Effective parental engagement is an important part of a school’s strategy. Encouraging parents to take an interest and be involved with a child’s education and development can play a big part in attendance, achievement and overall behaviour.
Parents though, are often short of free time and face challenges with engaging with their school day to day. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to be more involved with their child’s schooling, but they might need some extra help. Whether you’re developing a full engagement strategy (every school should have one!) or are at a stage where you just want some quick ad-hoc improvements, there are plenty of things you should be considering.
Methods of communicating
One of the most interesting things that came out of our 2017 report into perceptions of parental engagement (you can read the whole thing here) was the clear mismatch between expectations around methods of communication. Parents and school ICT professionals both largely supporting communicating by text and email, while senior leaders were still under the impression that parents prefer to receive messages on paper.
Finding out which methods of communication your parents prefer (and it’s probably text or email) and tailoring your communications to suit is a relatively simple win when looking at improving engagement.
Understanding parental reluctance
Parents can be very busy and find it difficult to meet the inflexible times schools sometimes give them for sessions and events. Be as flexible with meeting parents as you can, and consider offering home visits for more challenging cases. There can also be reluctance to communicate with a child’s school due to a parent’s previous bad experiences. Some may have found school a daunting, difficult place and still have these feelings. Putting forward a positive, encouraging message showing ho much school has changed over the years will help bring them into the fold.
Be careful with jargon…
We all know that people who work in education love an acronym (the SLT looked at KS3 for LAC in the MIS to inform the LA…) but parental communication needs to be as clear and straightforward as possible. In an increasingly multi-lingual society, it is also easy for parents with limited English to become disengaged even if their children speak English fluently. Something as simple as using a text messaging service with an inbuilt translator could make a huge difference to reaching parents.
Better manage your parents’ evenings
If you’re still managing parents’ evenings by sending home pieces of paper and spending a few days sitting around afterwards sorting it all out… then watch this video and find out how Boroughmuir High School (the Sunday Times State School of the Year) manage parents' evenings without any hassle! Your teachers, admin staff and parents will love you for it.