More parents joining new education groups

More parents are getting involved in influencing council decisions on  schools.Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
More parents are getting involved in influencing council decisions on schools.Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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THE role of parents in shaping education policy in the Capital has been boosted after it was revealed the number of parents engaging directly with education bosses has more than tripled in only a year.

Representation on the council’s Consultative Committee with Parents (CCwP) increased from 38 in the 2011-12 session to 133 between November last year and March.

Education chiefs and parents have hailed the trend, which they said was evidence that a new network of neighbourhood consultation groups had helped increase parents’ influence in decision-making.

Mum of two Ann-Marie O’Neill, 46, chair of St Ninian’s Primary parent council, said: “I think it’s safe to say that parents are being consulted and the council has done a lot in the last year to make this more structured and ensure parents’ views are being heard.”

The decision to establish a city-wide network of five neighbourhood and one special schools group was taken last October to boost consultation with parents on a wide range of issues affecting children and families.

Each group comprises local parent council chairs or their representatives and senior education managers.

Among the innovations brought in since the groups’ creation is the publication of lists showing schools where non-catchment places are available and those where all requests are likely to be refused. Parents said they were hopeful other initiatives would soon be introduced.

Ms O’Neill said: “It’s because the parent councils want to be represented that they are making an effort to use the mechanisms that are there.

“It’s been good because the clusters are brought together and you’re getting to hear what’s happening in the area, as well as what’s happening at city level. It means we’ve managed to use expertise from other parent councils on issues and various aspects of parent council business.”

Lindsay Law, parent representative on the city’s education committee, said: “People were a bit sceptical of these new groups at first but I think they’ve really welcomed the opportunity to talk about local issues.”

Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum for Scotland, said: “Parents appreciate a better relationship has developed but it has not really been tested yet. The groups work well in some parts of the city but are less effective in others.”

The figures were welcomed by city education chiefs.

A council spokeswoman said: “The involvement of parents in strategic decision- making has seen a dramatic increase over the last year through the CCwP and Neighbourhood Groups. It’s great the education authority and parents are working more closely together and we’re determined to listen to and take on board parent views and suggestions.”