Parent council plans ‘rushed out’ after academy outcry

The government has been accused of rushing out its plan to create ‘parent councils’ as a response to the removal of parent governor rights.

During a House of Lords question session, junior education minister Lord John Nash defended the removal of parent governors as a statutory part of school governing bodies.

He said that while the role enabled parents to develop vital skills, and the government “want parents to be involved” in schools, he believed governors should be on school boards for their “skills” and not because they are parents.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said last year that she planned to axe the requirement on academies to have parents sit on their board as governors. Last month, the move was confirmed in the government’s white paper.

Fierce criticism followed, until Nash announced via a blog that all academies would be expected to create “parent councils”, stating that the move would ensure schools “not only listen to parents, but also act on their views and feedback”.

Pressed in the parliamentary session today, Nash repeated that every academy will be expected to “put in place meaningful engagement” with its community and that “a parent council might be a very good way of doing it”.

Lord Mike Watson agreed the councils were a good idea but asked why they were not in the government’s original plans. “The truth is it was rushed out in response to the reaction to the white paper to the marginalisation of parents from school governance,” he said.

Asked by Lord Mike Storey if the councils would be legally required, Nash said they would be a “clear expectation” and this expectation was “clear” in the white paper.

The move is unlikely to placate governors who flagged the trend for large academy chains to abolish the governing bodies of individual schools. Governance experts have said they are concerned these could be replaced with a single board devoid of parental representation.

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  1. Thank you Janet for drawing my attention to this. In my headship school we had a School Council (students) and a linked Parents Association (adults). Both sent representative to regular Governors Sub Committee meetings that addressed all issues related to the school. I am sure that Schools Week readers will be interested in both.

  2. Thanks Schools Week for being basically brilliant in your coverage of the White Paper debate. A knee jerk reaction as implied in this debate in the Lords is unlikely to placate parents either. I dearly hope the DfE accept our offer to advise them on a properly thought through framework for engaging parents in both learning and decision-making in our schools. A parent body in every school can be a powerful way of achieving this but must be clear line of sight with governing boards so it has teeth.We are keen that parents call for such groups whether as a PTA or Parent Council are formed now and ahead of academy conversion so they can have a say during the process.