Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 02 Jul 2009

Should we set up a parents' council at my daughter's secondary school. How do they work? What do they do?

Hillary's Advice

Parents’ councils sound great on paper, but I wonder how many will get off the ground. In my experience, very few parents want to get seriously involved in their children’s schools, and those that do either become parent governors or stalwarts of their parent teacher association.

However these new councils are specifically intended to encourage more parents to step forward, especially parents from minority groups and those who are, in the polite lingo, “disengaged”, so if this is part of your plan as you struggle to improve your children’s school, it might be a useful string to your bow.

Parents’ councils are intended to channel parental views to a school and to prod schools to find better ways to teach and encourage their pupils. They are there to encourage participation and collaboration, but they can’t make decisions or demand that any specific changes are made.

You will need to explain all this to parents, and to make clear that this is going to be a general parental forum, not a channel for individual complaints. You will also need to see if your school governors are willing to allocate money for administration and training – government grants are available, but only for schools in challenging circumstances. However all Trust schools, where a trust appoints the majority of governors, must now have a parents’ council.

According to the law firm Cobbetts parents’ councils have already made a positive contribution in the areas of healthy eating, home work, school travel, after school clubs and the running of parents evenings.