Heads want to axe parents' meetings

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The Independent Online
ANNUAL parents' meetings should be abolished to ease the burden of bureaucracy in schools, head teachers said yesterday.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the meetings, which are required by law, were "the most wasteful use of time and resources devised" and should be scrapped. He said the meetings created hours of work for teachers and heads, but most parents failed to turn up.

Mr Hart said scrapping the parents' meetings would help to defuse the row over excessive bureaucracy which threatens to disrupt schools this summer. "Governing bodies are now stacked full of parents, and quite rightly so. And parents have plenty of opportunities to put questions to head teachers," he said.

Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers are expected to back a work-to-rule in protest at their workload which could mean teachers boycotting meetings and putting limits on school reports. The National Union of Teachers will announce the result of a similar ballot on industrial action next week.

Mr Hart said the action threatened to derail the process of setting improvement targets for all schools which is at the heart of Government plans to drive up standards.

"Target-setting in schools might have to be sacrificed in the short term, until we have a solution to this problem," Mr Hart said. "The NAHT will be urging the Government to work with teachers and their unions as a matter of top-priority to find a solution to this problem, if possible during the summer term."

Annual meetings were often simply a formality, said. "Parents just don't turn up. I don't know of a single parents' body that supports a statutory annual meeting."

But heads and school governors "put in a lot of time and effort preparing for them, to very little effect. If the Government was willing to abolish the annual parents' meeting it would at least send a signal to teachers that they were serious about reducing unnecessary demands on their time."

The annual meetings are in addition to normal parents' evenings designed to let parents know how their children are doing in class. Government sources said no changes to the law on meetings were planned.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment insisted that the Government had already acted to help cut red tape. She said: "The governing body of a school is accountable to parents and the annual parents' meeting is the only opportunity parents have to question the governing body."

Mr Hart said head teachers tried to keep bureaucracy to the bare minimum, but were bound by the requirements of legislation, quangos and local authorities.

He said the union would be advising heads not to confront teachers who refused to take part in meetings or complete paperwork, as long as the action did not affect discipline, teaching or pastoral care.

He said: "We do not want to see conflict between heads and teachers as a result of action to reduce bureaucracy. We have a common interest and we must not blame people within schools for the situation we find ourselves in."