According to extensive research carried out by Professor John Hattie, the world’s most influential education academic, “When pursued consistently throughout a child’s development, parental engagement could amount to the equivalent of an additional two to three years’ schooling for a child, adding massively to their overall achievement.” So, how can schools foster strong interactions and links with parents, to ensure that the learning experience is a fully developed one for every child?
Arguably, the most powerful tool is technology. With social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat on the rise, in addition to the more traditional methods of digital communication including SMS messages and email, it’s often difficult for parents to compete for their child’s attention. Understandably, children naturally gravitate towards and have an interest in technology; it is indicative of the world we live in after all, but this can leave some parents alienated from their child’s ‘digital’ world.
To counter this, it’s important that parents look for ways to maximise their own use of technology in order to engage more with their children and foster strong parental interaction. Similarly, schools need to recognise the role that they can play in making it easier for parents to actively engage with their child’s school life. Using technology, schools can keep parents informed, for example, of their child’s behaviour or achievements in a particular lesson, any delays when returning home from a school trip, or a goal they scored at a football match, as each event happens. As a result, communication with parents becomes more meaningful as it takes place as and when issues or events arise. Parents are able to ask specific, relevant questions and reference things that they know happened during the school day, because they have already been alerted to it. Many schools have begun investing in technology that facilitates ‘real-time’ communication with parents or guardians, but there is certainly still room for improvement where parental engagement is concerned.
Child safety is another issue that can be effectively addressed and managed using technology. A recent review carried out by the charity, ChildLine, revealed that more than 7,000 calls were made to the helpline by young people needing counselling about online bullying and safety in a single year (April 2014 – March 2015). With this in mind, it is imperative that parents are involved with their child’s school life; the more attuned they are to their child’s everyday routine, moods and academic achievements, the faster they can spot warning signs that all may not be well.
The majority of schools are now recognising the benefits that can be gained from working closely with parents and are providing their pupils with an enhanced learning experience. After all, parents are a child’s first educator, so fostering strong interactions with them is fundamental to encouraging pupil happiness both inside and outside of school.