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Lord Nash: Every academy expected to set up parent council



Junior schools minister Lord Nash has today announced that all academies will be expected to set up “parent councils”.

It appears to be the latest government attempt to calm concerns after ministers announced they will scrap the parent governor role under plans to turn all schools into academies.

It has become one of the more contentious proposals in last month’s white paper and Lord Nash’s announcement follows growing opposition from various sectors to the party’s plans to turn every school into an academy.

Graham Brady, the leader of the backbench Conservatives at Westminster spoke out this weekend against the proposals, adding his voice to those of other Conservative MPs and councillors who have publicly criticised the policy.

But Lord Nash, who is the minister responsible for academies, has broken his white paper silence to wade into the row over whether parents’ voices will be silenced.

In an article published on the Conservative Home website today, he said the government wants parents to be “more involved in their child’s education – not less.”

He said there will be an expectation that academies set up arrangements for “meaningful engagement with parents” – including parent councils. This announcement was not mentioned in last month’s white paper.

We want parents more involved in their child’s education – not less

Lord Nash said the councils will ensure schools “not only listen to parents, but also act on their views and feedback”.

He said many academies already have parent councils. One example appears to be E-ACT, which Schools Week reported in January had announced plans to scrap local governing bodies and replace them with one central body to cover all its 23 chains.

That one body will take over duties including hiring senior staff and overseeing budgets.

But the trust was to set up new “academy advisory bodies” to deal with individual school issues such as “interfacing with the community” and “celebrating academy’s achievements”.

Lord Nash said there will also be an expectation for regular surveys to show parental satisfaction with their children’s schools – which the department will publish.

He also pointed to the white paper proposal for a new Parent Portal. He said it would act as a “one-stop shop” for parents and provide information on school performance, guidance on how the school system works and how to raise complaints.

Calls for the government to scrap its plans to remove parental representation on governing bodies had been gathering pace. Jonathan-Simons-front

Jonathan Simons (pictured right), head of education at think tank Policy Exchange, said in a blog last week that the government should U-turn on the proposal to “counter the false fears of a school being taken away from its local community”.

But Lord Nash appears to have reaffirmed the government’s commitment, while emphasising that parents play a “valuable role” in governance and will “always be encouraged to be governors or trustees”.

He added: “Many parents have skills that make them very effective governors… But we want to enable academies to move from a model where parents are elected or appointed to governing boards for means of representation to one where they are chosen for their expertise.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb also told teachers today at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference that having one parent on a board of governors doesn’t necessarily mean the school is “responsive to parental concerns”.

In response to Lord Nash’s new announcement, Sarah West from the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) UK, said: “We want to make sure parents have a genuine voice in education at national, regional and local levels.

“As such, we are encouraged that meaningful engagement with parents appears high on the Government’s education agenda and we look forward to finding out how this is going to be implemented.”

Previous surveys by the group, which acts as a champion for parents in education, show 79 per cent of parents want to do more to support their child’s school and 85 per cent want a say in how their child is educated.

 



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5 Comments

  1. wasateacher

    Nick Gibb apparently also said: “If you talk to head teachers who become heads of academies, they have flourished.” I assume that when he says ‘they’ he was referring to the heads, not the academies, and to the salaries paid to those heads.

  2. It’s good to see some attempt at an appearance of openness, but I think this offer is being made through gritted teeth.

    Lord Nash is a Governor of at least one of the Future Academies along with his wife who is also a governor at the other 3 Future Academies. They were appointed by the Directors of Future Academies i.e. Lord Nash and his wife. The “sponsor” of Future Academies is Lord Nash and his wife.
    To be fair there are about 5 other people on these governing bodies, mainly appointed by Lord Nash and his wife.

    As the minister in charge of Academies I imagine that Lord Nash believes he has set up a model structure for the governance of a MAT. To me it looks like a medieval system of power and patronage using state funds. Is this how we want 20,000 state schools to be run?

  3. The concern is not so much with schools or academies having parent representation, because the power is all centralised in the MAT. We need to look long and hard at the way people gain these positions.

    The leadership of these MATs are self selecting, a small cabal deciding their needs and choosing who joins and who doesn’t. This should be a matter of grave concern, if only because it allows groups of like minded people to dictate the direction of education for large numbers of our children. Given the issues around governance found in the case of Trojan hoax, this can’t be desirable.

    We should be looking towards some kind of fixed term on the MAT boards, with some sort of elected representation, just to break any monopoly one group or another can hold over a MAT. Without any mandatory additions, we could see groups of friends running MATs for their own purpose with no one to raise an alternative view or hold them to account.

    These representatives don’t necessarily have to be parents, but they should be independent and outsiders to the current MAT. Let’s face it, parent boards and a website are just fops and avoid the real issues of MAT accountability or more specifically the total absence of any.

    • The comment above, which wasn’t there when I posted, provides evidence in support of my point.

      Lord Nash might not consider it particularly desirable to have someone outside the people he appointed, having a say in the running of “his” MAT. But if it were a group of communists, or an extreme religious movement being the only ones choosing who to appoint, he might have a different view.