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Dealing with Common Obstacles to Parental Engagement

by Henry Kilshaw on March 15, 2017

For children, the importance of a good support structure from both parents and teachers is immeasurable as they grow into the person they want to become. A disjointed relationship between parents and teachers can result in mixed messages being fed to the child, causing confusion and making it difficult for them to stay on the path to success.

Obstacle #1 – Limited Communication Channels

Realistically, you can’t always rely on the child to relay important information between the teacher and parent. For schools, this means ensuring there are several open channels of communication between themselves and the parents.

The traditional method of just sending a letter home is becoming increasingly outdated as most people like to get their information online, so digital communication is key. Specific software for sending messages digitally via SMS, push notification, voice and e-mail messages can provide valuable updates on the individual child as well as important school updates.

Of course, it will always be important to have face to face communication too, so parent teacher events and Parents’ Evenings will still be of utmost importance, but it’s always good to have a more regular point of communication.


Obstacle #2 – no opportunity for feedback

If you want to truly engage your pupils’ parents, messages can’t just be forced on them without expecting anything back. Communication has to be two way, so when an engagement strategy is conceived, you must include a way for messages to be sent both ways. If there’s no way to ask questions and voice concerns, parents can become unresponsive and disheartened, particularly if they feel that their point of view is not being heard.

Schools should ensure that parents are regularly asked for feedback on their communications strategies and then act upon the responses. any actions should be reported back to the parents to make it clear that their input is both appreciated and taken seriously. Parents should be able to contribute to the development of the school and should have easy access to contact the school should they wish to.


Obstacle #3 - Language Barriers

Schools are becoming increasingly multicultural and multilingual, with many pupils speaking English as a second language. This poses a huge obstacle for parent teacher communications and can cause parents to become disengaged if they don’t understand the messages being communicated to them and can even be embarrassed that they don’t understand.

It’s important to reassure non-English speaking parents that their needs are being heard. In modern society, language barriers should not be stopping parents from feeling part of their child’s education, and it’s down to schools to find a positive solution. One of the most efficient means is through efficient translation, and there are many options for software that can handle this. Groupcall offer a useful tool in Groupcall Messenger, which has the capability to translate into 64 different languages, ensuring all parents stay fully informed.


Obstacle #4 – Negative Experiences

Many parents are reluctant to engage with their child’s school because of negative experiences they had when they themselves were at school. School systems have changed a lot over the years, both in terms of the quality of education and ethical standards, so parents may have had bad experiences in the past which they fear are still relevant in today’s system. The key to engaging with these parents is to make them feel as though their child’s school is a safe, welcoming place by hosting events such as quiz nights and other social gatherings, either on or off site, so they can start to feel more relaxed and open to the idea of engaging with the school regularly.

A parent’s negative experience may not have been from their own childhood though. If they have had one bad experience with their child’s school, this may have caused them to shut off from it completely. That is why it is so important to add real structure and a high level of organisation to your communications as well as having follow-up meetings, phone calls or other communications to keep the relationship healthy.


Obstacle #5 – unclear messages

Another major obstacle hindering effective communication between parents and teachers is when information is vague. If feedback is sent to parents that doesn’t make sense or isn’t clear on what action needs to occur, it’s likely it will be ignored. Ironically, one of the best solutions to this problem is communication itself!

Schools should be asking parents what information will be helpful to them and their communication preferences, whilst parents should ask teachers what they can do to help. As a general guide, teachers should be communicating attendance, grades, achievements, behaviour, school timetables and events as well as any other positive or negative updates specific to the individual child. Parents should be aware that their role is to encourage the child and be fully up-to-date with their child’s performance by listening to the teacher and voicing any concerns.

By overcoming the main obstacles to parental engagement in schools, both parents and teachers will see huge improvements in their child’s wellbeing and education. It is paramount that these obstacles are tackled, because the results are so worthwhile. To take your first steps towards an effective communication and engagement strategy, Download our free e-book on ‘Parental Engagement’ here.

Topics: Parental engagement, Groupcall Messenger