Getting the most from your Parent Council
Everyone on the Parent Council will bring something different and something useful to help you be successful. There may also be others; parents, grandparents, relatives, community members and local authority staff who can help you with your work. Identifying the particular skills that you need and finding out who has these will be important and help you to make the most of everyone's contribution.
Working with others on the Parent Council can also be a way of learning from other people and developing new skills.
What do parents bring?
- Are experts on their own children and bring this information and knowledge about their children's needs
- Have unique and varied skills, interests, knowledge and experience
- Are members of their local community and have links (e.g. with businesses, shops and services) that the school may not have
- Are in touch with other parents (members of the Parent Forum)
and can represent a wider range of views.
What does the headteacher bring?
The headteacher, or sometimes someone standing in for the headteacher, will always attend Parent Council meetings and be there to give encouragement and guidance.
- Will keep the Parent Council informed on what is happening in the school and what plans there are for development and improvement
- Can support the involvement of pupils in the activities of the Parent Council and make the links to learning and the curriculum
- Can provide opportunities for parents to join in school activities and plan with the Parent Council how this can happen
- Will work alongside the Parent Council to help you support the school
- Provides a link with other staff in the school and the authority.
What others can bring-
The constitution for your Parent Council may include a certain
number of co-optees. Co-opted members:
- Can contribute wider experience and knowledge relevant to the local community
- Can provide a link with parents of children who are about to join the school
- May have specialist skills or knowledge they can bring to the Parent Council
For some topics you can invite people with particular expertise, e.g. local councillors, school nurses, or architect for a new school.
Not forgetting pupils!
After all they are what it's all about and by talking to them you can learn a lot about their interests and priorities that can help you in planning your events and get them on your side. Pupils:
- Have direct access to parents and can be a good channel of communication
- Have strong views, from first-hand experience, of what they feel needs to change to make their school better
- Can be encouraged, with the support of staff, to take part in
- Can be encouraged, with the support of staff, to take part in activities with the Parent Council as part of the curriculum and may be able to help with devising and carrying out surveys of parents' views or using communication skills learnt in class
- Can be a 'magnet' for encouraging parents to join in school activities
- Who are on the Pupil Council can help with communicating with all pupils.
Beyond the Parent Council
One of the main purposes of the Parent Council is to support the involvement of parents in ways that suit them best. This may be through events, subgroups, responding to surveys, helping their children at home or getting involved in the school. Be on the look out for parents with particular expertise that can support the school from web design to woodwork!
There may be lots of other people - grandparents, older brothers or sisters, other relatives - who also have a lot to offer the school and can support learning. Grandparents in particular have a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge to offer - and most importantly, many of them also have time to volunteer and get involved (subject to the usual disclosure checks if necessary).
How can the Toolkit help?
The Toolkit offers advice and activities to help with a number of areas in this leaflet.
Identifying skills - the activity on page 50 of the Toolkit describes the use of a skills and strengths poster to help you to discover and share your own strengths as well as finding out about those of other people.
Co-optees - there is more information about co-opted members on pages 92 and 93 of the Toolkit.
Pupils - pages 47, 48 and 49 of the Toolkit give ideas and examples of how pupils can help parents to get involved in the school and their learning.
Community support - the checklist on page 55 of the Toolkit may help you to think about how the wider community can support your activities.
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