Trying to win over the reluctant fifth

13th February 1998 at 00:00
A stubborn fifth of schools still shun school boards, a proportion virtually unchanged since the system was introduced in 1989. But a TES Scotland survey of all 32 education authorities shows a 4 per cent rise in the number of boards, from 2,154 before the current round of elections to 2,238 to date, 80 per cent of the eligible schools.

The final figure will be altered slightly by the results of by-elections in schools where parents failed to form a board during the first attempt between September and November last year.

Most authorities showed an increase in the number of boards, up 22 per cent in the case of South Lanarkshire. But five - Dundee, Highland, Midlothian, North Lanarkshire and Orkney - recorded a fall. Four councils now have boards in every school - East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, and North Ayrshire (the last two having full coverage for the first time).

The survey confirms again that there is no rush to fill seats. Parents continue to come forward in miraculously exact numbers to fill vacancies, and only 15 per cent of the boards that were established had a contest for parent seats.

Board elections are held across the country every two years. Parents are in the majority and each holds office for four years. Half of parent places are subject to election every two years. The process, which the Government proposes to simplify, is a lengthy one - ironically the result of an attempt to avoid "electionitis".

Elections are rerun to give parents a second chance to form a board where vacancies remain. If by-elections do not produce the required number, up to two parents can be co-opted, under the 1996 Education (Scotland) Act. Boards have three months to find parents willing to take one of the empty seats. If they are unsuccessful, the board is disestablished.

This procedure means that it can take from September to the following June before the election round is finalised since many councils do not complete by-elections until March. These second electoral efforts must take place before co-option can start, and schools without boards cannot co-opt parent members to form one.

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