Parents 'could have bigger say in running of schools'

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland education correspondent

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image captionPupils will also be given new responsibilities under the proposals

Parents should have more opportunities to become involved in the running of schools, under new proposals.

A consultation which has just been published on the planned Education Bill sets out how parents and students could have a bigger say in decisions.

It is one part of a Scottish government plan for a major shake-up in how schools are run across the country.

It aims to give as much power as possible to individual schools and head teachers.

The consultation, which runs until January, seeks the views of parents, professional bodies and other stakeholders and sets out several aspects of the government's thinking.

It wants to give head teachers a wider range of powers including:

  • More freedom to make choices about the curriculum, within national guidance
  • More freedom to choose school staff and decide on the management structure
  • Strengthening engagement with young people and parents

Education Secretary John Swinney said: "The reforms to be taken forward through the bill are based on the presumption that decisions about children's learning and school life should be taken at school level.

"This is built on strong international evidence that empowered schools and engaged parents lead to better education."

image captionA new education bill was announced as part of this year's programme for government

Mr Swinney launched the consultation at the Royal High School in Edinburgh where he met members of the parent council and some students who are members of a "pupil parliament".

The pupil parliament and class representatives have fed into a number of big decisions taken by the school - from decisions on which corridors students can walk down to its mental health strategy.

The parent council has also played a large role, feeding into major decisions by the head teacher on issues including the curriculum.

Proposals in the document affecting parents and pupils directly include:

  • Strengthening the duty of heads to work with parent councils
  • Looking at how young people are involved in decision-making

However, there are important limits to the kind of parental power being proposed. There is no suggestion, for example, of parents being able to sack teachers or taking schools out of council control.

The plans for school governance changes have sometimes led to heated debate.

The EIS union is concerned heads could be landed with new bureaucratic responsibilities, although the government insists this will not happen.

'Democratic model'

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The EIS will play an active part in this consultation process, and is keen to share the views of teachers on how best to support Scottish education.

"We are clear that improving support for schools - through increased funding, enhanced staff recruitment and retention, and additional classroom resources - is key to delivering government policies which aim to tackle the impact of poverty and raise attainment."

"This consultation is entitled 'Empowering Schools', which is an aspiration that the EIS strongly supports. However, it is essential that this empowerment is based on a democratic model which enables all teachers to contribute to the leadership of learning within their schools."

He added: "Devolving more autonomy to schools can only be successful if it is done within a collegiate structure, supporting all staff in making educational decisions in the best interests of pupils."

The EIS also expressed concern at a proposal to merge the General Teaching Council for Scotland into a wider body.

The consultation runs until the end of January with the bill likely to be published in the spring.

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