Parents, carers and family members are by far the most important influences on children’s lives. After all, between the ages of 5 and 16 children spend only 15% of their time in school! Research shows that when parents are involved in their child’s learning, children do better at school and throughout life. This leaflet tells you about changes that have been made to the law to help parents and schools work together as partners in children’s learning.
A new approach to involvement
Because parents have such a vital role to play in their children’s education, the Scottish Parliament has passed a new law called the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 (81 KB PDF) – to encourage and support more parents to become involved.
Most schools are already working very hard to involve parents, but the Act makes it a top priority for every education authority and every school to support the involvement of parents:
- at home – by providing them with information on what their children are learning at school and how this can best be supported at home
- through school – by providing them with opportunities to contribute to the life of the school e.g. by helping out in the classroom, on school trips and at school events
- in a more formal way – by helping them to decide what kind of parent group the school should have.
What parents have said
Parents are clear about what help they want to support their child’s learning. You want good opportunities to express your views, to raise issues that are important to you and your child, to get a proper response to your requests and questions and to know more about what goes on in schools. The law makes it easier for you to do all of this.
What does the law say?
The main aims of the Parental Involvement Act (the new law) (81 KB PDF) are to:
- help parents become more involved with their child’s education and learning
- welcome parents as active participants in the life of the school
- provide easier ways for parents to express their views and wishes.
To help achieve these aims, all parents will automatically be members of the Parent Forum at their child’s school and will be entitled to have a say in what happens at the school.
What is the Parent Forum?
As a member of the Parent Forum, each parent can expect to:
- Receive information about the school and its activities
- Hear more in future about what partnership with parents means in their school
- Be invited to be involved in ways and times that suit them
- Be invited to be involved in ways and times that suit them organised and how it operates
- Identify issues they want the Parent Council to work on with the school
- Be asked their opinion by the Parent Council on issues relating to the school and the education it provides
- Work in partnership with staff
- Enjoy taking part in the life of the school in whatever way they can.
It is important that all parents know about their membership of the Parent Forum as one of the ways parents in the Forum will be able to express their views will be through the Parent Council.
The Parent Council is a group of parents selected by members of the Parent Forum to represent all the parents of children at a school. Parent Councils are very flexible groups and the Parent Forum can decide on the type of group it wants to represent their views. Parents might decide they want a representative from each year group in the school. They might want to include pupils, other teachers at the school or parents from a feeder primary or secondary school. This flexibility allows parents to choose a Parent Council which reflects their school and will encourage parents to get involved.
The type of things a Parent Council could get involved in include:
- Supporting the work of the school
- Gathering and representing parents’ views to the Head Teacher, education authority and HMIE
- Promoting contact between the school, parents, pupils, providers of nursery education and the local community
- Organising events
- Being involved in the appointment of senior staff.
Main features of Parent Councils
- The Parent Forum decides on the type of Parent Council and constitution that is right for the school
- Only parents of children at that school can be members of the Parent Council
- The Parent Forum can agree that the Parent Council constitution allows other people to be co-opted
- The local church or denominational body can nominate someone to be co-opted onto the Parent Council of a denominational school
- The Parent Council chair must be a parent of a child at that school
- The Head Teacher or their representative has a right and a duty to attend Parent Council meetings, unless the parents and Head Teacher decide otherwise
- Schools can choose to set up a Combined Parent Council which would cover more than one school.
Your school’s Parent Council will have a loud voice. The school and the local authority must listen to what your Parent Council says and give it a proper response.
Every school’s Parent Council will be different because it will be parents in each school who decide such things as:
- how their Council will be set up
- what it should be called
- what size it should be – e.g. in a very small primary school, all parents could be involved
- who should be a member of the Parent Council
- how they should be appointed
- when the most convenient time is to hold meetings
- what will be discussed at meetings – these might be topics such as school uniform, parking near the school, the school’s anti-bullying policy, etc.
The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 sets out arrangements for the membership and functions of Parent Councils. Whilst there is no need to repeat them in the constitution, they will remain legal requirements. The same point applies to any other piece of relevant legislation. Section 8 of the Toolkit (1004 KB PDF) should be studied closely alongside the guidance on the Act. Parent Councils can be very informal groups and this informality should make it easier for more parents to take part.
Points to think about
How your Parent Council works is determined by what is set down in its constitution. The main function of a constitution is to describe the Parent Council, what its objectives are and how it will carry these out.
Parent Council Insurance Cover
- Head Teachers have a vital role to play in how an education authority implements its strategy for promoting parental involvement in education and learning. The Head Teacher must ensure that the school takes account of the authority’s strategy and that objectives for the school include the involvement of a pupil’s parents in the education provided to the pupil and the school’s pupils generally. Factors which can help promote successful involvement of parents include positive leadership and an open message that the school welcomes partnership with parents. Head Teachers and their staff should make every effort to reach out to parents who are not usually involved.
- The Head Teacher and school staff must be available to give advice and information to parents in respect of their own children at the school. Schools are already required to produce a brochure for parents giving basic information about the school. This could be reviewed regularly with the Parent Council to ensure that it provides information that is useful to parents in a form that they find accessible and readable.
- Parents often value face to face discussion with their child’s teacher and this can be provided formally at a parents evening but also in more informal ways. Some teachers and primary schools make time available at the beginning or end of the day to be available to discuss any particular issues of concern to parents or staff. Social and cultural events can provide opportunities for parents and staff to develop good relationships that often make subsequent discussions more fruitful.
- The Head Teacher has both a right and a duty to attend, or to be represented at, meetings of the Parent Council. The presumption is that the Head Teacher will normally attend. On occasion, another member of the school staff may attend if the Head Teacher is unavailable, or if they have more knowledge of, or expertise in, the subject being discussed. The Head Teacher will be expected to take part in council discussions and offer advice to the council on what is being done within the school to promote parental involvement. The Head Teacher, if requested to do so, must give advice and information to the Parent Council on any matter falling within the Head Teacher’s area of responsibility. This can cover all aspects of the work of the school, such as matters relating to the school curriculum, policies on uniform or discipline, etc.
- The Head Teacher must have regard to any representations received from the Parent Council (in so far as it is reasonable and practical to do so) in carrying out the duties of the Head Teacher post and must reply to the council. In some circumstances, the extent to which a Head Teacher can offer advice and information may be restricted. For example, issues such as the education of an individual child, or the performance of an individual teacher, are not regarded as matters which would be discussed at the Parent Council. Matters pertaining to individuals should be taken through the school’s usual arrangements for dealing with complaints or grievances. Where an issue falls outwith the Head Teacher’s remit, for example, school closures, re-design of catchment areas etc, the Parent Council can make representations to the education authority.
- The Head Teacher must report at least once per year to the Parent Council, or the Parent Forum, if no council exists. The report must cover the performance of the school and the Head Teacher’s objectives and ambitions for the school as set out in the school development plan. It must have regard to the most recent 12 month report on the school development plan, and the authority’s measures and standards of performance for its schools as defined and published under s7(1) of the 2000 Act. It must also have regard to equal opportunity requirements and how the school meets these. The report can be in a format agreed with the Parent Council or Forum and the Head Teacher must prepare a summary of the report to be sent to every member of the Parent Forum.