National Parents Council Primary (NPC)

Published on: 05/08/2015
Document

Over the last number of decades there has been a wealth of research which shows the difference parental involvement can make in educational outcomes for children. This is illustrated at an individual parent/child level but also at a decision making and policy making level. The European Commission in its report on the quality of school education in May 2000 stated: “…(it) holds that the degree of parental participation is a significant indicator of the quality of schooling”. Parents are a key stakeholder in the education system and it is vital that the education system at a local, national and policy level recognise the views of parents. The problem that the National Parents Council sought to address was two-fold, firstly to support parents at an individual level in engagement with their child’s education. Secondly and most relevant to this submission was how the National Parents Council could hear and organise the parents voice at a national level so that it could be coherently represented particularly within a policy making context.

NPC is a recognised partner in education. It's Government policy that all key education legislation and policy development or changes must go through a period of consultation with the education partners.

 

Description of target users and groups

The target population is parents of children in primary education (4-12years). The needs of this target population are to have a voice in their children’s education and indeed to have a voice regarding the primary education sector.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

How NPC was designed to meet its objectives

Partnership is the key objective which underpins the work of the NPC, partnership between parents and schools and partnership between parents and the broader education sector. For the purposes of this report I will illustrate the later in the context of the role NPC plays in citizen engagement. There are approximately 3,300 primary schools in Ireland all of varying sizes of school population. NPC strives to give a mechanism to parents in all of these schools so that they can voice their opinions and engage with NPC in matters that concern them regarding their child’s education. NPC gathers the voice of parents through a number of key activities/structures:

 

NPC Assembly

The Assembly is the policy developing body within NPC and is comprised of a maximum of two representatives from each NPC County branch and one representative from each of the Special interest groups, (Special Interest groups are established in NPC to hear the voice of parents who are not as significant in numbers within the general population e.g. parents of children with special education needs, parents of children from the traveller community etc.) This means that when NPC speaks on behalf of parents it can do so knowing that the issues have been considered and debated by parents.

NPC parent surveys

When policy areas are raised for consultation by the Department of Education, NPC often issues opinion survey’s to parents of primary school children. Over the last number of years this has proved a very effective way of harnessing the voices of many parents on different educational issues.

At other times NPC may set the agenda by issuing parent survey’s on issues that it feels need to be highlighted to the other education partners

Importantly NPC as a partner in education is represented on all Department of Education and other relevant education bodies, policy making committees. It is through this mechanism that NPC is able to represent the voice of parents in education policy.

 

Return on investment

By communicating directly with parents of primary school children regarding important education policy areas NPC attempts to bring the parent who is also the key advocate for the child’s voice to the policy making debate.

NPC has achieved significant influence in education policy through this representation in recent years. Significantly the cost of going to school has been an ongoing struggle for many parents in Ireland. NPC has surveyed parents on these issues and made representation to the Joint Oireachtas committee on Education, the Minister for Education and the department of Education.

Cost of going to Primary school

900

responses

School book rental scheme

1590 responses

Reducing costs to parents – school uniform survey

976

responses

   

Following these surveys and submissions the Minister has provided for a school book rental scheme in all schools whereby the parents can rent the school books at a much reduced cost. In addition the Minister has recently issued a directive to schools that they must survey parents in schools regarding their preference regarding school uniform in particular in relation to the financial implications of any such policy.

NPC also surveyed parents recently on parental involvement in children’s education. This was an issue that NPC wanted to raise with the Minister and Department of Education. NPC received 508 responses from parents and from these responses NPC submitted a report to the Minister Education calling for a strengthening in legislation of the parent role.

Lessons learnt

Scope: National

Categorisation

Type of document
General case study