Many school decisions and policies, such as homework, behaviour, and uniform policies, have a direct impact on parents, so it’s important that they are given the opportunity to have a say.
Our Parentkind annual parent survey 2017 found that 84% of parents would like schools to consult them on a regular basis. They want to have a say in school decision-making but aren’t always sure how to, and likewise schools sometimes struggle to reach and involve their parents.
Setting up a Parent Council may be an effective way of overcoming these barriers and ensuring a range of parents voices can be heard on the issues that matter to them. It's a way to forge a close partnership between parents and the school, where ultimately children benefit.
What is a Parent Council?
Parent Councils provide a framework for schools to listen to parents. Typically, a group of parents meet, together with the school, on a regular basis, usually termly, to discuss issues affecting parents at the school. It is ideally a representative body of a range of mums, dads or carers from different year groups or parts of the school community. The head or a member of the school’s leadership team usually attends to represent the school and answer questions. Parents, staff or governors may suggest topics for inclusion on the agenda.
An effective Parent Council should have a link with the governing board (for example through the attendance of a parent governor or a governor attending the parent council meeting) to ensure that parents’ views are taken account of in school decision-making and then reflected in the school improvement plan.
Parents can volunteer to join the Parent Council, the school can select members or depending on the size of the school parents can be nominated to represent them on the Parent Council. We discuss further ways to recruit your parent council members in this section.
What does a Parent Council do?
The Parent Council canvasses the views of the wider parent body in order to advise the school leadership and/or governing board of the parents’ views on different issues. Whilst decisions on matters of policy are made by the governing board, a feature of good governance is to know your school and take account of parents’ views so they are as workable as possible. The school leadership will also find it helpful to listen to parent feedback on operational issues.
A Parent Council can:
- Help the school take the needs of the parents into account when making their decisions.
- Give the school leadership an opportunity to explain decisions to parents.
- Provide parents with a mechanism for asking questions of the school.
- Help the school to access parental expertise which may benefit the school.
- Help parents to understand decisions from the point of view of the school.
- Increase parental involvement in and commitment to the school.
- Improve communication between school and home.
- Support and promote the work of the school.
- Develop a partnership between home and school so that everyone works together for the benefit of the school and all pupils.
Five reasons to set up a parent council
Knowing your school, engaging parents
Seven steps to starting a parent council
You can also find more useful information here.
We would like to thank Fiona Carnie, former Director of Parent Councils UK, for her support in developing this online content during 2018. She has drawn from material originally developed for The Parent Participation Handbook: A practical guide to maximising parental involvement in your school (Optimus Education; 2011). PTA UK (now Parentkind) acquired Parent Councils UK in December 2016.