One positive development during the pandemic is improved parental engagement with their children’s learning and the need to support it. A supportive and nurturing home life, that understands and enhances the learning that is taking place in school, can make a difference to the progress a pupil makes. It can also affect how they feel about education in general.
With the return to in-person learning in schools, and more regular work life pattern, there is a risk this won’t continue. We may revert to what too often in the past was a disconnect between classroom and home. Schools must adopt policies and a culture that continues to engage with parents and leverage their support of pupils’ learning. They should also minimise any friction or conflict that might arise from a more cooperative relationship. Parents understandably want to be involved in their child’s education – and when care and consideration is given as to how best to achieve this, it leads to improved educational outcomes.
There are several points that all governors should consider in this area:
Seek advice and guidance
There are various organisations and sources of information to assist in developing a strategy for positively engaging with parents. Some examples include:
- GovernorHub’s article The board’s role in improving parental engagement. You can also access then download ‘Governors annual report to parents’ within the article
- Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools
- The NAHT’s ‘How to build effective home-school partnerships’
- Parent/Carer Engagement advice from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
- The NGA’s ‘Parental Engagement: A guide for governing boards’
Beyond this, your school may encounter specific issues or events that require a very particular approach or intervention, such as how relationships education is taught at your school. Ensure you are making use of all available resources when formulating your approach.
Sometimes it can be counter-productive to ‘broadcast’ at parents. School websites can be efficient and effective ways of communicating and presenting information, but a variety of channels should be used so that all parents are able to access information. Communication is also two-way – parents should be given regular opportunities to provide feedback, ask questions and challenge decisions, including access to governors. Communication should be timely, consistent, accurate and considerate of its audience.
Effective policies and procedures
Schools should have policies in place regarding expectations of parents – hese should be fit for purpose, regularly reviewed and easily accessible, potentially given to, and signed by, new parents as part of a pupil’s induction. Parents should also be fully briefed on the school’s digital policies, including safeguarding and how to help keep their children safe online. For those with access to The Key, you can read a series of case studies and advice regarding parental engagement.
External provision for parental engagement is available, including from Parentkind. Schools can also conduct these sessions themselves at an inset day, discussing hypothetical scenarios or even role-playing parent interactions. They should ensure staff are aware of conflict resolution strategies and de-escalation as well as school policies in this regard. This will make them more confident, ensure minor problems do not escalate, and that staff can protect themselves, pupils, and the school in the event of a more serious issue.
Recognise and support specific parental needs
Some schools will have pupils whose particular family circumstances require specific engagement. This could include migrant families potentially struggling with English to the challenges for schools working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families. Schools may need to offer some form of training to to parents, be it working with those who may have had a poor experience of school themselves or who, for various reasons, may be less able to support their child’s education. It could also cover working closely with parents of pupils with challenging behaviours.
Encourage and build parental involvement
Schools should be speaking to parents about ways they can be involved, from speaking at a career’s day, to creating a school garden, to forming/joining a PTA. Being clear and open with parents about their involvement will give schools access to potential volunteers, fundraising opportunities, and a closer link to parents’ voices and opinions.
If schools are successful in creating a positive relationship with students’ parents, the results, both direct and indirect, can be huge. They can range from improved attendance and behaviour, to better wellbeing and educational results. Staff will feel more supported and able to focus on delivering for students, and parents will feel welcome at the school and included in their child’s life and education. Students themselves will enjoy coherence in messaging between school and home. The effects of failing to engage with parents can be equally damaging and undermine all of the hard work school staff are doing for our children and young people.
Thanks to Parentkind, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families for their contributions to this article.
This article, as with all of this term’s campaign resources, was made possible through the support of GovernorHub. GovernorHub is the leading governor collaboration tool in the country and provides 100,000 school governors, trustees and clerks with tools to communicate, share documents and access the information they need to support schools. Designed by governors, it’s a simple and easy-to-use platform that saves time, improves processes and allows boards to evidence their efforts, all in one place. Contact [email protected] to see how they can help your school or trust.