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Parent-friendly schools – Parentkind’s blueprint for a productive partnership

Many parents currently have good reasons to fear for their children’s academic future, but a supportive partnership with their child’s school can do much to reassure them, says John Jolly…

  • Parent-friendly schools – Parentkind’s blueprint for a productive partnership

With schools opening their doors to all pupils once more, it’s a crucial moment for understanding parents’ concerns regarding their children’s education.

At three points during lockdown, Parentkind released surveys that aimed to capture a snapshot of family life under the ‘new normal’.

We wanted to know how parents were coping with having their children learning at home, how engaged they and their child were with said learning, and what their fears were for the future.

We now intend to take the crucial next step of presenting details of the concerns parents shared with us to policymakers, suggesting some possible solutions for the issues raised.

Pressing concerns

As schools prepared to close for the summer holidays, we found that 53% of parents felt more engaged in their child’s learning compared to before lockdown.

The start of a new academic year is typically a great time for schools to renew their efforts at maintaining parents’ goodwill and keeping them actively involved and engaged in their child’s learning, but this can be harder to achieve at secondary level – especially at a time when there will be heavy restrictions on parents’ ability to enter school premises.

When asked what schools should focus on most upon students’ return, 69% of secondary parents chose ‘mental wellbeing’, with ‘curriculum learning’ close behind, chosen by 68%. Those views were echoed in parents’ biggest concerns regarding the partial school closures; the resulting impact on their child’s learning came top, expressed by 35% of respondents, closely followed by mental health concerns on 30%.

There was significant variation in terms of how much time parents judged their child as having spent on school work during a typical day in lockdown. 42% felt the amount was too little, and only 5% too much.

It was also concerning to learn that more than two in five (41%) were dissatisfied by the level of instruction and teaching provided to support the work set by their children’s school, and that over half (56%) were dissatisfied by the number of online lessons provided.

Seventy-one per cent wished to see the government set minimum standards of home learning provision that all schools would be expected to meet. Notably, a majority of respondents (74%) were happy to see their child return to the classroom.

We have already seen some alarming research findings that highlight the negative consequences of children missing large chunks of school due to the pandemic – understandably, at the back of many parents’ minds will be concerns not just about their child’s learning, but about their future earning potential if further waves of the virus limit their time at school yet further.

A blueprint for the future

Looking beyond the pressures this crisis has heaped on parents and teachers alike, there’s now an opportunity to bring homes and schools closer together, in recognition of how valuable and vital effective school/home partnerships can be.

Collaborations of this type may be the only way of practically mitigating as much lost classroom learning as possible, and the swiftest route to addressing increased demands for remote learning.

We’ve all had to quickly get used to the idea of learning, working and communicating through screens – a pandemic-era solution that’s now commonplace, and perhaps entirely unremarkable once this year’s student cohort reaches the workplace.

Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools aims to clearly formalise this type of parental participation. It forms a foundation upon which school leaders can establish or improve existing strategies, backed up with training and practical approaches that all schools can put into practice and monitor.

Using the Blueprint will enable school leaders to maximise parents’ interest in their children’s learning, and create more successful home/ school partnerships.

John Jolly is the chief executive of Parentkind – an organisation supporting parental voice and participation in education; for more information, visit parentkind.org.uk or follow @parentkind

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