Parental and community engagement
96. The consultation document explained that there will be provisions in the Education Bill to make the existing legal duties in relation to parental involvement clearer and stronger, to reflect the transfer of responsibilities to headteachers through the Headteachers' Charter and to encourage stronger collaboration between school leaders and parents. The Scottish Government will also clarify the relevant duties which apply to early learning and childcare which is funded but not provided by the public sector.
In general, respondents were supportive of the broad areas for reform to the Scottish Schools (Parental) Act 2006. However, while there was support for the principles behind parental involvement, there was less support for legislation to enshrine this; and a number of respondents noted that schools already involve parents in decision-making.
While there was support for parental involvement and acknowledgement of the need to involve a wider range of parents, there were concerns that it is difficult to ensure that parents from a wide range of backgrounds are involved, and some respondents commented that not all parents want to be involved.
Respondents noted the need for a range of communication channels, strategies and support for engaging parents.
There was also general support for the duties and powers in relation to parental involvement to apply to publicly funded early learning and childcare settings.
97. The consultation posed three questions in relation to parental and community engagement. The first of these asked,
Question 8: Are the broad areas for reform to the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 correct?
98. As demonstrated in Table 3, a higher proportion of respondents considered the broad areas for reform to the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 were correct, than did not (211 agreed, compared to 102 who did not, although over half the respondents gave an answer of 'don't know' or did not respond to this question). There was broad support across all sub-groups, with the exception of professional learning.
Table 3: Question 8
|Yes||No||Don't know||Not answered|
|Parent Council / Forum (103)||42||13||18||30|
|Local Authority (42)||13||1||2||26|
|Professional association / group (35)||11||4||-||20|
|Independent / 3rd sector (35)||10||2||3||20|
|Representative organisation (13)||2||-||1||10|
|Further Education / Higher Education (11)||2||1||2||6|
|Professional learning (7)||-||3||2||2|
|Other education (17)||3||1||3||10|
|Other organisation (19)||5||1||-||13|
99. The key theme to emerge at this question – and cited by around one in four respondents – was the need for further clarification and detail. Examples included: what is meant by collaboration, clarification around what would be viewed as substantive matters of school, or ways in which headteachers would be held accountable. This was cited by respondents in all sub-groups and particularly those in parent councils / fora, local authorities and professional associations / groups.
100. A small proportion of respondents agreed that greater involvement of parents is good and that children do better when parents are involved or that the suggested reforms will improve parental involvement (expressed across all sub-groups but highest levels among those in representative organisations, the independent / 3 rd sector or professional associations / groups). That said, a similar proportion of respondents also noted that schools already involve parents in decisions; and a small proportion of respondents noted that no change is necessary.
101. While there was broad support for parental involvement, small proportions of respondents noted that parents do not want increased powers or that this could put some parents off becoming involved (cited by higher proportions of parent council / fora, local authorities and schools); or that some parents do not want to be involved (cited by higher proportions of parent council/ fora). While there was an acknowledgement of the need to involve a wider range of parents and engage with the wider parent community (rather than simply the parent council), there were also some comments on the difficulties of ensuring that parents from all backgrounds are involved; for example, those who had a negative experience at school themselves, those whose first language is not English or those with disabilities. Allied to this point, there were some comments that it can be difficult to ensure that parents from all backgrounds are involved or that it may not be feasible for some parents to become involved; for example, single parents or full time working parents; this is particularly relevant given that parent councils currently do not always represent the wider parent body.
102. A small proportion of respondents also noted concerns that some parents will have too much say in areas where they do not have sufficient knowledge or expertise, or that parents might focus on issues relevant to their child rather than having an understanding of the wider school picture.
103. There were some concerns over the legal framework or legislative aspects in that these could be off putting to parents and / or impact on headteacher recruitment and retention. Highest proportions of these comments came from parent councils / fora and local authorities.
104. As at other questions, small proportions of respondents made reference to potential increases in headteacher workloads. A small proportion noted their concern that the requirements set out could lead to unnecessary and bureaucratic paperwork rather than greater engagement and discussion.
105. Other themes raised by small proportions of respondents included:
- Opposition to a dilution of the role of local authorities.
- The need for resources such as training or support for parents, or funding and support for headteachers.
106. The campaign response was not supportive of the introduction of legislative requirements on parent councils and felt this could reduce the number of parents or carers prepared to be involved.
Question 9: How should the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 be enhanced to ensure meaningful consultation by headteachers with parents on substantive matters of school policy, improvement planning and curricula design?
107. Overall, 501 respondents provided commentary to this question, with a small proportion noting their support for the proposal. Just over one in ten respondents noted that schools already carry out meaningful consultation or that meaningful consultation with parents is already part of their improvement planning; and slightly fewer respondents noted that no change is necessary.
108. Very small proportions of the 501 respondents cited a number of means by which the Act could be enhanced to ensure meaningful consultation. These included:
- Good, clear and informative communications, written in plain English.
- Showcasing examples of best practice.
- The use of modern technology such as email / texts / the internet.
- Media / PR campaign to increase parental awareness.
- Engaging parents in school activities to increase their understanding of the learning process.
- Strategies to help engage reluctant parents or suggestions for engaging with a wide range of parents.
109. Small proportions of respondents noted provisos or concerns such as the need for support and training for both headteachers and parents, or that consultation is only possible if parents are willing to engage. There were also some requests for further clarification or detail such as clearly defined roles and expectations or a clear framework for parental engagement.
110. A small proportion of respondents referred to the need for involvement of the wider community and other professional audiences, with some reference to the inclusion of CLD practitioners.
111. The campaign response noted that no enhancement is required as consultation already occurs.
Question 10: Should the duties and powers in relation to parental involvement apply to publicly funded early learning and childcare settings?
As shown in Table 4, greater proportions of respondents agreed that the duties and powers in relation to parental involvement should apply to publicly funded early learning and childcare settings than did not (273 agreed with this compared to 79 who did not, although around half of respondents said 'don't know (93) or did not give a reply (229). Support for this proposal came from respondents within all sub-groups.
Table 4: Question 10
|Yes||No||Don't know||Not answered|
|Parent Council / Forum (103)||42||17||14||30|
|Local Authority (42)||12||-||3||27|
|Professional association / group (35)||13||1||1||20|
|Independent / 3rd sector (35)||12||-||1||22|
|Representative organisation (13)||2||1||-||10|
|Further Education / Higher Education (11)||4||-||1||6|
|Professional learning (7)||2||-||1||4|
|Other education (17)||5||-||2||10|
|Other organisation (19)||4||-||1||14|
112. Of the 390 respondents who provided any commentary, the key theme emerging and cited by around one in ten respondents, was that there should be consistency and parity across all levels of education from ages 3 to18. Small proportions of respondents also noted that:
- Parental involvement is important at all stages of education.
- Early years is an important stage of lifelong learning.
- Parents should be involved as soon as possible from the outset.
- Parental involvement during the early years is beneficial.
- Establishing a culture of parental involvement at an early stage is vital and parents will subsequently be more likely to engage throughout the remainder of their child's education.
113. Any other comments were made by only very small proportions of respondents. These tended to echo comments made at the earlier questions on parental engagement. These comments included reference to:
- Increased workloads for nursery staff.
- A need for funding and resources to implement this.
114. There were also some requests for clarification or further detail, for example, what is defined as 'publicly funded'.
115. The campaign response noted that parent councils should not have any legal duties imposed upon them; and that the imposition of legal duties could serve to deter parental involvement.