After their big win at the 2017 TES Awards, we wanted to discover just how Manchester Communication Academy (MCA) capitalises on the city’s rich culture and history. We sat down with principal John Rowlands to find out more, and were soon joined by vice principal extraordinaire Patsy Hodson!
Schools all want to have great communication with parents. They know the value and impact of partnerships which help to meet a child’s needs 24/7. It isn’t always easy to manage, however, as there just isn’t the time in the day, or even the week, to meet regularly with all parents. So what often happens is a stream of information coming from school to home, often with very little coming back the other way, even with the best of intentions.
It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to work together to provide support and guidance, resources, and practical help. This is especially important when someone - a child, a family - faces challenges and are feeling lost and alone. Schools are, by their very nature, a community. Built of myriad parts, it has human relationships at its heart: teacher-pupil, SLT-teacher, head-governors, and so on. This community, as a system, when functioning well, has the children, at its core.
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents.” - Jane D. Hull
The Open Doors programme is a cultural change we affected here at The Kindergarten Starters, with an aim to embrace the wider community and allow learning to flow in and out of our classrooms.
Many schools struggle to get parent / community engagement right. The nature of teaching sees us thrown into a classroom with 20 or so students; when a bell goes, we move on to another class, and then to another. Our teaching is dictated by the bell. Unless collaborative time is factored into our busy days, we tend to work in isolation; sharing a few ideas as we pass by each other, or when we get a chance to meet at breaks over casual conversations. So if we find it difficult to find collaborative time with each other, how on earth can we find the time to get parents and the community engaged?
If a child becomes demotivated with their learning, it can become difficult for both teachers and parents to identify the cause. Children often behave differently at home than they do at school, and unfortunately this is not always understood by parents if there isn’t an easy way to see the progression trends themselves. Engaging parents with their child’s education is therefore crucial, so that they can work with teachers together to support child development. Although most will agree with this, there are a number of challenges and disagreements on how the process should be managed.
As Sir Tim Berners-Lee noted, “The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information.” The internet is a place designed for humans to connect. Those who know me (Nicole Ponsford) know that collaboration and celebration are my jam. Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to be part of and create a range of online communities - from my new startup, The Gender Equality Charter (GEC), my new #Edtech50-winning WomenEdTechers (the digital side to WomenEd), to those first few curriculum-based blogs I did as an NQT. I have learnt a few things along the journey, but there is one thing that stands out.
I was recently asked to write about ‘Community’. My initial thoughts centred around community as both a collective and personal experience. Being part of a community is to be included and, in education, inclusion is something we (try to) personify to others. How we behave and relate to each other in school shapes our expectations of others and ourselves. How we shape our 'community' teaches others how to manage themselves. Would you agree?
For any school, communication with parents is essential, but finding the best way to do this can sometimes be quite difficult. The traditional route of the letter sent home, as you might expect, has fallen out of favour due to the number of notes lost crumpled in the bottom of school bags. We’ve also found that SMS communication wasn’t all that effective either, as parents found it too intrusive due to the sheer volume of text messages sent. One parent, Daniel, told us: “You would get every single update for all 400 pupils at the school to do with classes, events and activities; it was a lot of information at once.”
All children need support both at home and at school, feeling happier and more secure when the two work collaboratively as one. This is when effective learning takes place; pupils grow in confidence and self-esteem and feel fulfilled. So, how do we as schools achieve this partnership and make it work effectively for our children?