Working together as Parent Council members
Making your meetings interesting and enjoyable will help to make your Parent Council a success. This leaflet includes some tips to help you make the most of your Parent Council meetings.
Your meetings will be most effective if everyone agrees what is expected of Parent Council members and how you are going to work together. Teamwork is essential and can be summed up as Together Everyone Achieves More.
The purpose of Parent Council meetings are to:
- Decide what actions to take
- Come to decisions which everyone is happy with
- Benefit from the ideas, skills, knowledge, and opinions of all members
- Conduct business efficiently in accordance with the constitution.
Setting ground rules that you can refer back to from time to time can help your meetings run smoothly. Your ground rules might include:
- Ensure meetings start on time - let the Chairperson know if you are
going to be late or cannot attend.
- Stick to the agenda - if there is anything you would particularly like to discuss, speak to the Secretary or Clerk to ask for an item on the agenda.
- Support the group and work as a team - everyone's contribution is important.
- Listen to each other and respect each others, point of view.
- Discourage domination by one or a few members and encourage quieter members to take part.
- Aim towards constructive discussion and decisions - try not to get 'personal'. If your disagree with someone make clear it is their point of view you disagree with rather than them as an individual.
To get the most out of your meetings it helps to have some structure and focus to your discussions. This makes sure that everything can be discussed and dealt with. Any member should be able to put forward suggestions for agenda items to the Chairperson or Secretary for discussion at a meeting. However, it's important to remember that the Parent Council cannot discuss matters relating to individual parents, children or staff members for reasons of confidentiality.
Also, Parent Council meetings are generally open meetings and parents from the wider Parent Forum may attend. As a Parent Council you may want to decide how others attending meetings can participate in discussions.
- Set dates for meetings well in advance to avoid clashing with other events or groups/committees.
- Make sure that agendas are not too long. Three or four main items, apart from the standard items are plenty.
- Two hours is long enough for any meeting - make time for a tea break during your meeting.
- Standard items that will be on every agenda, e.g. minutes and matters arising; sub-group, Secretary and Treasurer reports, should be dealt with quickly to ensure that there is enough time to talk about the main topics.
- Check that actions agreed at the previous meeting have been carried out.
- Any other business - it is a good idea for the Chairperson to ask for items of any other business at the start of the meeting so that they can be programmed into the meeting.
- Ask your headteacher of any important dates in the education calendar when you know you will have items to discuss - e.g. when school development plans have to be produced.
What happens if things go wrong?
- No matter how well your Parent Council is running there may be occasions when differences of opinion occur. These may be between individual members of the Parent Council or between the Parent Council and the headteacher. In either case it will be important to listen to the different views being expressed and to try to find areas of agreement. Focus on the issue and trying to find a way forward.
- If there is disagreement about what the Parent Council should be doing, you could put the issue to the wider Parent Forum to gain their views.
- Sometimes the Parent Council and the headteacher may have different opinions on an issue. It is important that discussion focuses on reaching agreement in the interests of the well being of all children and the school, for whom the headteacher is ultimately responsible.
If you cannot reach agreement with the headteacher you can make your case to the education authority who may ask one of their staff to help resolve the issue. Exceptionally, if after involving the education authority you still have concerns, it may be possible to refer the issue to HMIE (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education).
How can the Toolkit help?
The Toolkit offers advice and activities to help with a number of areas in this leaflet.
Resolving disagreements - page 52 of the Toolkit provides some ideas for resolving disagreements or misunderstandings.
Complaints - pages 74 - 76 of the Toolkit cover complaints procedures. Note: the education authority is under a duty to
have a complaints procedure in place and to consult Parent Councils on the procedure.