Give parents the power to sack headteachers, charity urges

A campaigning charity has called for the introduction of a controversial “parental trigger” law that would give parents the power to voice their concerns about a school and even force a change in headteacher.

The New Schools Network (NSN), a charity that helps applicants to set up free schools, has put forward proposals to the Commons Education Select Committee that would give parents a much greater say over the running of their local school.

It is largely based on the controversial “parent trigger law” that exists in a number of states in the US, which gives parents the power to close a school, dismiss up to half the teaching staff, change the leadership team or change it into a charter school.

Under the NSN’s plans, the new “parental trigger” law would give parents the legal right to a formal response from their regional schools commissioner (RSC) should a certain number of parents complain.

If the RSC agreed with the need for change, schools would be required to draw up an “immediate action plan to improve”, convert to academy status or even sack the headteacher.

The proposal for a new parental trigger was in response to the select committee’s call for evidence as part of its scrutiny of the role of RSCs. Nick Timothy, director of the NSN, said that such a mechanism would lead to an improvement in school standards.

“There needs to be more accountability in the system so parents can get the change they want when a local school is failing,” Mr Timothy said. “We believe the ‘parental trigger’ will be an important legal right for parents and a way of driving up standards in schools that aren’t performing well. I hope the Education Select Committee and the government consider our proposal seriously.”

Recent changes to the law have meant that parents can now trigger an Ofsted inspection if they have concerns about their child’s school. But according to the NSN, only four out of almost 8,000 Ofsted inspections carried out in the past academic year were conducted as a result of complaints from parents.

A parental trigger could be based on other mechanisms in the public sector, the NSN claimed, such as the “power of recall” that enables voters to force a by-election when an MP has been caught in wrongdoing.

A “community trigger” already exists that enables victims of antisocial behaviour to demand a better response from government agencies.

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