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Whether it's returning students or your new Year 7 intake, putting parents, carers and pupils' minds at ease can help you get off to the ideal start in September, says Michelle Doyle Wildman of Parentkind...
For Intelligent Planning, Think Penstripe
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Yes, I know. After a full-on year and with the summer holidays finally upon us, it’s hard to muster the energy to think and do anything related to September and beyond.
However, we know that for parents and pupils feeling supported when starting school life in reception, swimming up to secondary school in Year 7 or changing setting in the sixth form is crucially important to how successful this process is.
For you as teachers and headteachers, these transitions are unique opportunities to share your vision and ethos and set out how parents can be partners in this so that every child can thrive and reach their potential.
And it’s a window where mums, dads, grandparents and carers are uniquely open to being engaged by you too – so putting yourself in their shoes and developing an engagement plan so that everyone gets off to a good start will pay dividends. A win-win for your pupils and school community alike.
My suggestions for getting off to a good start are:
It’s easy to forget what it’s like in the early days. New pupils and parents may be concerned about routine things at which more-seasoned campaigners won’t bat an eyelid.
Getting the bus on their own, finding the right classroom on time, and remembering to bring in all the right kit and equipment for their lessons in secondary school can be the source of anxiety.
In primary school, simple things like getting dressed for the PE lesson or having school lunches might unsettle them, but words of encouragement to parents of how to help prepare and support their child at home can work wonders.
Take these early opportunities to build trust with your parents who in my experience massively underestimate the difference they make to their child’s education – let them know of the impact that their positive attitudes and behaviours can have on how well their child does at school.
If you’re looking for any resources to direct parents to, Parentkind’s ‘Be School Ready’ web pages are a good place to start for both primary and secondary school parents.
Be clear about how parents can communicate with the school and provide a range of ways for them to share their views.
In most instances the form/class teacher will be the first port of call, however, if there are bigger issues to discuss, ensure that parents know what channels of communication are open to them with details of how to escalate if necessary.
Make sure all school policies are accessible to parents, both practically and linguistically, so they know where they stand. Be prepared to repeat information as parents get used to their new routine and jargon-bust the ‘edu-speak’ at every turn.
Giving as much notice as possible (preferably at the beginning of each term) of opportunities for parents to come into school and of INSET days is particularly helpful for parents juggling professional and personal commitments.
Give parents a schedule of school trips and other extra-curricular activities alongside indicative costs so they can decide and plan.
If your school doesn’t have one already, consider appointing a ‘parent-engagement’ champion from your teaching staff.
A dedicated role, such as this, will help ensure all those who perform a parenting role are seen as valuable partners in our children’s education whose views and input are considered important – thus asserting your ‘parent-friendly’ credentials as a school.
Openly support and encourage their involvement in the PTA, parent council, school Facebook pages, surveys and so on.
As the leading parents in education charity we can tell you categorically of the goodwill the vast majority of mums and dads feel about you and your school. Thank you for all your hard work and commitment.
I dearly hope, relaxed and refreshed, that you make the most of the new school year and get off to a brilliant start while harnessing the power of your parent body for the good of all your pupils and staff.
Michelle Doyle Wildman is Acting CEO of Parentkind.
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