THE involvement of Scottish families in the education of their children is facing a radical shake-up.

A pilot project in three council areas is aiming to encourage much greater parental involvement in the running of schools than is currently the case.

The initiative, which is being trialled in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Angus, comes after surveys have shown most parents are reluctant to get involved in their school.

A survey conducted by the Scottish Government in 2005 found 70 per cent said they had never volunteered to help despite half being willing to do more.

Families who don't get involved often feel parent councils are dominated by the same elitist cliques or they simply don't have the time to help.

The new scheme aims to improve involvement by setting up dedicated action teams at each school involving staff and parents whose role it is to reach out to all members of the school community.

Parents will be encouraged to participate in a number of ways from helping with their children's homework to having a greater say in key school decisions.

Families will also invited to participate in specific projects to tackle issues such as improving literacy, attendance or behaviour or visiting classrooms to demonstrate their own skills or hobbies or simply to share their experiences.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), initiated the pilot scheme in partnership with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) after hearing about the international success of the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), which is based at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

The scheme has been developed by university academics over the past 30 years and has been adopted in a number of American states as well as spreading to countries such as Australia and the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs Prior said she hoped to see the project rolled out over the next six years to more than 600 schools.

"Parents want the best for their children and it is for that reason that we have been working to bring this approach to Scotland," she said.

"It is an evidence-based programme and a practical way of helping parents and schools to raise expectations and make a tangible difference to our youngsters by building strong partnerships between home, school and community.

"We talk a lot about parental involvement in Scottish education, but to date have struggled to find a consistently successful way to make it a reality for all schools."

Neville Prentice, a senior director with SDS, said it was clear parents had a key role to play in supporting their children's career and learning choices.

He said: "Our support for this work recognises the strong link between parents' involvement in learning and in supporting their child's career choices."

Angela Constance, the Education Secretary, added: "Research into family engagement in education has shown it to have a significant positive effect on attainment, achievement, health and wellbeing."

Dr Joyce Epstein, from Johns Hopkins University, who founded the scheme, said it challenged the traditional focus that parental involvement should be the goal, instead focusing on improving pupil success at school.

She believes schools should not just encourage parental involvement, but work in equal partnership with families and the wider school community to improve standards.

She said: "People were arguing what was more important - the family or the school - and I felt that was a silly argument because both are important.

"If families are so important, as all studies show they are, how can we help all schools link to families in the way that only now some families do?

"Some families make it their business to get involved, but schools need to be ready for all families, not just the easiest to reach or those that are already engaged."