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Threat to parents' influence

Government proposals allowing councils to experiment with new ways of working could threaten plans to increase parental involvement in local education decision-making.

The new School Standards and Framework Act seeks to increase parental influence by requiring all education committees to include a parent-governor representative with full voting rights.

But the Local Government White Paper, published yesterday, is expected to allow councils to pilot new structures - including directly elected mayors and executive cabinets - which could lead to the demise of the traditional committee structure.

That could leave parent-governors, as well as teachers and church representatives, with no formal place in the decision-making process.

Neil Fletcher, the Local Government Association's head of education, said it was hoping the White Paper would prove flexible over the issue. "We would be concerned if the White Paper didn't recognise that the Act does give rights to parent-governors to serve on education committees," he said.

"It would be a step backwards if there wasn't a proper place for parent-governors and other interested groups, particularly on those authorities where the voice of parents on committees has been important for a long time."

Karen Thornton

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