As schools face more changes, with increasing pressures and demands and tighter budgets, it’s extremely important for school leaders to engage effectively with parents and other stakeholders to build a cohesive network of support.
For all schools, the primary concern is meeting the educational needs of the community it serves, so with competition currently fiercer than ever, more emphasis should be placed on appealing to parents and pupils by maintaining a positive profile and reputation.
In its summer 2015 Parent Insights Survey, PTA UK, the leading membership organisation for parent bodies, found that 85 per cent of parents surveyed stated that they want a say in their child’s education, with 79 per cent wanting to actively support their child’s school. 96 per cent also said that being consulted makes them feel included in their child’s education.
With this in mind, schools are having to find new ways to engage with parents which allow for open, mutual communication, rather than relying on more traditional methods such as newsletters and messages on the school website. Whether it’s through increasing the use of parental engagement technologies, forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Parent Council or forum, it is vital to establish a solid relationship with parents; one in which schools can engage in open communication. Listening and taking action as a result of feedback from parents will inevitably lead to better solutions and a stronger community.
Parental communication is not always as simple as it seems, particularly where working parents are concerned. A survey by Working Families found that of the 5.9 million two-parent families in the UK, 95 per cent have one or both parents working and 49 per cent have both parents working full-time. This represents a huge majority of parents who may not have the time to engage themselves fully with their child’s school life and although there are many things that they can do to remain invested in their child’s educational journey, some responsibility also falls on the school. That’s why it’s so important for schools to be flexible in the way they communicate with parents, for example, sending messages via SMS and email, as well as uploading alerts to the website, in order to offer a variety of channels for busy parents to access information, dependent on their individual preferences.
Not only is engagement with parent groups extremely important to a school itself, but parents’ views are also considered by Ofsted. Giving parents a voice has become an important part of the inspection and regulation of schools, with Ofsted enabling their views to inform its decision on whether or not to inspect a particular establishment.
Parent bodies such as Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) can be a very effective channel for encouraging mass engagement and enabling a school community to be formed. PTAs can also help to reach families who may otherwise be reluctant to get involved in school life, due to their own poor experience of education. A PTA’s sole purpose is to bring everyone together and raise funds for key projects, improving the school environment and generating further opportunities for learning.