Setting up a parent council in your school

Written by: John Jolly | Published:
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One way to improve parental engagement, involvement and communication in your school is via a parent council. John Jolly from the charity Parentkind explains more and offers some tips

In Parentkind’s recently published Annual Parent Survey, three quarters of mums and dads (76 per cent) said they wanted to have a say on a range of issues at school level (2019). However, despite this only a fifth strongly believed that their school listens to them.

Setting up a parent council can play a key role in bringing home and school together and ensuring parents’ voices are heard – but what is a parent council and how does it work?

The importance of parental engagement is well-documented and as a charity we know that when parents are engaged in their child’s education the outcomes for children are better. By introducing an active parent body into your school, where a range of topics can be discussed, schools can gather parents’ views, exchange ideas and ultimately create a well-supported shared school ethos.

A parent council is a great way of providing this framework. There are a number of ways it can be run, so it is a good idea to take the time to explore and consider the issues that specifically matter in your school community.

Typically, however, it is a meeting between parents, the head or a member of the school leadership team and ideally a governor, that takes place on a regular basis. The forum gives parents an opportunity to speak about the issues currently affecting them and their children – for example, behaviour, uniform or homework policies.

There are three main ways that you can get parents involved in the parent council:

  • By asking them to volunteer themselves.
  • By inviting specific parents to take part.
  • By asking parents to nominate each other.

Once you have your committee in place, the role of the parent council is to canvass the views of the wider parent body in order to advise the school leadership and/or governing board and trustees of the parents’ views. While decisions on matters of policy are made by the governing body and school leadership, a feature of good governance is to take account of parents’ views so that policies are as workable as possible in practice.

How can we set up a parent council?

If you are thinking of setting up a parent council then here are some recommendations for the things you should consider before launching your initiative.

Consult widely: There are a number of ways a parent council can operate depending on the size of your school and how formal you want it to be. Consult with parents, governors and staff to identify what kind of parent body you think will work best for your school. The more people you have on board, the more effective your parent council will be.

Make sure you are representative: Parent councils are most successful when they represent all members of the school community. Ask a range of parents, a governor, a senior member of staff and others who may be able to offer support in helping to make school level decisions. Having a cross section of parents underpins a parent council, so reaching out to those who do not normally get involved is important to ensure that everyone feels represented and heard.

Choose the right consultation process: Adapt your meeting processes so that they are appropriate for your school and for the topic up for discussion. A parent council is all about what you and your parent body want to get out of it, so you do not have to be formulaic and rigid with the way you hold meetings and discussions. Trying to mix up when and where you hold your meetings is a great idea to allow everyone who wants to take part to get involved.

Present information effectively: Your parents will all be from different backgrounds with a range of responsibilities that may have an impact on the amount of time they are able to commit to the council. It is worth taking into account any language or cultural differences when communicating with your parents. Present information in clear and concise formats so that it is easy to digest and explains all of your key points and policies effectively.

Always provide feedback: When parents participate in a forum like a parent council, they are rightly expecting to be listened to and acknowledged. Regular updates on how you have used their feedback to support school improvement will demonstrate the value in the process and the fact that you are listening.
It is also really important to explain to parents why things they may have raised have not been changed or have been dealt with in a slightly different manner – providing a rationale is important and can help individuals to see why certain decisions have been made.

A range of benefits

Parent councils can really improve communication between home and school, but they also have the potential to provide many other benefits. For example, they can:

  • Help your school take the needs of your parents into account when making decisions.
  • Give your school leadership team an opportunity to explain decisions and complex issues to parents from a school perspective.
  • Provide your parents with a mechanism for asking questions of your school.
  • Help you to access parental expertise which may benefit your school.
  • Increase parental involvement in, and commitment to, your school.
  • Support and promote the work of your school.
  • Develop a partnership between home and school so that everyone works together for the benefit of the school and most importantly, every individual pupil.


  • John Jolly is chief executive at Parentkind (formerly PTA UK), a charity that supports parental engagement in schools and champions the ways that parents can participate in education and have their voices heard. Visit www.parentkind.org.uk

Further information & resources

  • Schools’ accountability: Findings from the 2019 Annual Parent Survey, Parentkind, December 2019: http://bit.ly/2P8NejH
  • Parental engagement: A guide for governing boards – in September 2019, Parentkind and the National Governance Association published joint guidance on why engaging with and involving parents is key to good governance: http://bit.ly/2rwEs5P
  • Parentkind provides both training and a membership programme to support schools wishing to set-up parent councils. For details, visit www.parentkind.org.uk/parent-councils


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