Section E - Guidance for Others
Role of headteacher
1. Headteachers have a vital role to play in how an education authority implements its strategy for promoting parental involvement in education and learning. The headteacher must ensure that the school takes account of the authority's strategy and that objectives for the school include the involvement of a pupil's parents in the education provided to the pupil and the school's pupils generally. Factors which can help promote successful involvement of parents include positive leadership and an open message that the school welcomes partnership with parents. Headteachers and their staff should make every effort to reach out to parents who are not usually involved.
2. The headteacher and school staff must be available to give advice and information to parents in respect of their own children at the school. Schools are already required to produce a brochure for parents giving basic information about the school. This could be reviewed regularly with the Parent Council to ensure that it provides information that is useful to parents in a form that they find accessible and readable.
3. Parents often value face to face discussion with their child's teacher and this can be provided formally at a parents evening but also in more informal ways. Some teachers and primary schools make time available at the beginning or end of the day to be available to discuss any particular issues of concern to parents or staff. Social and cultural events can provide opportunities for parents and staff to develop good relationships that often make subsequent discussions more fruitful.
4. The headteacher has both a right and a duty to attend, or to be represented at, meetings of the Parent Council. The presumption is that the headteacher will normally attend. On occasion, another member of the school staff may attend if the headteacher is unavailable, or if they have more knowledge of, or expertise in, the subject being discussed. The headteacher will be expected to take part in council discussions and offer advice to the council on what is being done within the school to promote parental involvement. The headteacher, if requested to do so, must give advice and information to the Parent Council on any matter falling within the headteacher's area of responsibility. This can cover all aspects of the work of the school, such as matters relating to the school curriculum, policies on uniform or discipline, etc.
5. The headteacher must have regard to any representations received from the Parent Council (in so far as it is reasonable and practical to do so) in carrying out the duties of the headteacher post and must reply to the council. In some circumstances, the extent to which a headteacher can offer advice and information may be restricted. For example, issues such as the education of an individual child, or the performance of an individual teacher, are not regarded as matters which would be discussed at the Parent Council. Matters pertaining to individuals should be taken through the school's usual arrangements for dealing with complaints or grievances. Where an issue falls outwith the headteacher's remit, for example, school closures, re-design of catchment areas etc, the Parent Council can make representations to the education authority.
6. The headteacher must report at least once per year to the Parent Council, or the Parent Forum, if no council exists. The report must cover the performance of the school and the headteacher's objectives and ambitions for the school as set out in the school development plan. It must have regard to the most recent 12 month report on the school development plan, and the authority's measures and standards of performance for its schools as defined and published under s7(1) of the 2000 Act. It must also have regard to equal opportunity requirements and how the school meets these. The report can be in a format agreed with the Parent Council or Forum and the headteacher must prepare a summary of the report to be sent to every member of the Parent Forum.
Role of HMIE
7. The Act's intention is that there should be a strong working partnership between schools and parents. It reinforces parents' voices in the standards and quality of education provided by the school. HMIE provides a guide on How good is our partnership with parents? designed for use by teachers, managers and parents. This is part of the How good is our school? series of guides to self-evaluation which assist schools to evaluate their own performance in providing education. The guides include self-evaluation indicators covering themes such as reporting pupils' progress, pastoral care, partnership with parents, and links with local authority or other managing body, other schools, agencies and employers.
8. The guidance on partnership with parents highlights effective ways in which schools and parents and carers can work together to support children's learning and identify strengths and areas for improvement. For example, it helps them explore how effective the advice is that is given to parents on how they can support their children's learning, including homework. It looks at how well the school takes account of the wishes and expectations of all parents. And it asks how effectively the school and the authority works in partnership with the Parent Forum or Parent Council that represents parents views.
9. As indicated at Section D, paragraph 14, the Act allows a Parent Council to make representations to HMIE on matters of interest or concern to members of the Parent Forum. The Council must, in the first instance, have made such representations to the headteacher, where appropriate, and the education authority. Most issues will be able to be resolved at a local level and representations to HMIE are expected to be the exception, rather than the norm. HMIE must take account of representations received and may use it to inform future education authority and school inspections, where it is reasonable and practical to do so. In all cases, HMIE must reply to the Parent Council.