Working in partnership

16th May 2008 at 01:00
Lorraine Sanda, the new national parental involvement co-ordinator, is well qualified for negotiating her way through the minefield that is parent politics in Scotland
Lorraine Sanda, the new national parental involvement co-ordinator, is well qualified for negotiating her way through the minefield that is parent politics in Scotland. Before her children were born, she served for 17 years in the diplomatic service. She was involved in negotiations with NATO and the EU on behalf of the British Government. So trying to reconcile the interests of the two main parent organisations - the Scottish Parent Councils Association (formerly the Scottish School Board Association) and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council - should not be too daunting.

Her career now in parent advocacy has its roots in the birth of her daughter with disabilities. Instead of remaining in the diplomatic service in London, she returned to Stirling. Her daughter is now in P7, and she has two boys, in P5 and P3, all bilingual on account of their Spanish father.

For 10 years, Mrs Sanda worked in a voluntary capacity, mainly for parents of children with additional support needs. Until now, she was working for Stirling Council on the implementation of the Additional Support for Learning and Parental Involvement acts.

"Working in partnership" is her mantra, and she hopes to continue the work in parental involvement initiated by her predecessor, Celia Burns. The job title is the same, but the remit different.

"Where she was involved in the Bill stage and implementation of the transition year, my job is to move things forward on how we get parents to support children's learning at home and to get better home-school partnerships," she says, from her base at Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Last weekend, the SPCA made calls for a national representative parents' body to be set up. Peter Peacock, the former Labour education minister, was the catalyst for the legislation abolishing the SSBA. His vision was for a stronger parental association that would involve the "harder to reach" parents.

The legislation was designed to make parent bodies more inclusive, less bureaucratic and more flexible. Mrs Sanda believes it is doing that.

Her emphasis is on engaging parents more in education, rather than creating a national voice. She believes A Curriculum for Excellence, with its stress on successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors will help, by demonstrating a real meaning for education they didn't have before.

Photograph: Chris JamesEpicscotland.

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