools, the handling of complaints and promoting choice are not convincingly borne out by the findings of its own research. For example, its briefing issued this week notes that more than 90 per cent of parents agreed the school gave them clear information on their child's progress, a half knew a great deal about helping their child with subject choices, only a quarter had cause to complain to their school and three quarters felt they were involved enough in their child's education.

These figures appear to suggest as good a level of satisfaction as one could expect with a highly visible public service. It is difficult to believe that a national body, however single or representative, could do better.

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