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If your school doesn’t have a formal plan in place, here’s how to get started...
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Recent research from Parentkind showed that teachers overwhelmingly believe parental engagement helps build trust with families and leads to better academic achievement and behaviour, as well as a reduction in pupil absenteeism.
When it works well, parental engagement helps teachers address cultural difficulties, improves staff retention levels and can increase parental financial contributions for the ‘extras’ which support classroom learning and enrich a child’s overall experience of school.
Yet despite these many advantages, less than a fifth of teachers responding to the survey reported having any formal mechanisms in place in their school to engage parents.
If your school is one of these, or you are looking to embed parental engagement further, kick-start your strategy with the following suggestions.
It’s vital that you create a welcoming environment for parents to demonstrate your commitment to engaging with them.
Daniel Cooper, deputy head at Richmond Park School in Carmarthen, introduced a PEAS programme (‘Parents engaged actively in school’) to increase parental engagement inside the school gates. Activities range from fun family events to subject workshops run by teachers and external specialists.
Since introducing the programme, school attendance has gone up to 95.5%, children’s reading ages have improved, attendance at parents’ evenings has gone from 43% to 93% and the perception of the school has changed for the better, with parents now recommending it to others.
Find out more about Daniel’s approach here.
A school parent council or other parent body is a good forum for sharing information and gathering opinion.
The PTA at Rowlands Gill Primary in Tyne and Wear identified challenges that prevented some families from engaging with the school. After talking to teachers, it became apparent that some children’s behaviour in class, such as being withdrawn, reflected challenges at home.
Together, the PTA and senior management team opted to employ a family support worker to deliver an outreach programme to strengthen home-school ties and benefit the whole school community.
The family support worker’s role involves advising parents on behaviour strategies, engaging with families where there are complex needs and referring parents to other agencies to establish a network of support for the whole family.
Since this work started, parents feel they have a stronger voice and teachers are more confident in addressing concerns.
Read more about the school’s strategy here.
Assign a member of staff as a parent engagement champion. It will be their job to take responsibility for implementing a parent-friendly approach and develop an engagement plan to help your school assess and track progress.
Tyson Oliver, class teacher at St Peter and St Paul Academy in Syston, rebuilt his school’s parents and friends association because it wasn’t working in its previous guise.
He recruited parents through direct contact and via a drop-in session which aimed to break down barriers to participation. Interest was significant and 18 new committee members were recruited. Tyson also developed new roles, including a school disco coordinator and a community officer.
The school now delivers safeguarding and first aid courses to PFA members, with the intention of rolling this initiative out to the wider community too.
Learn more about Tyson’s story here.
This helps to establish boundaries and expectations with parents on topics such as how to communicate with the school, social media policies and behaviour on the premises.
It’s important to involve parents in the process and enable them to influence the outcomes of a positive learning environment.
Michael McCarthy, headteacher at Ridgeway Primary Academy in South Shields, finds Facebook a great way of regularly consulting parents about developments at school.
Staff are briefed about the kinds of posts the community would like to see and there is a clear system in place for updating the page. In addition, the school uses Messenger to respond quickly and effectively to parent queries and concerns.
While Michael recognises that there are risks to using social media, he believes that with careful management it can help schools engage with families.
Read the full story here.
We can all play our part to create better home-school partnerships and establish our schools as truly parent-friendly. Investing time and effort in this area can lead to real successes and a more cohesive and successful school community.
Kerry-Jane Packman is development and membership director at Parentkind. Download guidance about building effective home-school partnerships and find out about training courses at parentkind.org.uk and follow her on Twitter at @kerryjpackman.
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