Sylvia King, Senior Education Lead, writes…
Parents and schools want to support children in achieving the best they possibly can. It would seem obvious therefore that they work together towards this common goal.
As we have seen in our recent series of articles from Professor Bill Lucas, the most effective ways in which schools can do this to ensure impact is difficult to pinpoint. Professor Lucas suggests that a school targets “no more than three areas on which it is explicitly going to focus in any one year.”
The issue is which areas are likely to promote the most impact?
Joyce Epstein of the Johns Hopkins University, divided school parent involvement programmes into six broad categories:
Parenting: in which schools help families with their parenting skills by providing information on children’s developmental stages and offering advice on learning-friendly home environments.
Communicating: working to educate families about their child’s progress and the school services available, and providing opportunities for parents to communicate with the school.
Volunteering: which can start with offering opportunities for parents to visit their child’s school, then to finding ways to recruit and train them to work in the school or classroom.
Learning at home: where schools share ideas to promote at-home learning, communicating high expectations and strategies for parents to monitor and help with homework, as appropriate.
Decision-making: in which schools include families as partners in school organisations, advisory panels, and relevant committees.
Community collaboration: a two-way outreach strategy in which community or business groups are involved in education and schools encourage family participation.
Clearly, the approach likely to work best will depend on the school context.
- One SSAT member school that had experienced issues with attendance found that using a range of communication channels (email, website, text messages, letters and home visits) had a huge impact on both attendance and engagement in school.
- A special school introduced joint parent /pupil ‘lessons’ to encourage coherence between approaches at home and school, which again had a significant impact on pupils’ rates of progress.
- A third school formed an open parent council, meeting once a term, that asked questions and was updated by the head on activity in the school – this led to policy changes that improved support for homework.