Section D – Guidance for Parent Councils
The Act and Parent Councils
1. The Act provides duties and powers in relation to parental involvement in the life and work of the school and in relation to parental engagement in children’s learning. One aspect – but not the only aspect - of parental involvement is the Parent Council. This section of the guidance clarifies and explains the relevant duties and powers relating to Parent Councils.
Role of Parent Council
2. The Act gives members of a school’s Parent Forum the choice to set up a school Parent Council to represent them if they feel they wish to do so. It also sets out the role of Parent Councils in supporting parental involvement in the work and the life of the school, while also providing opportunities for parents to express their views on children’s education and learning. The Act gives a Parent Council functions to gather views from the Parent Forum and provide information and views to schools and education authorities on matters which affect children’s education and the life and work of the school. In all cases, parents and the Parent Council can expect to influence decisions, to be listened to and be engaged in ongoing effective two way communication with schools and school leaders, be fully involved in key decision making processes and receive useful feedback as to how their views are being taken forward or addressed. An example of a key decision making process where Parent Councils must be fully involved by the education authority is in the recruitment of a headteacher or deputy headteacher for the school.
3. The Parent Council is entitled to support from the education authority in fulfilling its role. The role and duties of an education authority and ways in which the authority must support parents and Parent Councils are detailed in Section C of this guidance.
Setting up a Parent Council
4. The Act is designed to allow parents to set up a Parent Council which will work best for their school, the Parent Forum and the school community. It is for members of a school’s Parent Forum to decide on what kind of Parent Council they want for their school, how it works and what it is called. However, parents can call on the support of education authority staff and the headteacher to help them decide on what arrangements will work best in their school. Some of the key issues that parents should consider are:
- How will the Parent Council represent the views of all parents?
- How will the Parent Council engage with the diverse range of parents and carers whose children attend the school?
- How will the Parent Council be open and accountable to members of the Parent Forum?
- What kind of partnership should the Parent Council have with the school and the wider community?
- How can the Parent Council attract members and involve more parents in what it does?
- What support will the school and education authority provide?
5. The Act states that the Parent Council shall be known as the “[Insert school] Parent Council”, unless the Parent Forum decides otherwise. This means that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the precise name that is chosen. In some instances, the members of the Parent Forum and/or Parent Council may find the term “Parent Council” to be overly formal or off-putting to some parents who might otherwise wish to be involved. In circumstances where the Parent Forum decides to call the Parent Council by another name it will be for the Parent Council or Combined Parent Council to agree a name by which it will be known.
6. Once established, the Parent Council must inform the headteacher of the school, members of the Parent Forum, pupils and other parties as they consider appropriate that it has been established. The Parent Council must also inform them of who the members are, particularly those in office bearing roles, what role (if any) members have been selected to carry out while serving on the Parent Council and how they can be contacted. It must also provide a copy of its constitution to the headteacher and inform members of the Parent Forum and other parties as they consider appropriate of what its functions will be. The updated, current constitution must be shared with the head teacher and local authority every time it is changed or revised. The Parent Council should be supported by the education authority which can include the headteacher acting on the authority’s behalf, to develop ongoing and effective communication arrangements with all those who they need to keep informed and involved in its functions.
Membership of Parent Council
7. The Act requires that the majority of members of the Parent Council must be members of the school’s Parent Forum, which means they must have a child attending the school (including a nursery class in the school). It also states that only a member of the school’s Parent Forum may chair a Parent Council for that school. Beyond this, the Act allows parents to decide how the Parent Council will be organised for their school and what activities it will take forward. Parents may choose to allow others out-with the Parent Forum to be co-opted on to their Parent Council if they wish to draw on wider experience, such as school staff, local councillors or other people from the school’s community. Co-opted members of a Parent Council may contribute to discussions but are not entitled to vote at meetings. Where a Parent Council is established in a denominational school, its constitution must allow for at least one of its members to be co-opted. The Parent Council must invite the relevant church or denominational body to nominate a representative to be part of its membership.
8. Members of the Parent Council will bring their own experience, views and knowledge to meetings. However, as parent representatives, or representatives of the school community if they are co-opted, they must also consider how they make sure the Parent Council presents a co-ordinated, collective voice and is fully representing the views of all members of the Parent Forum. The Parent Council should consider how they can ensure that the views of all parents can be taken into account and what they can do to make it easy for all parents to be fully involved and engaged in the life and work of the school. Head teachers can help to support Parent Councils in carrying out this role and, in their key role as school leaders in an empowered system, can provide a key link to education authority strategies for promoting parental involvement among all parents.
|Denominational school||Denominational schools are run by the local education authority and have been established to serve a particular religious denomination or faith community. The majority of denominational state schools in Scotland are Roman Catholic.|
|Co-opted member||A person invited to join a Parent Council by agreement of its members who is not a member of the school’s Parent Forum, and who has no voting rights, but whom the Parent Council agrees would be a useful addition. Co-opted members of school Parent Council may contribute to discussions but are not entitled to vote at meetings.|
Functions of the Parent Council
9. The Act sets out a range of functions for Parent Councils which fall broadly within the following four areas:
- collaborating with the school in supporting children’s schooling and learning;
- representing the views of parents;
- promoting and supporting contact between the school, parents, pupils, providers of nursery education and the community, and;
- communicating or reporting to the Parent Forum.
Involvement in the life and work of the school
10. Parents are the first and ongoing educators of their children and the experts in their children’s needs. It is important that they are supported to be involved in the life and work of the school and provided with the right information and advice to support their children’s learning.
11. The Parent Council is a formal link between the Parent Forum and the school’s leadership team. The Act states that the first function of a Parent Council is that it can expect to support the endeavours of those managing the school to raise standards, support improvement and develop the potential of pupils. The Parent Council can work with the school’s headteacher leadership team and school staff in a variety of ways. For example it can:
- help to influence the values and ethos of the school;
- be involved in deciding the priorities and content of the school Improvement plan and work with the school in implementing improvements;
- support members of the Parent Forum to be involved in the development and implementation of the school improvement plan ;
- be involved in deciding the priorities for spending, assisting the school to gather views from the Parent Forum and work with the school in implementing spending plans if appropriate;
- offer views and reflections on the curriculum for the school;
- offer advice to the school leadership team on ways that parents can be involved in the life and work of the school or supported to engage in children’s learning;
- contribute towards the School Handbook and broader school arrangements to communicate and inform parents about the school and education;
- provide its views on school policies or important decisions;
- assist in building positive relationships between parents and school staff;
- support the school in consulting with the wider Parent Forum on school policy decisions and other matters;
- use its own formal and informal channels for communicating about school events and how parents can become involved;
- fundraise to provide additional equipment and resources for the benefit of pupils and keep proper accounts;
- facilitate school events and work with the head teacher and staff to devise events which are enjoyable, encourage parental participation and that suit the needs of parents and fit into their schedules;
- report annually to the Parent Forum on its activities, and;
- participate in the appointment of senior school staff.
Representing the views of parents
12. The Act gives Parent Councils the right to represent the views of parents on a wide variety of educational matters. A Parent Council can make representations to a school’s headteacher and the education authority, about the arrangements the school has to engage parents in their own child’s education and that provided by the school generally. It can make representations to the education authority about the authority’s parental involvement strategies and arrangements for promoting the involvement of parents of pupils attending public schools in its area.
13. The Parent Council should have arrangements in place for gathering the views of members of the Parent Forum and consulting on the standards and quality of education provided by the school, or on other matters of interest or concern to members of the forum. The Parent Council may wish to work with the school to look at areas for improvement or further development across the school. Head teachers and school leadership teams should work with members of the Parent Council when developing yearly School Improvement and spending plans and setting priorities for improvement. There are a wide variety of ways that this can be done, ranging from the more formal written communication methods to less formal methods. Before making representations and presenting a view or parent position it is important, though not essential, that issues have been fully discussed and agreed at Parent Council meetings. A consultation toolkit to assist Parent Councils in consulting the Parent Forum has been developed for this purpose - https://www2.gov.scot/resource/0041/00417289.pdf
14. The Parent Council can highlight issues or provide information to the wider Parent Forum on topics which they have identified of being of importance. The Parent Council can explain what actions have been taken already and what further options there might be to work with the school or education authority and make changes. The Parent Council can gather parents’ views and involve them in activities that will help to improve the school.
15. The Parent Council may also be involved in consulting the Parent Forum about the full range of school policies, for example in relation to uniform, health and wellbeing, school ethos and other similar matters. It can gather the views of parents and report them to the headteacher of the school and to the education authority as appropriate. The Parent Council should try to be inclusive and support participation across the Parent Forum. It can also make representations to other groups, including Her Majesty’s Inspectors.
16. This two-way communication can take the form of more formal reports or equally, less formal methods such as events, newsletters and social media engagement. The important point is that the form and method of communication meets the needs of the Parent Council, the Parent Forum and the school community. In an empowered, collaborative system, the Parent Council may wish to seek advice from the headteacher or work in partnership with the school leadership team.
Where there are conflicting views or complaints
17. Parent Councils, schools and local authorities must work together to attempt to address any issues or complaints at a local level. To ensure this happens Parent Councils must follow the formal processes of the local authority for raising issues and complaints with schools and education authorities and have received a reply from both before contacting HM Inspectors who are part of Education Scotland. In exceptional cases, where the Parent Council considers it inappropriate to take an issue to the headteacher, they can raise the matter directly with the education authority, and if not resolved at that level, make representations to HM Inspectors as part of Education Scotland.
The involvement of the wider community
18. The Parent Council can play a key role in supporting the work of the school within the wider community. The Act says that one of its functions is to promote contact between all those with an interest in the work of the school. This could include but need not be restricted to parents of pupils at the school, parents of prospective pupils, the pupils themselves, Parent Councils of “feeder schools” or surrounding secondary schools, providers of nursery or early learning and childcare education, out of school care providers, local libraries, local employers, local shops and businesses, colleges or universities, churches or voluntary organisations and community representatives. There are a wide number of individuals and organisations in the community, many of whom can be found within the Parent Forum or linked to members of the Parent Forum.
19. In some cases, members of the Parent Council may foster wider links through their employment in local services, shops etc. where they may be able to publicise events, or through their membership of other local community or recreational groups and organisations. The Parent Council may wish to draw on the experience and expertise of local elected councillors and other community representatives and promote their involvement in its work and that of the school.
20. The Parent Council can seek advice and information from the education authority or the head teacher on how they can promote contact with the wider community. In particular, members of the Parent Council may wish to seek advice from the education authority on who to engage with in terms of providers of early learning and childcare provision, colleges, “feeder” primary or “destination” secondary schools, employers or community learning providers. In doing so, the Parent Council can play its part in promoting parental involvement and engagement, supporting children and young people’s transition and linking in positively with pupils’ learning and development.
Pupil voice and participation
21. The issues discussed by the Parent Council will necessarily focus on the interests of children and young people. Those children and young people may have their own views on what is being discussed. The Parent Council should be open to ways of engaging with children and young people at the school. This may involve inviting representatives from the school’s Pupil Council, the wider pupil body or relevant pupil committees or more informal groups to meet with the Parent Council or to listen to pupils’ views on matters of interest to them. Pupils can also play a valuable role in helping to involve and engage their parents in their learning and the life and work of the school.
Responsibilities of a Parent Council towards the Parent Forum and School Leadership Team
22. The Parent Council should operate in an open and transparent manner and ensure that they are communicating effectively with all parents. Discussions at Parent Council meetings should be open to the public, unless the matters to be discussed relate to issues which may impact upon the confidentiality of individuals or that of the school. In such cases, only members of the Parent Council and the headteacher and his or her representative are entitled to be present. An example of this may be when candidates for a senior staff position are being discussed. In an empowered system Parent Councils should be confident that they can be flexible, innovative and reflect the preferences of the wider Parent Forum. There are no restrictions on where Parent Council meetings take place.
23. The Parent Council should have appropriate arrangements in place for reporting to the Parent Forum on the work that it does to carry out its functions. Its constitution should set out arrangements in respect of such issues as annual and general meetings, frequency of meetings, notes of meetings, handling of confidential issues, and financial arrangements.
24. The Parent Council may, with the consent of members of the Parent Forum, amend or replace its constitution whenever this is required. The Parent Council are required to send each member of the Parent Forum a copy of the proposed amendment or replacement to their constitution and give them reasonable time to indicate whether they agree with that amendment or replacement. Any change must reflect the majority view of those responding within the appropriate timescale. The Parent Council must provide a copy of the amended or new constitution to the education authority and the school’s headteacher.
How the Parent Council operates
25. Parent Councils have considerable flexibility under the Act to decide on how they carry out their functions. It is for parents to decide what the Parent Council is called, how their Parent Council is organised and to decide on how to take forward those issues that matter most to parents. The Parent Council may appoint a person to provide administrative support and may pay this person unless the person appointed is a member of the Parent Council itself. It must comply with any reasonable request from the headteacher, or the education authority, for information relating to how it carries out its duties and responsibilities.
26. As described at Section C, paragraph 50, the education authority must allocate, after consultation with the Parent Council, reasonable funding to enable it to meet the administrative costs incurred in carrying out its functions. The funding mechanism should be clear and transparent, and reviewed periodically. This includes training costs and the cost of appointing administrative assistance. The Parent Council and the education authority should discuss what support the authority can provide to assist it with its financial arrangements. In particular, the authority should seek to agree arrangements whereby they can minimize, as far as possible, the administrative burden on the Parent Council of appointing an administrative assistant.
27. The Parent Council can raise funds by any means, other than by borrowing, and can receive gifts. In addition, it can also enter into contracts and agreements. It cannot, however, purchase or own land or buildings. While the Parent Council can decide on how it spends any sums received by way of fund-raising or gifts, it should consider both the general view of members of the Parent Forum, as well as any advice offered by the school’s headteacher. It must be mindful that funds have been raised from families and, keep proper accounts of all monies received and spent and should as a matter of good practice produce an annual statement of accounts. Where a Parent Council ceases to exist, any property it holds on dissolution passes to the education authority which, so long as the school continues, shall use it for the benefit of that school.
28. Some Parent Councils may decide to apply for charitable status. A Parent Council may be able to obtain charitable status if, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) agreed that it met the relevant criteria to be eligible to be granted charity status in Scotland. Parent Councils might wish to consider what sort of advantages and disadvantages charitable status would bring and what limits, restrictions and duties it may place upon it. More information on what Parent Councils thinking about charitable status need to know when considering this can be found at the OSCR website: https://www.oscr.org.uk/. Parent Councils can also seek advice on setting up a charity from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) https://scvo.org.uk/setting-up-a-charity or its local Third Sector Interface https://www.gov.scot/publications/third-sector-interfaces-contact-details/.
29. It is not anticipated that Parent Councils will, in normal circumstances, require to pay tax on any fundraising activities in which they are likely to engage, since activities such as school fetes, dances, coffee mornings and other similar activities are generally not considered to be trading activities. However, if in any doubt, they should check the position with HMRC which can offer general advice on tax issues. The Parent Council should also take account of any guidance that HMRC may issue from time to time on these matters. It can also ask the education authority for general advice and information on how it should handle its budget and finances.
30. The Act states that the members of the Parent Council do not incur personal liability for anything done, or purportedly done, in the exercise of the functions of the Parent Council if it was done in good faith. However, the Parent Council itself should consider the need for appropriate insurance in respect of activities which it may undertake and in relation to which issues of liability might arise. Where a Parent Council undertakes an activity on behalf of the education authority or a school, it will wish to establish whether the members involved are covered by the authority’s own insurance arrangements for public liability. Otherwise, as for activities undertaken by the Parent Council itself, or by anyone on its behalf, it should secure its own public liability insurance. The Parent Council could take out an individual policy with a recognised broker. Alternatively, it may wish to explore the possibility of accessing insurance through membership of a national organisation or accessing the local authority’s insurance arrangements.
Combined Parent Council
31. The Act makes provision for the establishment of a Combined Parent Council – i.e. a Parent Council covering two or more schools - where this has the consent of the majority of parents in each of the schools in response to a written notice containing such a proposal. Where parents choose to set up a Combined Parent Council, the education authority should prepare a scheme using a similar process to that followed in the case of a single council (see Section C, paragraphs 43-46). The authority must send a copy of the scheme to all members of the respective Parent Forums and make the necessary arrangements to implement it, including an appropriate constitution for the Combined Parent Council. The Parent Council does not have to be known as the “[Insert school] Parent Council”. It is for the Combined Parent Council to agree a name by which it will be known and to let the headteachers of the represented schools, members of the Parent Forums, pupils and others, as appropriate, know when it has been established.
32. In general, provisions in the Act which apply to the operation and support of a single Parent Council apply in the required modified form to a Combined Parent Council.
33. These cover:
- developing or reviewing the strategy for parental involvement;
- composition and chair of the council;
- functions of Parent Council;
- the headteacher’s right and duty to attend council meetings and meetings being open;
- financial powers;
- education authority provision of advice, information and support, and;
- appointments procedure for senior staff.
34. If a Combined Parent Council includes a denominational school its constitution must provide for at least one person from the church or denominational body to be a co-opted member of the council. Where there is more than one such church or denomination, each church or body must be able to nominate at least one co-optee.
35. Where the members of the Parent Forum of one of the represented schools within the combined arrangements decide to withdraw, or one of the schools is closed or amalgamated with another school, then the Combined Parent Council will cease to exist. Withdrawal from a Combined Parent Council is subject to the majority of parents at the school responding, within a reasonable timescale, to a written proposal that the school withdraw from the combined arrangements. If members of a Parent Forum do decide to withdraw, then the general duty on the education authority to promote and support the establishment of a Parent Council at each of the schools becomes applicable.