Education & Family

Cameron denies removing parent governors from schools

Cameron PMQs Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron said it was "simply wrong" to say parent governors would be scrapped

David Cameron has rejected claims that the academy plans for England will mean the "removal of parent governors from school governing bodies".

He was accused in Prime Minister's Questions of an "attack on parents" with proposals to end the obligation for schools to have them as governors.

Mr Cameron said it was "simply wrong" to say it would scrap them.

But Labour said the plans would mean "removing the requirement" for academies to have parent governors.

Mr Cameron was questioned by Labour's Catherine West about the government's White Paper that proposes all state schools in England should become academies.

Ms West said there was "sadness and anger" that this would also end the requirement for individual schools to have parent governors.

She said parent governors provided an "important civic duty" in supporting their local schools.

In response Mr Cameron said: "Parents have a great role to play, but no school should think that simply by having parent governors you've solved the problem about how to engage with parents."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told teachers that the academy plan would reduce parental accountability

But he argued that the government's proposals would not mean scrapping parent governors - saying that a Labour motion opposing the academy plan, to be debated later on Wednesday, was "inaccurate".

"The Labour motion says the White Paper proposes the removal of parent governors from school governing bodies. It does no such thing."

The education White Paper says that academies, including those already open and those that will be converted, should have the "freedom" not to have parent governors.

It says: "We will no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards.

"We will offer this freedom to all open and new academies, and as we move towards a system where every school is an academy, fully skills-based governance will become the norm across the education system."

'Valuable role'

The government argues that allowing academy trusts to run schools without parent governors is not the same as removing them.

"Parents often have these skills and many parents already play a valuable role in governance - and will always be encouraged to serve on governing boards," says the White Paper.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the National Union of Teachers' conference in March that the academy plan would reduce parental accountability.

Even before this proposed legislation has been debated in Parliament, an academy chain has already scrapped governing bodies for its academies.

E-ACT, with academies across the West Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Bristol, Yorkshire and north-west England, abolished all of its governing bodies for individual schools in January, ending the powers of scrutiny of parent governors.

The Department for Education had accepted the academy chain's announcement saying: "We trust them to decide on the most appropriate arrangements for their trust."

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