Saturday 15 August 2009

Parental rights case to be decided

The report in Saturday's The Herald ('Parents lose court fight to stop new headteacher taking up school post', Herald, 15 August 2009) contains a number of important inaccuracies concerning a GLC client.

Firstly, as the old saying goes reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. Our client has not lost. The case was only raised in the Court of Session on Thursday and on Friday we obtained first orders for service but our request for interim interdict was refused.

An interim order is granted before the merits of the case are looked at and is based upon a 'balance of convenience' test. The judge considered that as the new headteacher had already signed an employment contract and had taken up post the balance lay in favour of Glasgow City Council.

However, the suggestion that 'a judge has ruled the city council's defence, that employment law overruled the 2006 legislation was valid' is incorrect. The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 cannot be 'overruled' by an employment contract. Such a suggestion is the equivalent of saying you could commit a crime because your employer required you to do so.

The 2006 Act requires education authorities to consult with parents through the Parent Council before appointing a headteacher. Whether a short telephone call saying you have a new headteacher constitutes 'consultation' remains to be decided.

Likewise the question of whether Glasgow City Council has acted unlawfully, and will ultimately have to undo its appointments and start over, is a live one that can only be determined at the forthcoming hearing of our client's petition for judicial review.

As far as Govan Law Centre is aware this will be the first test of the parental involvement legislation before the courts in Scotland. We have instructions to bring other cases concerning other schools affected.

There is an important principle at stake. The Scottish Parliament has required education authorities to place parents at the heart of important decisions which affect the lives of their children.

If that law can be reduced to a series of cursory phone calls after decisions have been made then the will of Parliament will have been thwarted. Furthermore if parents are an afterthought in the minds of senior Glasgow education officials then that is a malaise which must be tackled.

Strong, successful schools need the involvement of parents. The Scottish Parliament knew that in passing the 2006 Act.

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