Proposals for Additional Pupil and Parent Members of the Education Committee Blocked
Laurie Bidwell, Labour's Education Spokesperson in the city
23 August 2012
At the meeting of the City Council on Monday night 20 August 2012, SNP Councillors blocked attempts to give voting rights to the proposed three additional members of the Education Committee.
Councillors had been asked to approve proposals for two parental members drawn from the Parent Councils (one from nursery and primary school Parent Councils and one from the secondary school Parent Councils.
Additionally, one senior Pupil drawn from the members of the city wide Pupil Council were to be invited to join the Education Committee.
In the the Agenda Note before us, it was pointed out that :
"Having regard to the non-statutory status of the parent representatives and the pupil representative, they will be non-voting members of the Education Committee."
In questions to the Senior Council staff, it became clear that there was no statute or regulation to prevent the proposed additional parent and senior pupil members of the Education Committee having a vote.
It appeared that this form of words had been an attempt to deflect the blame for not granting voting rights from the majority SNP group of Councillors to some legal restriction.
In the light of this revelation, I asked the Education Convener, Councillor Hunter, to reconsider his stance and retain an equality between all the members of the Education Committee.
As he was not willing to change his stance, I proposed an amendment that
3(b) COMPOSITION OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE (AN140-2012)
The parent representatives and the pupil representative will be voting members of the Education Committee.
I made the following contribution to the debate:
"Convener, I welcome your proposal before us this evening as far as it goes but it is falls short in one key aspect.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 and SQA examinations and it is a progressive 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 increase the number of parental voices on our Education Committee and through them make links with the multiple viewpoints from our network of parent councils.
“Convener, this is very close to your sentiments published in the local press earlier today.
“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.
“Where we differ is over the voting powers of these new additional members.
“The motion seeks to deny the additional members the opportunity to vote on matters of importance.
“I am worried that your proposal will disappoint the potential participants who may be loath to be second class members of the Education Committee.
“I once heard the accusation that some local government participation schemes might be likened to a toy phone.
“You may speak or shout down the phone but as it's not connected it does make much of a difference, it just allows the speaker on the phone to get whatever is perplexing them off their chest but of course it remains unresolved.
“Your proposal amounts to that kind of participation, appearing to be opening up avenues of influence for our parents and pupils but ensuring that on the occasions where we vote on an issue their views will not count.
“I ask you therefore to support our amendment and make this a better proposal."
Unfortunately, all the SNP Councillors and the Conservative Councillor voted together and had enough votes to defeat the Labour amendment.
The new additional members of the Education Committee will still have their places on the Committee but have been denied their votes.
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