Thursday, September 26, 2013

School councils must change their mandate

School parent councils in Ontario, according to government regulations, should be about "improving pupil achievement" and "enhancing" accountability. However, in reality they have not been very effective in doing either. In most cases, much of their time is spent doing fundraising, pizza lunches and improving communication between the school and the home. Principals are usually the ones who set the agenda for these councils, not the parents.

Provincial regulations state that school councils have a central role to play in trying to better both student achievement and school planning. But they focus their work instead on informing parents about school issues and community happenings. They do this through newsletters, websites and social media. The difficulties that many parent councils face is the lack of interest and poor attendance at meetings. In most schools, less than 10 people make up the council. In others it's just a few individuals, selected by the principal because it looks good to have one on paper. The work they really do is another matter. Greater parent participation is obviously necessary if the government really wants to have more parental input. To accomplish this, the process must move beyond lip service.

One of the main reasons for the poor participation surely comes from the fact that parents are not being informed about important policy changes that are taking place in education. Take the implementation the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy which later became provincial law with Bill 13. Parent councils had very little influence on shaping the policy and in most cases they were inadequately informed or not informed at all.  (more...)

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