Commenting on Proposals for Additional Pupil and Parent Members of the Education Committee

At the Full Council Meeting on Monday 20 August 2012, there is a proposal to extend the membership of the Education Committee by adding three further members; two parent council members and one senior pupil. 

One of the parents, would be nominated from the members of Nursery and Primary School Parent Councils while the other would be chosen from the ranks of the members of the Secondary School Parent Councils. The senior pupil member would be nominated from the members of the City Wide Pupil Council.

I think it is a sound idea to provide a pupil voice and more parental voices on the Education Committee. Our pupils are at the sharp end of many profound changes as a result of introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence so it is a good idea to make a clear link between the City Wide Pupil Council and the Education Committee. While some Councillors are also parents of children currently in our schools, I think it is right to enhance the voices of parents at the Education Committee and make a link through them with multiple viewpoints from our network of parent councils. 

Of course, I could not but welcome this extension to the membership of the Education Committee, because a very similar proposal was contained in the Dundee Labour Manifesto which we put before the voters in May 2012 elections in Dundee. I am glad that the SNP administration have been prepared to seek out good ideas, wherever these reside.

I do however have a question about the way the proposal has been framed. I wonder for example what these three additional members will think about their status as the only non voting members of the Committee unlike the two trade union and three religious representatives on the Committee?
I also think that to make a success of this development, we will need to think more about the agendas and the formality of the meetings. 

Often the Education Committee agendas are very thin and avoid matters that are really crucial. For example, the Agenda of the Education Committee on Monday night contains only two items; the approval of a £10,00 grant to the Prince's Trust Fairbridge Programme in Dundee and the reporting of contracts for school taxis which has already been approved during the recess. Important as these are, it's not very compelling stuff to come in for or what parents and pupils might most aspire to influence. Why isn't there a report on Monday about the SQA examination results in our schools? The pre-appeal statistics are apparently available and were quoted in the press by the Education Convener more than two weeks ago but are not being presented to the Education Committee on Monday. Now items like that might really interest and engage the parental and pupil member of the Committee.

I think the Council should also give consideration to relaxing the formality and procedures in our meetings if we want to really involve the new additional members. The way standing orders are rigidly enforced by Conveners often seems to be designed to stifle rather than facilitate a rigorous examination of proposals and a lively debate.