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Promising practices in parental engagement – the 10 steps to success

rs6-blog-bannerBill-LucasThis is the fifth in a series of articles adapted from the SSAT publication Redesigning Schooling – 6 – Engaging parents: why and how, authored by Professor Bill Lucas. SSAT members can download the full publication for free from the members’ area of the website.

Judy Carson (who oversees parental engagement for the Connecticut Department of Education) and Anne Henderson (Beyond the Bake Sale co-author), have been developing the idea of school-family compacts. The metaphor of a compact seeks to go one stage deeper than is implied by the word agreement as in home-school agreement.

For an agreement to become a compact it must have a real, written, co-developed agreement of shared responsibility, with clear goals and roles. Connecticut’s useful ten-step plan of action shows an approach that any school could adapt for its own purposes.

The ten steps to success with parental engagement

1. Motivate and get buy-in from staffA key staff meeting at which the power of parental engagement and of a real compact is explored.
2. Designate a leader to build a teamChoose a mix of senior and specialist teaching and non-teaching staff, possibly with a parent or two. You could start with a survey such as the one provided in the appendix.
3. Align the compact with your school development planChoose pertinent key goals. Make the wording of each goal family-friendly. Identify links between the goals and the school plan. Clearly identify strategies for teachers and parents to help students meet the goals.
4. Get input from every year in the schoolMake sure each year group has no more than three areas on which it is explicitly going to focus in any one year.
5. Reach out to familiesWelcome parents, respect different families and constantly connect parents and families to what children are learning at school.
6. Don’t forget the studentsCreate a simple student survey to find out what is going well and what could be improved, and seek ideas from them. Initiate class, assembly and web-based discussions.
7. Pull it all togetherCreate an attractive, illustrated, accessible family-friendly compact. Display it prominently and share widely.
8. Align all resourcesUse money, professional development time, design of communications, parent workshops etc to deliver your agreed goals.
9. Market itTake every opportunity to share your thinking.
10. Review, revise and celebrateBuild in evaluation of all activities and hold a celebration at least annually, possibly in the form of some kind of parental engagement week or day.
Adapted and Anglicised from the work of the Connecticut State Department of Education, USA

The Connecticut School Parent Compact website has examples of film clips, presentations, resources and practical tools to complement the ten suggested steps above.


Professor Bill Lucas, along with Professor Guy Claxton, created the Expansive Education Network – one of the biggest teacher researcher groups in the world. Find out more here.

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