The rising cost of basic necessities is taking its toll on families across the country, with many parents and carers struggling to make ends meet. These pressures can affect young people’s education and well-being, while presenting serious welfare concerns for school leaders and staff. So, how can school governors help?
By asking the right questions during board meetings, school governors can do their bit to support parents and carers who may be struggling. If you’re an existing or prospective governor and are wondering where to start, we’ve put together the following advice to help you think strategically during this uniquely challenging period.
- Signpost resources and additional support: One way school governors can support parents is by signposting resources and, where possible, providing additional support to families in need. For example, if budgets allow, schools could offer free school meals or provide school uniforms at a reduced cost to help alleviate the financial burden on parents. In many areas, there are also free, local resources available, such as food banks or financial advice services that can provide assistance to those in need. By providing information on these resources, school governors can help parents access the support they need.
- Empower Parents and Carers: A recent poll conducted by The Sutton Trust shows that issues associated with the cost of living crisis were more common in schools with the most disadvantaged intakes. 38% of teachers said a third or more of their class were living in families facing such considerable financial difficulties that their children faced barriers to academic success, while 67% thought the associated impact of the cost of living crisis would increase the attainment gap at their school. To help improve outcomes for young people, school governors could advocate raising aspiration programmes that involve parents and carers, such as ‘Parent Power’, created by The Brilliant Club.Parent Power empowers parents and carers to make change to support their children’s futures by coming together and using community organising skills to take action. The Brilliant Club’s local, trained community organiser holds 1-2-1s with local parents and carers and then brings them together for six weekly group meetings, during which they work together to identify common issues and activities that will benefit their communities and schools, such as tailored visits to universities for young people, visits from university alumni, or training on tutoring, student finance or university access. Parent Power recognises that parents and carers play a huge role in a young person’s education, and that community engagement in the education sector shouldn’t be about doing things ‘to’ a community, but with them.
- Nurture a welcoming and inclusive environment: Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in schools is also critical to supporting parents who may be struggling with the cost of living crisis. By fostering a supportive and empathetic culture in schools, governors can create a space where parents feel comfortable sharing their struggles and seeking help when needed. This can be achieved by promoting open communication between parents and school staff and, where possible, encouraging schools to offer support services, such as counselling or mental health services to families in need.
Learn more with Counting the Cost
School governors have an important role to play in supporting parents through the cost of living crisis. By providing resources, fostering a supportive environment, and promoting financial education, they can help families and individuals navigate the financial difficulties they may be facing and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities. For more support on what to ask during your board meetings, please read our ‘Questions for Governors’ guide. You can also check out our Counting the Cost campaign page on our website for more resources.
This article – along with our other Counting the Cost resources – was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Allen & Overy.