Parents have long played a role in choosing how their children educated, but some youngsters are now part of that process too.
When parent teacher associations (PTAs) were introduced their main functions were fundraising and forging closer links between home and school to make education a little more fun for children.
That raison d’etre has not changed. But what has evolved are opportunities for young children - working with staff and parents - to make decisions about how they are taught.
Wallacestone Primary School – which has the biggest pupil roll in the Falkirk district – is embracing this new partnership.
The school has a committed parent council which works alongside Parents Association Wallacestone School (PAWS). The latter is the fundraising arm while the parent council deals with the more educational issues. But both work together to deliver innovative ways to keep learning fun for their children.
The groups have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in recent years to help the school buy new equipment such as whiteboards, a minibus and £12,000 towards a new play trail in the playground.
The pupil and parent voices are very important in the school and are genuinely listened to when decisions need to be made, both for the curriculum and activities in and out of school.
Most pupils have a role. All the primary seven pupils are prefects, ambassadors, playground buddies for younger children or house captains, while parents muck in organising and volunteering for extra-curricular events that raise money. Two pupils are also members of the parents’ groups with voting rights.
Head teacher Margaret MacDonald said: “There are loads of groups within the school where they all meet together to decide things and they have helped make big changes. We’re trying to introduce inclusion more and more for all classes right down to pre-school. Because we have so many children we have to be quite innovative to find things that will be meaningful.
“As soon as you give them a badge they really take it on and you have to be prepared for that, it can be quite challenging. The eco group came one day and challenged us over using laminate for the awards certificates we give out.
“They told us quite strongly it was a waste to the environment and by the end of the conversation I felt I was personally responsible for the ozone layer problems. That’s how committed they become, so what we did then was we stopped doing that and just gave paper copies.
“Quite often you’ll get two or three of them knocking on my door asking, ‘can we have a word with you?’, because they want to see changes. It’s almost as bad as having the EIS rep coming round, but it’s very healthy and the children love taking the responsibility. We couldn’t do all the good things we do without the amazing support we get from the parents.”
PAWS vice chairwoman Lesley Curr believes the set-up is perfect and allows pupils, parents and the local business community which supports events to have a demonstrable effect on children’s education.
She said: “I think we all work well together, that’s key. If we have fun ideas that bring in money for the greater good of the school, we also want to have the buy-in of the parents and children and want it to be something that they want to come along and do.
“We need their input.”