Teachers don't want parents to have more say in schoolsm, says union

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Teachers have baulked at plans to increase parental consultation in school inspections, in a shake-up of how schools are measured.

• Teachers already feel parents have more than enough influence in the classroom Picture: Getty Images

Scotland's primary headteachers' union expressed concern that parents with a personal gripe can already have too much influence.

A consultation document published earlier this week by HMIe, the school inspectorate, proposes to give groups other than teachers more input.

However, Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Heads and Deputes (AHDS) in Scotland, said disproportionate weight was already given to parents' views.

He said: "While parental involvement is rightly seen as an important and desirable element of school life, members have regularly expressed concerns that under existing inspection procedures, disproportionate weight is given to parent perceptions, with little right of reply afforded to schools. The proposals would appear to give greater opportunity for this to happen."

He said particularly groups of parents with gripes about specific issues add to the stress of teachers. However, he said it was very important parents were involved in schools rather than just during inspections.

He also expressed concerns about inspectors picking out individual members of staff, other than the headteacher, in the process. He added: "I would rather see inspection teams try to increase and improve communication with the headteacher and other staff throughout the inspection. This would achieve the same goal without singling out one staff member as the 'inspector's pet'."

However, parents backed the move saying their input would help find local solutions.

Eileen Prior, director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, was part of the group consulted by HMIe on potential reforms.

She said: "We are very supportive that parents should have more input into the process. And we shouldn't think parents are always going to be negative - parents can be a great source of support for schools."

Public consultation on how school inspections should change from next year was announced by HMIe this week.

Proposed changes include fewer schools being examined, shorter reports being published, giving schools fewer than the current three weeks' notice of an impending inspection, and bringing forward inspections of schools which appear to be failing. The move comes after a primary school head, Irene Hogg, was found dead two years ago in the Borders.

Her family said she was devastated at a poor inspection report. A fatal accident inquiry ruled her death was "inextricably linked" to the school inspection.

HMIe claims the reforms have been coming for a long time, but the then senior chief inspector of schools, Graham Donaldson, said he was very aware of the need to alleviate stress.

Should parents be more involved?

Yes - says Eileen Prior

PARENTS need to be involved. We talk about parents as partners in children's education, but if we are serious about that, then they have to be part of it.

Parents have to be more involved in reviewing how schools are doing. The majority of parents want the best for their children and they have knowledge about what works for them.

For schools not to get that information, they would be really missing out. There are areas where parents can help, for example identifying a community project which can fit in with the new Curriculum for Excellence.

They could contribute views on a variety of subjects from disciplinary policy to school meals to whatever: we take the view that the more heads working on a problem, the more likely you are to find a solution. It is very easy to see parents as complaining, but often they are very supportive.

• Eileen Prior is director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.


No - says Hugh Reilly

Less is more would be my response. Currently, the role of mums and dads is to trust the education professionals, support their child's learning and queue patiently at parents evenings. In the struggle for the lunatics to take over the asylum, parents have made great strides.

For example, school board members have a say in appointments to the school management team, and parental feedback regarding school policies and plans is enthusiastically solicited.

A touchy-feely culture now exists whereby, in techno-savvy schools, mums and dads receive text messages regarding a child's progress.

Pupils have become de facto postmen, taking home school junk mail.

In my view, any parent desiring more participation in school life should immediately be confined in a small room with the Curriculum for Excellence Guidelines and a group of disaffected teenagers.

• Hugh Reilly is a Glasgow secondary teacher.