Parents want inside the tent

22nd May 2009 at 01:00
Parents could soon have a seat on the new education committee at Aberdeen City Council

Their growing concerns about the authority's well-documented financial woes have, in part, been responsible for the move.

Officials are looking into the idea, which was recently submitted as a motion by Liberal Democrat councillor Irene Cormack. She said it was the ideal time for such a change, with the authority moving to scrap its controversial area-based structure and bring back a more traditional education committee.

Mrs Cormack said she had been approached by parents who could not understand why a committee dealing with education had three religious representatives and two teachers, but no one speaking for parents.

A "parent council liaison group" had been formed in the city "out of a sense of frustration that they were not fully involved", with council cutbacks giving it regular cause for complaint.

Chris Dunhill, chair of the parent council in the Ferryhill area of the city, believes the parents' perspective would "enrich" the education committee. "It seems appropriate to give parents a chance to be directly involved in developing the strategies that will affect their children's education," she said. "This is also an opportunity to provide greater transparency and increase parents' understanding of education issues."

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said parental membership of education committees had been tried elsewhere and still existed in a small number of authorities, but with limited success.

A small number of parents on an education committee would have limited influence, their voices lost amid the "clamour" of committee business, Mrs Gillespie said. Moreover, many items would be irrelevant to their children, particularly given the trend for large departments encompassing leisure and culture.

She preferred the approach by authorities such as Edinburgh, where a strong parent group has regular meetings with senior council figures.

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