In a recent guest post, Nancy Angevine-Sands shared her thoughts about the importance of referring to the school level parent groups in Ontario as “school councils” (as per regulation) instead of “parent councils”. A good response and discussion continued in the comments and on Twitter. The post also started some dialogue in the comments about whether there should be adjustments or a review of Ontario’s school council mandate. This is not a new topic. People for Education released a report in 2013 and started a discussion on the same.
Through my Twitter list of “parent/education advocates”, I follow a number of people and organizations outside of Ontario. Through their twitter account (@parents_sptc), I recently had a closer look at the website of the “Scottish Parent Teacher Council”. It is stated that they are the only national membership organization for parents and that any parent-led group can join. My next click was to the menu of “Popular Resources”. One that I found particular helpful and interesting was, “A User’s Guide to a Parent Council”. The first “FAQ” answered was, “Do we have to have a parent council?”. I thought it was interesting about the reference to the “Parent Forum”:
It is up to the Parent Forum whether they want a Parent Council. A Parent Forum is made up of all the parents with a child at the school so all parents are automatically members. The Parent Forum is the body who should appoint the Parent Council to run matters on its behalf, and they also have the right to decide on their constitution. This should be done at an Annual General Meeting.”
The next question was, “Does every school have a parent council?”. It clarified that most do but that they can name them anything the wish to, “Some groups have decided to use another name for their Parent Council and there is nothing to stop you doing this. We have heard of Parent Partnerships, School Associations and Friends of …”
The remaining information covers expectations, responsibilities, duties, and accountability. There is much that is similar to Ontario’s legislated school council membership rules and roles, but I noted another difference: “The duties of a Parent Council are not laid down in legislation so it is up to each Parent Forum to decide what they want their PC to do. This should be detailed in the constitution.”
It is also stated that the first duty of the Parent Council is to represent the views of the parents at the school. It also provides a list of examples of things that a PC could get involved in:
- Supporting the work of the school, for example, by advising the school on its policies
- Being involved in the appointment of senior staff
- Organising social and fundraising events
- Promoting contact between all parents and the rest of the school community
- Discussing anything that’s of interest to parents
The “Top tips for parent councils” link is quite good too and could be helpful for any parent group. Although the name of the parent group is flexible, as well as the activities they participate in, I like that it suggests that these decisions should include all parents at the school and that the active group must report and communicate to all their parents.
I don’t know what the successes and challenges actually are in Scotland’s school level parent groups, but it was interesting to compare the information there with Ontario’s more prescriptive legislation that is currently in place for all schools and its school councils. The approach and activities of school level parent groups outlined for Scottish state schools are more “bottom up” compared to what Ontario established, while still having similar expectations of being responsive to and inclusive of the school community. Would a similar model or approach lead to more effectiveness for Ontario’s school councils?