This is Section 21 of the Guide to the Law, as published May 2012.
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This section describes the statutory requirements placed on qualifying schools to establish a Parent Council. Qualifying schools are foundation and foundation special schools in England with a foundation established otherwise than under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, where the instrument of government provides for the majority of the governors on the governing body to be foundation governors. In this guidance, these schools are known as “majority governance Trust schools”.
This section also provides general guidance on Parent Councils which will be helpful to other schools. Since May 2007 all schools are under a duty to have regard to the views of parents. All schools are encouraged to review their current arrangements in relation to this duty and to consider enhancing them by setting up a Parent Council.
STATUTORY BASIS FOR PARENT COUNCILS IN MAJORITY GOVERNANCE TRUST SCHOOLS
1. Section 23A of the Education Act 2002 (as inserted by Section 34 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) requires that the governing body of a majority governance Trust school, as defined in the summary above, must establish a Parent Council.
2. The School Governance (Parent Council) (England) Regulations 2007 set out minimum membership, function and support arrangements for Parent Councils in majority governance Trust schools.
WHAT MAJORITY GOVERNANCE TRUST SCHOOLS MUST DO
Membership of the Parent Council
3. The Regulations set out the minimum membership of a Parent Council to be established by a majority governance Trust school. The majority of members of the Council must be parents of registered pupils at the school (parent members). Only parent members can appoint non-parents to the Council, if they feel it appropriate to do so.
4. Those who are not parents of pupils at the school can have a valuable role to play. For example, there may be cases where committed members of a Parent Council wish to continue to serve during a period when they do not have a child in the school, but have other children who would join the school later. Some schools may wish to build on existing arrangements for parental groups such as Parent Teacher Associations, where membership is already wider than parents of current pupils, when setting up their Parent Council.
5. Membership of the Parent Council must include, where possible:
- the parent or parents of at least one pupil in each year group;
- at least one parent to represent any pupil or any group of pupils and parents
- identified by the governing body as requiring special consideration;
- the parent governor or parent governors, where they are willing to serve.
6. Some small schools or special schools may not always be able to have a parent representing every year group, so the requirement to secure the minimum membership will be to do so as far as is reasonably practicable.
7. It is for the governing body to decide which pupils (or groups of pupils) will require special consideration and whose parents should be represented on its Parent Council. Most schools will have pupils with special educational needs, and many will have looked-after children or pupils from black and minority ethnic groups, different faiths, refugees or children with English as a second language. Some schools may have traveller children or children from service families or from particular cultural groups whose parents should be represented on the Parent Council.
8. The term “parent” includes any individual who has had parental responsibility for, or cares or has cared for, a child or young person under the age of 18. “Pupil” means a pupil registered at the school.
9. It is for the governing body to decide how parents are appointed or elected to the Parent Council and the term for which they should serve as members.
Meetings and proceedings of the Parent Council
10. In consultation with the governing body, the Parent Council will decide how it will operate. It will agree the place, frequency and proceedings of its meetings, and the quorum for any votes. Although the governing body and the Parent Council can decide the procedures and voting arrangements for co-opting non-parents onto the Council, only the parents of registered pupils may vote.
11. Arrangements for meetings should take account of parents’ preferences, working patterns, availability and circumstances. The governing body will need to make suitable accommodation available for Parent Council meetings. Other options for engaging parents in the Parent Council include the use of online forums, so that attendance in person is not always necessary.
12. The governing body will provide the Parent Council with the information, support and assistance it would reasonably need to carry out its consultative and advisory functions. Although the governing body will assist the Parent Council in arranging its meetings, many Parent Councils will be self-running and informal.
Functions of the Parent Council
13. The governing body is under a duty to consult the Parent Council on matters relating to its conduct of the school and the exercise of its powers under Section 27 of the Education Act 2002. Section 27 gives the governing body of a maintained school the power to provide any facilities or services for any charitable purpose that will benefit the pupils at the school or people who live or work in the local area.
14. It is for the governing body to decide how, when and on which issues to consult the Parent Council, and this will be a matter for the individual school. The governing body must have regard to any advice or views expressed to it by the Parent Council when it is conducting the school or exercising its powers under Section 27 of the Education Act 2002.
GENERAL GUIDANCE ON PARENT COUNCILS IN ALL MAINTAINED SCHOOLS
15. There is no statutory requirement to establish a Parent Council in maintained schools except in “majority governance Trust schools” (as defined in paragraph 1, above). It will be for the governing body of other maintained schools (including foundation schools in which the foundation or Trust appoints a minority of foundation governors) to decide whether to establish a Parent Council and to determine its representation. If it decides to establish a Parent Council, it is free to establish one with whatever membership that it and the Parent Council require.
16. A Parent Council is a body of parents which represents parents and provides a forum for them to put forward their views to the head teacher and the governing body of their children’s school. A Parent Council can be less formal and require a lesser commitment than being a member of the governing body. Being more accessible, a Parent Council enables more parents to contribute to their child’s school.
17. The governing body remains the decision-maker and provides the strategic leadership of the school. Parent Councils have a consultative and advisory role. They are a means to strengthen the voice of parents, and to enable more parents to express their opinions and influence decisions.
18. A resource pack to help governing bodies and schools to establish a Parent Council is available on the DfE website
DUTY TO HAVE REGARD TO THE VIEWS OF PARENTS
19. Section 21(7) of the Education Act 2002 (as inserted by Section 38 of The Education and Inspections Act 2006) places a duty on governing bodies to have regard to any views expressed to them by parents of registered pupils at the school in exercising their functions.
20. There are a number of issues on which governing bodies are already required by law to consult. These are not affected by the new duty to have regard to the views of parents. They generally involve significant changes to the school and include:
- changing admissions arrangements (where the school is an admissions authority);
- expanding the school, changing category, adding a sixth form, ending selection and making changes to the school day;
- adding extended services in schools;
- creating or joining a federation.
21. When a school is inspected, Ofsted must have regard to any views expressed by parents.
22. The wider duty requires governing bodies to have regard to the views of parents more generally. This might include consulting on key policies, travel to school arrangements, school uniform, the home-school agreement, school meals, the curriculum or pupil behaviour.
23. It will be for individual schools to decide how and when to seek the views of parents but there are important milestones such as the start of primary school, the transfer to secondary school and at the start of each key stage, when parents will wish to be closely involved in their children’s education. Governing bodies should have mechanisms in place to enable parents to put forward their views at key points in their children’s education.
24. Options to gather parental views which have been successfully used by schools include:
- parent councils
- regular parental questionnaires and surveys
- parent workshops/forums or curriculum meetings
- ICT including school websites and email
- regular parents’ evenings and face-to-face discussions with teaching staff
- themed parents’ evenings with discussions on a whole school issue
- governors’ clinics
- governors’ suggestion boxes
- termly consultation meetings.
25. Governing bodies should also be aware that many parents will come into schools to access extended services in schools such as childcare, lifelong learning opportunities, healthcare and social services provision and should take these opportunities to seek their views.
26. Governing bodies should be able to demonstrate the methods they have used to seek the views of parents and how those views have influenced their decision making. They should ensure that views are sought from all categories of parents including those with disabilities, those who may be disengaged and parents of particular groups of pupils who may face significant barriers to their inclusion such as language, literacy or culture. Governing bodies should consider whether any documents should be translated into other languages.
WHAT LEGISLATION DOES THIS REFER TO?
The School Governance (Parent Council) (England) Regulations 2007: SI 2007/1330
FURTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Guidance on Parent Councils is available on the DfE website.