Giving Parents A Voice:
Parental Involvement in Policy-Making
By Maureen O'Connor
Summary of Main Findings
- In the UK there is no statutory provision for the involvement of parents at LEA level. Less than one third of LEAs have parent representatives on their education committees, with representation concentrated in the London boroughs and the English county councils. Procedures for appointing parent representatives vary: only one example of direct election by parents was found. Generally there was an election or nomination from another body, such as a governors’ organisation or federation of PTAs.
- Just over a third of LEAs have representative and/or consultative organisations for governors, parent-governors and/or parents, with a reasonably even spread of organisations in different types of authority.
- Most such organisations have been set up on the initiative of governors or parents themselves, but most receive some assistance and/or funding from their local authority. Some LEAs have found it difficult to set up or sustain organisations for governors (including parent governors) because potential participants seemed to feel that they already have too many meetings to attend.
- A small minority of LEAs of all political complexions are enthusiastic supporters of parental involvement and are putting significant effort into encouraging participation. Others were doubtful about the value of parental input, although some acknowledged that parental opposition to policy proposals was sometimes effective in preventing planned action.
- Interviews were carried out with some parents who have participated in the various institutions for parental participation. These confirmed the findings of previous research that some parents can feel isolated and powerless in governing bodies and education committees and may meet hostility from heads and political nominees.
- The involvement of parents in school government through a governing body or council is now common in overseas countries and the proportion of parents is generally higher than in the UK system.
- At national level in the UK, there is no representative body to communicate parents’ views to government at national level, as there often is abroad, although efforts are being made to construct a representative structure for school governors, which would include parent governors.
- In a number of other education systems – Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, France, Netherlands and Germany – governments have established representative structures to communicate parents’ views to government at various levels, including the national level.