Section A - Introduction
Purpose of the Act
1. The Act modernises and strengthens the framework for supporting parental involvement in school education. It aims to help schools, education authorities and others to engage parents meaningfully in the education of their children and in the wider school community. It requires Scottish Ministers and education authorities to promote the involvement of parents 1 in children's education at publicly funded schools. It aims to help all parents to be:
- involved with their child's education and learning
- welcomed as active participants in the life of the school, and
- encouraged to express their views on school education generally and work in partnership with the school.
Who should read the guidance?
2. This guidance is provided in accordance with the duty upon Scottish Ministers under the Act to issue guidance to:
a) education authorities on their duties to prepare a strategy for parental involvement and a scheme for establishing Parent Councils; and
b) to Parent Councils on how they can carry out their functions. There are two main sections aimed at covering the duties and functions of education authorities and Parent Councils, but a reading of both sections will assist both parties with their understanding of the Act.
3. The guidance is of relevance to parents and professionals with an interest in extending parental involvement in children's education. This includes headteachers, teachers, quality improvement officers, home-school link workers, family support staff, community learning development staff, neighbourhood workers, parents' and children's voluntary organisations, health and social workers.
4. The duties in the Act that apply to education authorities relate to their responsibilities towards parents who have a child attending one of their schools. However, the guidance may also be of interest to parents and providers outwith the education authority sector as it reflects the broad principles and benefits of parental involvement in a child's education and learning that apply to all parents.
Status of guidance
5. Both education authorities and Parent Councils must have regard to the guidance in carrying out their functions under the Act. Specific references to the Act are placed in the page margins throughout the document.
6. The guidance aims to help authorities and parents to decide on arrangements that are appropriate for their local circumstances. It is designed to help education authorities and schools ensure that their policies, practices and arrangements for parental involvement reflect the requirements of the Act. It also aims to help Parent Councils to carry out their functions effectively. However, the guidance is not a definitive interpretation of the Act as ultimately, this is a matter for the courts. The guidance is supported by a range of practical materials and activities in the Parents as partners in their children's learning toolkit (referred to in this document as 'the toolkit'). The toolkit has been developed by the Scottish Executive to support authorities, schools and Parent Councils with implementation of the Act. The guidance cross refers to the toolkit where appropriate. The guidance should also be read alongside the Act itself, a copy of which is in the appendix to this document and the Explanatory Notes for the Act. 1
Links with other legislation
7. In implementing their duties under the Act, education authorities should also consider their duties under other relevant legislation. In particular, the Act builds on the:
- Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (referred to throughout this guidance as the
- Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (the "2000 Act");
- Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (the "2004 Act"); and the
- Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (the "1995 Act").
8. These pieces of legislation involve, to varying degrees, issues of parental rights and responsibilities and a requirement to act in the best interest of a child. Authorities should also take into account duties placed on them in other legislation, whether relating to children, equalities or otherwise. The guidance should also be read alongside the regulations on the appointment process for senior staff and relevant guidance. Annex A provides a summary of main relevant legislation and policy initiatives and how they relate to the Act. The resources section of the guidance also highlights other sources of advice and information.
9. In general, expressions used in the Act and in this guidance have the same meaning as that given to them by section 135 of the 1980 Act, as amended. The one exception relates to 'pupil' which includes a child who is under school age if that child is in attendance at a local authority primary school, whether or not the child is in a nursery class in the school. Some other expressions used in the guidance are explained in the glossary.
10. Some preparatory work on the part of both education authorities and parents will be appropriate before Parent Councils can come into being. In particular, education authorities and parents may wish to work together to consider whether to establish Parent Councils and what form these may take. The Act's provisions, therefore, take effect in three main stages, in September 2006, January 2007, and August 2007. Full details of commencement dates for each section of the Act and an overview of the work required during the transition year are contained in Guidance Circular: Commencement of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006, sent to Directors of Education in August 2006. 2
Note: section 8(12) of the Act, does not come into effect until August 2007. This section provides that members of a Parent Council do not incur personal liability for anything done, or purportedly done, in the exercise of the Parent Council's functions, if it was done in good faith. The benefit of this provision will not apply to members of any 'interim' or 'shadow' body set up before the new Parent Councils come into being after August 2007. Accordingly if such an 'interim' or 'shadow' body wish to engage in any activity which might give rise to public liabilities, they should consider carefully the need to obtain appropriate public liability insurance.
11. Further information on this guidance is available from:Scottish Executive Education Department
Parental Involvement Team
Area 2B (North)
Tel: 0131 244 0956/0970