Research from Parentkind published today (5 December) reveals that 76% of parents want to be able to have a say on their child’s education at school level, compared to 56% who want a say at government level. In addition, half of parents (50%) agree that their child’s school listens to their views, compared to 23% who feel the government listen to their views.

Exploring how parents want to be involved in contributing ideas and raising issues with their child’s school, 41% of respondents felt that they are able to have a say on school decisions that affect their children’s education and nearly half (49%) believe that their school takes action on their views and feedback. However, half of parents surveyed also determined that they would like their child’s school to be more accountable to parents than it currently is, with around a third having no view on this.

The proportion of parents that report having not raised an issue or given feedback at any level (school, MAT, local or central government) within the last 12 months has risen to 55% of parents this year, compared to 42% last year.

The research also assesses parents’ awareness and understanding of school governance models, where findings include:

  • The majority of parents have heard of academies (91%) but only 51% would be able to explain what they are
  • MATs are less well known with 49% of parents overall having heard of them and only 19% being able to explain what they are
  • Trust in leaders to deliver the best education is highest at school level, with 80% of parents overall trusting leaders in school and 39% saying they trust them a lot

The report also acknowledges NGA’s concern that whilst difficulties with stakeholder and community engagement are not unique to MATs, these difficulties can be compounded by the size and geographic disbursement of some MATs, creating “a democratic deficit”.

NGA’s own School Governance in 2019 research shows that those within academy trust structures are the least likely to use parent surveys to hold their lead executive to account, with 60.4% of MAT trustees, 66.5% of local academy committees and 71.7% of single academy trusts reporting doing so. Maintained schools are on average 8.4% more likely to engage with parents through a survey than their academy counterparts.

Introducing stakeholder engagement as the fourth core function of governing boards to ensure the voices of stakeholders are heard and taken in to account in the decision making process is a long-standing policy of NGA, and one of the key priorities in its manifesto. School structures and culture must ensure that the engagement happens in a meaningful way.

Parentkind run this survey of parents’ behaviour and attitudes towards their children’s school and education annually and data covers a sample of 1,500 parents from England (1,200), Northern Ireland (100) and Wales (200) who have at least one child aged 4-18 attending state school.

Responding to the report, Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association said “Governing board decisions should take into account the views and experiences of their school’s and trust’s stakeholders: pupils, parents, staff, the community. For several years the National Governance Association has been encouraging schools and academy trusts to put more emphasis on listening to parents; and for the Department for Education to increase their attention to and guidance on parental engagement. We know from our School Governance in 2019 survey with almost 6000 respondents that 73% do conduct a survey of parents; over half of governors attend parents’ evenings to meet parents and half last year held an open meeting for parents on a specific issue. However today’s report from Parentkind shows we need to keep doing more to ensure parents know how to make their voices heard; NGA and Parentkind have together produced guidance for governing boards on parental engagement. It would be wonderful if more parents came forward to be part of the school’s governing board: it is a vitally important role and essential that parents continue to be part of the decision making process of our schools.”  

Read Parental engagement: a guide for governing boards

Read ParentKind’s accountability research

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