Seven reasons why parental engagement is important

Berni Williams

Berni Williams worked as a business librarian for Staffordshire University and a research librarian for the BBC (at the now defunct Pebble Mill Studios) before becoming Resource Centre manager at Leek College. She now works for Jigsaw School Apps as a customer relations and social media manager. Jigsaw School Apps makes school apps for smartphones – Windows, Android and iPhone – that allow schools to keep in contact with parents wherever they are.

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As part of my job I attend a lot of education shows and meet a lot of teachers and heads in the UK. When I talk to them about improving their parental engagement I get a variety of responses. Some (hopefully half-jokingly!) say “Do we have to?”, but most are really interested in how this can be done.

In some ways it is easier to connect with parents – advances in communication technology ensure you can reach many people “on the go” via their smartphones – but in many ways it is also becoming more difficult. There are some areas in London where there are over 100 languages spoken. Many pupils will have parents who do not have English as their first language, and this can leave some feeling excluded from their own children’s education.

Research shows, over and over again, that the more parents are involved in their own children’s education the better the children will do at school. Here are seven reasons why it is important to find new ways to improve school-to-home communication:

1. Engagement is a two-way process. Parents who are kept up-to-date with school information, and are asked their opinions, are more likely to understand and support any particular approaches that are being used. In fact, they are more likely support these strategies at home.

2. Ofsted wants to see that schools have "successful strategies for engaging with parents, including those who might find working with school difficult". With inspectors now required to consider any stakeholder feedback collected by the school, it is essential that schools keep parents informed and get parent feedback quickly and efficiently.

3. Parents who get involved take a greater role in their child’s education and activities around schooling, which leads children to do better academically and socially. Make sure that meetings/events are flexible enough to allow for working parents to attend. Provide childcare to make it easier for busy parents to visit school. Try a variety of methods of contacting parents: phone, email, texts or via apps.

4. Many parents may have had bad experiences at school themselves, so they resist getting involved. Make school as welcoming and friendly as possible. Parents’ positive perception highly influences their children’s perception of school, which, in turn, positively contributes to students’ academic, social, and emotional learning. Being kept informed frequently and asked their opinion can help this positive perception.

5. Surveys will provide invaluable evidence for your School Self Evaluation, Ofsted Inspection and School Development Planning. Your school can ensure that you have the full views of all of your parents ready for when Ofsted visit. Also, by sharing their views, parents may well be providing useful insights for the school.

6. Asking parents' views on school issues on a regular basis can lead them to communicate or offer help in other ways too. This can benefit the school in many ways – eg volunteering, fundraising and attending more meetings.

7. Using effective channels of communication and getting parents involved in decisions helps to build strong relationships and encourages involvement in the child's learning and progress. Using parents’ preferred methods of communication and ensuring that no-one is excluded – for example by having language options available – can make all parents feel important and valued.

How do you bring parents into your school? Share your tips below.

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