Scotland’s Parents Increasingly Involved in Direction of Education

If increasing parental involvement leads to better academic outcomes for students, the latest data from Edinburgh, Scotland represents some very good news. According to John-Paul Hodel of the Edinburgh News, the Consultative Committee with Parents – a group that represents parents’ interests at the city council – has increased its membership from 28 to 133 over just one year.

The impact of the change are two-fold. Not does this show that parents’ commitment to their children’s education is growing, but their growing numbers also mean an increase in influence in the decision-making process.

According to a mother of two, Ann-Marie O’Neill, who chairs the parent council in St Ninian’s Primary school, council members’ efforts to make it easier for parents to be heard are in large measure responsible for the positive trend.

The decision to establish a city-wide network of five neighbourhood and one special schools group was taken last October to boost consultation with parents on a wide range of issues affecting children and families.

Each group comprises local parent council chairs or their representatives and senior education managers.

Among the innovations brought in since the groups’ creation is the publication of lists showing schools where non-catchment places are available and those where all requests are likely to be refused. Parents said they were hopeful other initiatives would soon be introduced.

The city’s education leaders welcomed the change and say that it justifies the initial promise of the initiative to get parents to join groups at their districts and schools despite the initial skepticism from some circles. In a statement, council spokeswoman said that the importance of having parents participate in the decision-making process when it comes to their children’s education makes the investment of effort worthwhile.

However, some Scottish parents are talking about looking beyond the opportunities offered by council-parent group cooperation. They want to explore the promise, and emulate the example set in the US – they’re embracing school choice.

Parents in Scotland are embracing school choice just like their counterparts in the US and Britain, Eddie Barnes of Scotsman.com reports. The New School Action Group, an advocacy group for parents in the Southside of Edinburgh, are asking to be allowed to design and operate their own primary school, which will remain a state school but will be run along different lines with an alternative education approach.

Specifically, members want to adopt the Montessori education system, which is considered to cater more to children’s individual needs and interests. There are private Montessori schools operating in Scotland as well as around the world, but the NSAG feels that the state should offer a publicly funded school that adheres to the philosophy to provide choice for parents and their children.