Section E – Guidance for School Leaders and HM Inspectors of Education
Role of School Leaders
1. Head teachers are subject to specific duties under the Act, specifically sections 11 and 13 in the Act, and they will exercise some functions of the education authority in relation to their school. More information on the broader role of head teachers within an empowered system can be found as part of guidance on a Headteachers’ Charter for School Empowerment: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/HeadteachersCharterFinal.pdf
2. A empowered system means empowering classroom teachers, parents and families as well as school leaders. As leaders of learning head teachers and the wider school leadership team have a vital role to play in:
- promoting and supporting parental involvement in the life and work of the school (for instance via volunteering opportunities, events, development of school policies);
- support parental engagement in their children’s learning;
- involving parents in school improvement;
- encouraging dialogue with parents about their children’s learning and progress at school;
- working with the Parent Council for their school, and;
- considering the local authority’s strategy for parental involvement and engagement.
3. School leaders must ensure that the school takes account of the authority’s Parental Involvement Strategy. They must also ensure that school priorities and improvement plans facilitate the involvement of parents in the life and work of the school and play their role in supporting parents to engage in their children’s learning. School leaders have an essential role in fostering school environments where parents can work in partnership with school staff. Headteachers and their staff should engage in effective two way dialogue with all parents, in ways which work best for the parents, ensuring that parents can play a full part in an empowered school system.
Communication with the Parent Forum
4. The School leaders and school staff must work with parents ensuring that they have all of the information and support that they need to be fully engaged in and to make decisions about their children’s learning. The Education (School and Placing Information) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 outlines the information that schools must provide to parents within School Handbooks in relation to general school matters and specific points of subject choice and curriculum. To comply with the School Handbook regulations schools must refresh the information they provide to parents by the 8th of December each year. The School Handbook, however, is only one form of communication and will not always be the way that parents get access to information. School leaders should consider the wide range of methods and approaches they use to provide information to parents, and to engage in dialogue about the school. School leaders should also work in partnership with parents when refreshing the information available to parents to ensure it provides parents with the information they need and is presented in a way which is accessible.
5. Parents often value face to face discussion with their child’s teacher(s) and this can be provided formally at a parents evening but also in more informal ways throughout the school year. The Act states that an education authority must take appropriate steps to ensure that the headteacher and staff of its schools are available to give such advice and information to the parents, in a manner consistent with their duties under this Act. Some teachers and schools make time available at the beginning or end of the day to discuss any particular issues with parents or staff. Social and cultural events can also provide opportunities for parents and staff to develop good relationships that often help to build stronger relationships between parents and staff.
6. School leaders and school staff should consider ways in which they can encourage parents to be part of the life and work of the school, building relationships that go beyond a minimum twice yearly update but which promote ongoing involvement and engagement with parents throughout the school year.
Collaboration with the Parent Council
7. The headteacher has a vital role to play in connecting the Parent Council with the life and work of the school as well as the leadership team for the school, and in assisting the Parent Council to discharge its role in informing key decisions relating to the school, school improvement, policies and curriculum-related issues of interest to parents. 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 Parent Council meetings to provide them with advice, while remaining mindful of the capacity and the independence of the Parent Council. 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.
8. The headteacher is expected to take part in Parent Council discussions and offer advice to the Parent 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. A key part of the headteacher’s responsibility as a school leader is to build an empowered school environment where parents, pupils and staff can play a full part. Headteachers must work with the Parent Council to ensure this is being achieved and that school culture and policies provide the wider Parent Forum with sufficient opportunity and support to be fully involved in the life and work of the school.
9. 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 out-with the headteacher’s remit, for example, school closures or the re-design of catchment areas the Parent Council can make representations to the education authority.
10. 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 school objectives and ambitions as set out in the school development plan defined and agreed with the school community. It must have regard to the most recent 12 month Standards and Quality report, and the authority’s measures and standards of performance for its schools as defined and published under Section 7(1) of the 2000 Act. It must also have regard to its duties under the Equality Act 2010. It is best practice for the school Standards and Quality report to be produced in a ‘parent-friendly’ format agreed with the Parent Council or Parent Forum, however headteachers and school leaders may also wish to prepare a summary of the report to be sent to every member of the Parent Forum.
Role of Education Scotland and HM Inspectors of Education
11. The Act’s intention is that there should be a strong working partnership between schools and parents. It reinforces the role for parents to participate in school improvement. Education Scotland has a role to play, both in its function as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) –– and in its support and improvement function – providing advice and support to school leaders.
Education Scotland Support
12. Education Scotland has produced ‘Engaging parents and families - A toolkit for practitioners’ which provides schools and practitioners with further guidance on how schools and practitioners can effectively involve and engage parents in the life and work of the school. Schools and practitioners can use this resource alongside Education Scotland’s How good is our school?
(4th edition) quality improvement framework which assist schools to evaluate their own performance in providing education.
13. ‘Engaging parents and families - A toolkit for practitioners’ highlights effective ways in which schools, parents and carers can work together to support children’s learning and identify strengths and areas for improvement. It looks at how well the school takes account of the wishes and expectations of all parents. It also provides information and advice on how schools and practitioners can provide and support effective family learning and learning at home initiatives and approaches.
Role of HM Inspectors of Education
14. Parental involvement and engagement are included within the “How Good Is Our School? ( 4th edition)” quality improvement framework. This framework includes quality indicators and themes covering collaborative approaches to self-evaluation; planning for continuous improvement; management of resources; family learning; wellbeing, equality and inclusion; and partnerships. It is important to HM Inspectors of Education that they hear the voice of parents during school inspections. They do this in a number of ways, including asking parents to complete a pre-inspection questionnaire and speaking with parents during an inspection.
15. 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.