The parents’ role in the general council of portuguese schools – effective participation or mere orchestration of reality?

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The Portuguese public educational administration and management follows the norms established by the Decree-Law no. 75/2008, which was later reviewed by the Decree-Law no. 137/2012. The Decree-Law no. 75/2008, in effect since 2008, intended to “strengthen the participation of families and communities in the strategic direction of educational establishments and in favoring the establishment of strong leadership”. In addition to these two objectives, the preamble of this Decree-Law mentions "the need to strengthen the autonomy of schools [which] has been called for by all sectors of opinion.” In order to achieve these objectives, this Decree-Law reorganizes the configuration of public schools’ administrative bodies, by introducing a major change: the institution of a strategic management body – the General Council - made up of representatives from teaching and non-teaching staff, parents, students (if adults or secondary education students), municipalities and local community (representatives from institutions, economic, social, cultural and scientific organizations and activities). By introducing this change, this legal document establishes the following school administration and management bodies: (i) the General Council; (ii) the School Director / Principal; (iii) the Pedagogical Council and (iv) the Administrative Council. The General Council is the strategic management body responsible for approving the fundamental rules of the school’s functioning (internal regulations), the strategic and planning decisions (educational project, activities plan) and for monitoring their implementation (annual activity report). Moreover, this body is responsible for the election and destitution of the Principal, who reports to the General Council. None of the bodies or groups represented in the General Council holds, on its own, the majority of the seats. All the interested groups must be represented and the bodies that represent the school staff (teaching and non-teaching staff) may not hold the majority of seats in the council. An open-ended single question was applied to a sample of parents who have a seat in the General Council of their children’s school, in order to collect their suggestions about ways to improve its action. We obtained a total of 42 answers that correspond to parents from 32 different General Councils across the country. A content analysis of the answers given reveals that the majority of respondents think that the General Council is dominated by the school Director / Principal, becoming a propaganda body for his action. Moreover, they affirm that parents should have an increased presence in this body, in order to counterbalance teachers’ excessive power in the General Council. In terms of the decision-making processes, the results show that the General Council seems to be perceived by parents as a forum for the legitimation of previously made decisions, which leads to a deficit of parents’ participation in these processes. The results of the study are presented and discussed under the light of some classical organizational theories, such as: the organization of hypocrisy (Brunsson, 1989), the institutional theory (Meyer & Rowan, 1977), loosely coupled systems theory (Weick, 1976) and the political arena theory (Mintzberg, 1985).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN19 Proceedings
Place of PublicationPalma
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9788409120314
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Event11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Palma, Spain
Duration: 1 Jul 20193 Jul 2019


Conference11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies


  • School administration
  • School management
  • General council
  • Parents
  • Participation
  • Decision making


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