Parental Involvement: Academies

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey 12:00 am, 25th April 2016

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that parents have more influence in the running of their children's schools when those schools become academies.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that parents have more influence in the running of their children's schools when those schools become academies.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

Many parents are governors and make a significant contribution to our schools, and we want this to continue, but that is not the only way we want parents to engage in schools. That is why our White Paper outlined our intention to place a duty on academies to engage meaningfully with parents, introduce parental satisfaction surveys, and set up a new parent portal to help parents to navigate the school system.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey

I am extremely fortunate to have many parents in my constituency who are engaged in local schools. Many have approached me recently because they have been concerned by recent reports that their voice, position and influence may be diminished if all schools are turned into academies. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that that is not the case?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I pay tribute to the many thousands of parents who already play a valuable role on school governing bodies. It is vital that schools and governing bodies listen to the views and the voices of parents, and we want academies to engage meaningfully with them. I know that that is happening, for example, in my hon. Friend’s constituency at Crawshaw Academy, where parents are invited to half-termly information evenings to comment on academy policies and to share their views with senior leaders. In a recent parent survey, 78% of respondents reported that they felt consulted and able to contribute to the academy’s development.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the voice and the skills of parents are greatly valued in our schools? Will she further clarify how their voice and their skills will continue to play an important part in governing bodies when a school becomes an academy?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Involving parents in governance and really listening to the views of parents are not necessarily the same thing. That is why I want academy boards to appoint parents for their skills and experience, and to set up parent councils or other appropriate arrangements to engage parents meaningfully and to represent their views to governing bodies.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that she is rethinking her White Paper in relation to parents, and that she will reconsider whether they should be consulted over the academisation of our schools and their role as school governors?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I do not need to rethink, because we are very clear about the important role that parents play as governors, through parental surveys and through parental engagement. The hon. Gentleman also appears, in the second part of his question, to be fighting a fight that we fought in the Education and Adoption Act 2016, which is now part of the law and which set out the clear role for parents to be involved when a school becomes an academy.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East

Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain a little more clearly and slowly, particularly to some of her colleagues on the Conservative Back Benches, who are gently asking her to think again about this point. Parental accountability is quite an important part of school life. In what circumstances does she envisage that taking parents off that role of governance in a school will be a good thing?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

First, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should be insulting Conservative Members, who perfectly well understand the important role of parents as governors. For the avoidance of doubt, let me speak slowly and clearly to him. We are not suggesting, and never have suggested, that parents should not be on governing bodies.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

I have had many parents contact me about the key stage 2 SATs that are going to be examined in the next two weeks, and I have also been contacted by the headteachers of schools. Even though this has been in place since 2014, there is some concern. After the exams, will my right hon. Friend meet me and talk over any concerns that may come up?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the matter. As the Schools Minister has said, we have raised the bar in relation to the key stage 2 tests that are happening, but the important reason for that is to make sure that our young people have the basics of the reading, writing and maths that will help them to progress in life. We know the difference in GCSE results between key stage 2 pupils at the end of primary who get to the expected level in reading, writing and maths, and those who do not. That can hold people back for life, and that is not fair.