John said that it is important to develop a strong culture of communication with parents. He explained that parental engagement should begin as soon as possible after a pupil starts at school.
He said it is particularly important for members of the senior leadership team to ensure that they are visible and accessible around the school, to help them communicate with parents on a one-to-one level. This makes it easier for parents and staff to discuss more serious topics.
Engaging with ‘hard-to-reach’ parents
Schools may struggle to engage certain parents, for example those who are busy with work or do not routinely come into the school.
In this scenario, John suggested that you could try inviting the parents into the school for informal events, such as a lunch with the SLT when children are in lessons. Schools should do their best to accommodate the schedules of these parents.
John warned that poor parental engagement is not something schools can put right overnight. It will take time to develop a relationship with a pupil’s parents, but developing this relationship is crucial to helping the pupil in the long run.
Case study: involving parents in school life
Belgrave St Bartholomew’s Academy is a teaching school in Stoke on Trent. We spoke to Luci Kendrick, the curriculum leader, and Charlotte Whitmore, the Key Stage 2 literacy leader, about how the school engages parents.
Luci and Charlotte explained that at Belgrave St Bartholomew’s, literacy, maths and science are taught separately and other subjects are taught as ‘creative learning journeys,’ encompassing history, geography, art, and design and technology in one topic. Pupils are given a CLJ topic each term. At the end of the term, the school invites parents into school for an ‘outcome afternoon’ so pupils can showcase what they have learnt that term about their topics. This involves parents in their child’s education.
The school also has a family learning centre on site, which offers courses for parents. Luci and Charlotte explained that this means the school is an active member of the community. The school also supports the community by opening from 7:30am to 5:30pm and offering wrap-around care.
The school often uses Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth to communicate with parents.
Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to a wealth of resources on parental engagement and a vast range of other subjects at www.thekeysupport.com/SL