The Act should be seen within the broad context of legislation and policy which supports children and families. In particular, it reflects the vision of Scottish Ministers' that Scotland's children and young people will become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors by being safe, nurtured, active, healthy, achieving, included, respected and responsible.
Some of the main themes of the Act and how these complement other legislation and policies are set out below.
Link to other Legislation/Policy
Involving parents in school education
The Act requires education authorities to promote the involvement of parents in their children's school education. School education includes the provision of facilities for social, cultural and recreative activities and for physical education and training.
The effective involvement of parents in their children's education and learning is a crucial element in Ministers' overall programme for Ambitious Excellent Schools.
Successful involvement of parents can help education authorities to deliver on their priorities for education.
Under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (the "1980 Act"), parents must ensure that their children of school age receive efficient education suitable for their age, ability and aptitude. (s30(1)) Education authorities must provide adequate and efficient school education within their area. (s1(1))
The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (the "2000 Act") places education authorities under a duty to secure that the education provided by them is directed towards the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential. (s2)
Ambitious Excellent Schools was launched in November 2004. This framework for improving schools includes giving more choice to parents for their children and encouraging schools to engage fully with parents in the education they provide.
The 2000 Act requires that Scottish Ministers set out the long term strategic direction for improvement in Scotland's schools by way of national priorities in education. (s4) Five National Priorities in Education underpin the Scottish Executive's education policies. These are:
Achievement and Attainment: Framework for Learning: Inclusion and Equality: Values and Citizenship: and Learning for Life.
More information and examples of practice for authorities and schools is available from the National Priorities web-site www.nationalpriorities.org.uk
The Act requires the authority to seek the views of pupils when developing or reviewing its strategy for promoting parental involvement.
The 2000 Act requires education authorities to take account of the views of children where expressed. (s2(2))
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (the "1995 Act") also makes provision for seeking and taking account of the views of children in key decisions that affect them. (s6)
The Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 makes provision for improving communication with pupils with a disability in ways that take account of their disabilities and any preferences expressed by their parents.
Strategy for parental involvement
The Act requires education authorities to prepare a strategy to promote parental involvement in school education.
The education authority strategy must take account of:
(a) Equal opportunities
The Act requires education authorities to have regard to how their policies for promoting parental involvement in school education will promote equal opportunities.
References to "equal opportunities" and "equal opportunity requirements" have the same meanings as in Section L2 of Part II of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998. "Equal opportunities" means the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin, or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions.
"Equal opportunity requirements" means the requirements of the law for the time being relating to equal opportunities.
The focus on "equal opportunities" builds on the 2000 Act which requires education authorities to prepare an annual statement of education improvement objectives which includes an account of the ways in which they encourage equal opportunities in the school education provided by them.
There is a range of legislation covering equality issues which may have an impact on an education authority's policies in respect of pupils and parents.
The main pieces of legislation covering disability are:
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995, (as amended)
- Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002
- Disability Discrimination Act 2005
The above range of legislation includes the requirement on local authorities and schools not to treat disabled pupils less favourably and to make reasonable adjustments to avoid putting them at a substantial disadvantage; to have a strategy for improving accessibility to schools and the curriculum and improving communication with pupils with disabilities, especially in relation to the provision of school information; and to publish a disability equality scheme.
The main pieces of legislation in respect of race are:
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
These include the requirement on service providers, including local authorities and schools, not to discriminate on grounds of race; a general duty on public bodies to eliminate discrimination on grounds of race and promote race equality; and under regulations under the Act a requirement to publish a race equality policy. Education authorities and grant aided schools must make arrangements to monitor and assess the impact of their policies on pupils, staff and parents from different racial groups, including in relation to pupil attainment.
Other key pieces of legislation include:
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975
This requires local authorities and schools not to discriminate on grounds of sex.
This places a general duty on public bodies in carrying out their fuctions to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and promote equality between men and women. Act also includes a power to allow an Order to be made which will require local authorities and schools not to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.
(b) Children looked after by the authority
The education authority strategy must make reference to the needs of children who are looked after by the authority.
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (the "1995 Act"), establishes the responsibilities of services, providers and parents in matters affecting children's care and welfare. Local authorities must provide services designed to minimise the impact of disabilities on children and to allow them to lead lives which are as fulfilling as possible. (s20)
The 1995 Act also sets out the legislative framework for cases where a child is looked after by a local authority. The authority is required to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, making use of services available from their own parents, where possible; and take steps to promote personal relations and direct contact between the child and any person with parental responsibilities for him or her, where this is practicable and appropriate.
Where a person takes a major decision in fulfilling a parental responsibility or right under the 1995 Act they must have regard to the views of the child, taking account of the child's age and maturity and whether the child wishes to express a view.
In addition to (a) and (b) above, the authority strategy should take account of issues relating to:
(c) Non-resident parents
The definition of parent used in the Act covers all those who have parental rights and responsibilities for a child, including parents who no longer live with the child.
Under the 1995 Act, parents must, where it is in the interests of the child and is practicable, safeguard and promote their child's health, development and welfare. This also applies to anyone over 16 who has care or control of a child under the age of 16. In addition, parents have a responsibility to provide their children who are under 18 years of age, with appropriate direction and guidance. They should maintain personal relations and direct contact with their son or daughter on a regular basis, if they do not live with their child. Parents also have a responsibility to act as their child's legal representative.
(d) Family support
The authority's strategy should take account of all factors which inhibit or prevent families from supporting their children's education and development.
There are a wide range of national and local policies being developed to promote social inclusion and raise educational standards. Increasingly, schools in Scotland are being encouraged to develop an integrated community schools approach. Such an approach requires teachers, social workers, family workers and health personnel to work together to develop common objectives and goals centred on the needs of children at school and on their families. This approach is essential to secure good outcomes, not only for children's education, but also for their social welfare, their health and the well being of the community where they live. The education authority strategy for parental involvement should take account of the full range of policy interests involved in supporting children and families.
(e) Early years
The Act makes provision for Parent Councils to promote contact with providers of early years nursery education.
The Scottish Executive's policy for i ntegrated early years services offers a framework for the effective provision of universal and targeted services for children and their families and provides a vision of integrated early years services based on partnerships at all levels.
The National Standards for Early Education and Childcare contain a number of standards relating to working with parents. These include provision for parents and carers to be encouraged to take part in the service and to establish an effective partnership with staff.
(f) Children's learning and development
The authority's strategy for parental involvement should link with their policies for additional support needs where necessary.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 gives parents rights to be involved in aspects of their child's education and services and places duties on local authorities to involve them. The range of factors which may give rise to additional support needs is broad and includes issues which may arise from particular family circumstances.
(g) Integrated Children's Services
The Act requires education authorities to update their Statements of Education Improvement objectives as required by the 2000 Act.
Local authorities are required to have integrated planning arrangements in place with NHS Boards, police services, children's reports, the voluntary sector and community groups to ensure effective planning and delivery of integrated children's services. This includes education authority statements of education improvement objectives.
Integrated Children's Services Plans are designed to ensure that local agencies work together to help deliver improved outcomes for all children and young people in line with the Ministerial vision. Plans must include reference to services for vulnerable children and children in need, including arrangements for early intervention and support within universal services and targeted additional support where required.
Parent Councils and the wider community
The Act makes provision for Parent Councils to promote contact between the school, parents and the local community.
The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 requires local authorities to engage with community bodies in the community planning process. (s15) The National Standards for Community Engagement, produced by Communities Scotland, are aimed at making participation easier and more inclusive for individual people and community groups, which may include Parent Councils, and more effective for all of the people and bodies involved. This includes the promotion of the roles of parents in their children's education.
The National Health Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2004 also lays strong emphasis on partnership and public involvement in the planning and development of health services. (s2) Parent Councils may have views on school health services, provision of therapy services, etc.