Wake up and ask;Letter

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
WHAT'STHE point of school boards? I only ask because, over the last couple of weeks, I've been made very aware that they should not be confused with parents.

Attending a recent consultative meeting in Edinburgh, I was struck by the number of comments which distanced boards from parents. Discussing school policies the point was made that "school boards might know about them, but parents didn't".

Then again a board chairman reported enthusiastically he had "discovered there were parents at his school" when he had undertaken a survey on the home time for primary 1 and 2 pupils. An unprecedented 60 parents had responded, far more than ever before.

And now, to give formal confirmation of all this, the Scottish Executive Education Department - SEED for short - has reorganised itself into three divisions and placed school boards in with teachers, school resources and the improvement agenda, but put parents with pupils and social inclusion.

Of course, this is to be expected. Some years back Pamela Munn looked at parent governors in England and discovered that they identified more with their management role than they did with other parents. Similarly, here, school boards have traditionally been asked to participate in the Government's agenda.

They are asked to respond to endless consultations on what are essentially management matters and remarkably little space is given to the real parent agenda. If I go back to my Edinburgh meeting, the assembled company sat through a detailed presentation on the education department's proposals for self-evaluation, the management's agenda. It provoked very few questions.

However, when the parents' agenda in the form of pupil reports came up, the discussion was animated and opinions were many, varied and strongly held. It is time for a re-evaluation of the role of parents in education.

They are involved because they have children at school. Their involvement should rightly focus on their interests and their children. I'm afraid it's time the managers learnt to manage all on their own.

Judith Gillespie Development manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council Edinburgh

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