Parental engagement is a huge issue for schools. Finding ways to engage parents is no mean feat, but when parental involvement in school life is so strongly associated with high academic performance it really is quite essential that school communities break down the barriers.
Often it’s not that parents are reluctant to engage, but more that they are unaware of the value of their contributions or unsure of exactly how they can support their child. Research by the American Association of School Administrators shows that many families don’t see the value in participating and don’t believe their involvement will result in any meaningful change. This frequently leaves them stepping back and leaving the teachers to it. They need to believe in their capacity to influence their child’s performance. Schools should take the lead in offering greater opportunities for parents to engage with school.
We’ve put together our 10 top tips towards creating a collaborative whole school community approach to education.
1) Change attitudes – Parent’s can often only relate to their own experience in school, and that may be very different from how your school operates now. Ensure they know that the school environment has changed significantly in comparison to thirty even twenty years ago. Can you hold an open morning to show off your school in action?
2) Reduce barriers – Figure out the barriers and then work out how to combat them. Is there a language barrier? Supply a translated version of the newsletter and other important paperwork. Is low income the issue? Provide details of agencies that can support.
3) Communicate more, and more effectively – Listen to the parents. After all, they know the children best. Ensure parents and carers feel that their voices are heard. Give feedback regularly, this could be a class newsletter, a note in the home-school diary or grabbing them for a quick chat after school. Ask for feedback from the parents too; are their children happy at school? Are there any aspects that need improvement?
4) Encourage community collaboration – Can you set a goal and work together as a school community to reach it? This could be a charity fundraiser, a whole school event or transforming an area of the playground together. Emphasise that there are all kinds of ways to participate in school life, a cake sale may be one parent’s idea of hell, but they may be willing to contribute in other ways such as hearing readers in class or joining you to support on a school trip.
5) Get social – What is the preferred means of communication for the parents? Can the school use systems more suited to their needs? Social media is a great way to broadcast the wonderful things that you’re doing as a school and keep the community informed quickly and efficiently of the latest news and reminders. Find out how to create a social media policy for your school here. Text message alerts, school blogs and podcasts also work well.
6) Share children’s work – Parents love to see their children’s work on display and it’ll make the children super proud. Go one step further and get in touch to see how Pobble can share your class work around the world and increase parental interaction too.
7) Support your parents – Can you offer after school ‘drop-in’ sessions that give the parents practical ideas to do with their children at home? Or let them use the school computers to support with homework?
8) Make parents feel welcome -Encourage them into the school environment. Can you have a digital display in the reception area showing videos of what’s happening in class or a slideshow of photos?
9) Offer incentives – Give parents a reason to get involved. Can you offer refreshments at school meetings to make it less formal and more relaxed? Can you hold a social event where the aim is for families to get to know each other? Utilise the power of the nag; do your class get an extra treat if lots of parents turn up?
10) Let them use their expertise -Parents can bring skills so use their skills to your advantage. Do they have jobs related to your class topic? Would they be willing to come in and talk to the children or demonstrate a craft or hobby?