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Parents should be the champions of our schools

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, recently announced “parents should be the champions of our schools.” His comments were in response to a claim made by an MP, who noted that when a school is found to be below standard the affected parents rarely engage in feedback.

It is unlikely this is borne out of apathy, parents are active participants in the familiar rounds of parents’ evenings and report receiving. If given clear opportunities to be involved in their child’s education, such as in choosing a school, parents are front and centre.

In turn, there is no shortage of voices exhorting the importance of effective parental engagement, with the vast majority of schools including the student, teacher and parent partnership as part of their core values or mission.

Why then is parental engagement such a hit and miss affair?

Technology is now implicit in so many of our habits and behaviours, whether we’re researching holidays online, booking taxis through an app or remotely adjusting our home thermostat. But, the process for engaging parents remains largely untouched, often not extending far beyond a website and perhaps some electronic payments, email or text messaging. Paper reports and queuing at parents’ evening are still the norm.

Firefly takes everyday learning interactions between teachers and students, and invites parents into that flow, whether that’s homework setting, feedback or tracking. Each teacher has control over what is shared and parents can choose what level of detail they want to see, such as a quick overview of a week’s marks or the resources provided to support a piece of homework.

This opens the door for parents to better understand the context for their child’s learning and allows informed and meaningful conversations about school at home.

So-called continuous reporting is on the increase, with schools recognising the benefit of parents being in the know, and equipped with an understanding of what grades mean, as well as work being set or assessed. Part of the result is a transformation of parents’ evenings, now an opportunity to have much deeper conversations based on a shared understanding.

It becomes much easier to demonstrate our passion for things when expectations are simple and relevant details accessible. Considered and useful technology has simplified many of our day-to-day activities, and it is an intuitive step to make easily digestible information available to parents.

There is no doubt that structured parental engagement is needed by schools. A tool like Firefly allows teachers to inform parents how and when to engage constructively, thus taking the teacher, student and parent partnership to the next level.

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