2. Parental and Community Engagement
We will include provisions in the Education Bill to make the existing legal duties in relation to parental involvement clearer and stronger, to reflect the transfer of responsibilities to headteachers through the Headteachers’ Charter and to encourage stronger collaboration between school leaders and parents. We will also clarify the relevant duties which apply to early learning and childcare which is funded but not provided by the public sector.
Parents are the main educators in their children’s lives, particularly in the very early years. As such, it is vital to measure and understand parents’ and families’ influence on children’s outcomes. A range of international evidence has shown that children and young people who have at least one parent or carer engaged in their education achieve better exam results, higher retention rates and smoother transitions between nursery, primary and secondary schools. They are also more likely to:
- attend school more regularly;
- have better social skills;
- have improved behaviour;
- adapt better to school and engage more in school work;
- have better networks of supportive relationships;
- have a better sense of personal competence; and
- be more likely to go on to further or higher education.
We already have a strong legal basis for parents to be involved in the life and work of their child’s school through the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006. However, we agree with the recommendations resulting from the National Parent Forum of Scotland’s review of the impact of the 2006 Act. We will strengthen, modernise and extend the provisions of the 2006 Act, ensuring that as we empower headteachers and teachers, we also empower parents to engage in their child’s education.
The improvements that we will make to the 2006 Act are:
- To strengthen the duties on headteachers to work collaboratively with their Parent Councils on substantive matters of school policy and improvement. Overall, the move from School Boards to Parent Councils has been welcomed and the NPFS Review of the 2006 Act identified strong evidence of effective practice across the country. It is, however, important that there is greater consistency in the role and influence of Parent Councils over substantive matters of school improvement. We intend to replace the current duties on headteachers to inform and consult with their Parent Council with revised duties to work in a collaborative way with their Parent Council. We will provide greater clarity as to what we mean by such collaboration, and we will specify that headteachers must collaborate on matters relating to school policies and school improvement;
- To provide duties on headteachers to communicate with the wider parent forum. We know some parents will not be able to or may not wish to, join the Parent Council. We need to ensure that the legal framework reflects this by requiring headteachers to take appropriate steps to work in partnership with the wider parent forum in tandem with their engagement with the Parent Council. Collaboration should be based on genuine and strong partnerships with all parents. We will ensure that the duty to collaborate with the forum includes substantive matters of school policy, improvement planning and curricula design. In doing so, we will take care to retain flexibility for headteachers to work with parents in the ways which are reflective of their own local circumstances;
- To update the legal definition of parental involvement, ensuring that the definition is sufficiently broad and covers all aspects of parental involvement and engagement. Whilst it is important that parents are supported to play an active role in formal matters of school life via their Parent Council, the evidence shows that it is parental engagement in learning outside of school which offers the greatest potential to impact attainment and long term outcomes for children. We intend to modernise our legal definition and capture the full range of parent-related activity by schools by expanding the legal definition of parental involvement and engagement. This will include a prominent place for parental engagement in learning, learning in the home and family learning;
- To require a review of parental involvement strategies within three years of initial development and at least every three years thereafter. We will also require all parental involvement strategies to include clear objectives and measures of success; and
- To clarify the application of the 2006 Act to early learning and childcare settings. We do not expect to impose a requirement for dedicated Parent Councils in early learning and childcare settings. Instead, we intend to develop broader duties to ensure effective communication and interaction with parents, reflecting and strengthening the extent of very good parental involvement practice which is already a key feature in many early learning and childcare settings.
In addition, we intend to:
- update and clarify the duties on Parent Councils to represent the diversity of the school community and to actively promote contact with pupils;
- include parental involvement and engagement as one of the relevant improvement matters covered by the Regional Improvement Collaboratives; and
- reflect the updated legal responsibilities on parental involvement within the Headteachers’ Charter.
Changes to the statutory guidance
The NPFS Review also recommended that statutory guidance on parental involvement should be updated in line with changes to the 2006 Act to provide a summary of schools’ and Parent Councils’ duties in relation to the Equality Act 2010 and to provide further comprehensive guidance on the ‘learning at home’ strand of the 2006 Act. As part of our reforms, we will update the statutory guidance to reflect the amendments to the 2006 Act and to ensure that the entire legal framework for parental involvement is modernised.
We will complement our amendments to the legal framework with a comprehensive package of wider activity including a national action plan on parental engagement and family learning, the annual improvement cycle (which includes a “driver” on parental engagement) and the introduction of a home to school link work in every school to support parents who find it challenging to engage in their child’s learning.
Are the broad areas for reform to the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 correct?
How should the the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 be enhanced to ensure meaningful consultation by headteachers with parents on substantive matters of school policy, improvement planning and curriculum design?
Should the duties and powers in relation to parental involvement apply to publicly funded early learning and childcare settings?
Email: David Hannigan
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House