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Moving on and moving up with parental engagement

Moving teaching and learning into the virtual space in the face of a pandemic was a remarkable achievement.

Now, despite their efforts, schools face a new challenge of accelerating the progress of all pupils and reduce the impact the pandemic may have had on their learning.

A major positive is that schools will be able to rely on a reinvigorated relationship between home and school – a partnership that has been boosted over the past year and could be a major factor in a successful response to those post-pandemic challenges. 

What that relationship looks like now and how it could be further strengthened is the focus of our new report, Even better together: A new chapter for parent-school relations?

The report is based on a roundtable discussion we hosted last month which included representatives from across the education system, including school and trust leaders and representatives from education charities and organisations including the EEF, Chartered College of Teaching and Parentkind.

Our roundtable guests provided us with fascinating insights into the issue which have been captured in the report, along with some useful advice on improving parental engagement in your school:

  1. Get the basics right. Track all incoming parent communications (particularly requests and promises) and monitor those through to completion, ticking and checking them off and picking up where they get missed. Schools can struggle with this alongside all of their other activities.

  2. Build two-way communication. It’s not just about communicating at parents – ask them what they think and take action on their feedback.

  3. Put the students first. Focus engagement on the child’s learning. Be child-centric rather than school centric. If a parent never speaks to you as a school but engages in their child’s learning, then that’s a good result for the child.

  4. Meet parents on their terms. That often means meeting them on mobile. If you expect them to have the latest laptops or tablets you will only engage a small proportion.

  5. Get critical. Critically assess how you work with parents and try where you can to give parents concrete, practical ways in which they can help their children’s learning.

  6. Be more primary. Half of the work to develop parental engagement at primary schools takes place at the school gates and events like plays. That’s not the reality at secondary school but those car park huddles are being recreated online, in social media platforms such as Facebook and via WhatsApp groups. Schools need to think how they engage with it.

  7. Look at comms through your parents’ eyes.  There could be a disconnection between what the school thinks is effective communication and engagement and the actual experience of parents. They may be bombarded with calls, texts, emails from lots of your colleagues, or they may just see tumbleweed. Ask yourself: what is the holistic experience from the parents’ perspective?

  8. Make it personal. If you are a teacher or headteacher and you need to speak to a parent, avoid calling them ‘mum’; find out their first name and speak to them on equal terms. For some parents, schools and teachers are scary – make sure you are on an equal footing.

 

The new report, Even better together: A new chapter for parent-school relations?, is available here

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