Parental engagement is no longer a 'nice to have' – it's pivotal in a child's success. When the available evidence was reviewed in 2011, researchers designated the impact of parental engagement on children's learning as the "single most important" factor.
In fact, the report noted that:
"In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences associated with variations in the quality of schools."
Think about that for a moment. It suggests that as well as attempting to improve children's learning by addressing absenteeism, lateness and poor behaviour, schools are missing a trick if they don't involve parents in the process.
What does this mean in practical terms? The report states that parents need to receive clear, specific and targeted information from schools. That suggests that updates pertaining to their own children, via an app like Xpressions, is more effective than general information.
Interestingly, the report also notes that schools tend not to collect enough data about their own interventions, and especially how pupils' academic outcomes are affected. This suggests that not only is engaging with parents an example of low-hanging fruit, so to speak, but also that recording the results and thereby generating research data is another quick win. Being able to report to the Governing Body or Board of Trustees that as a result of sending parents personalised and timely information relating to their child, the child's achievement or behaviour has improved by x% is quite powerful. It may not pass muster as a piece of academic research, but as a way of informing a school's or a Trust's own practice it is good enough.
The report makes a few recommendations. For example, it suggests running classes for parents, and providing them with specific guidance on how they can work with the school to help their child academically. This could be as apparently simple as encouraging parents to listen to their children read.
There are also aspects of involving parents that are not optional. For example, the DfE states that schools must put certain details online such as the contact person at the school for parental enquiries, and the school's curriculum. Ofsted requires schools to seek parents' views when it is going to inspect a school, but will also take into account surveys undertaken by the school before the announcement of an inspection. Another reason to record evidence of improvements resulting from parental engagement perhaps?