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Building our Community by Dora Indresano and Jo Capes
Increasing Parental Engagement - Building our Community
by Dora Indresano and Jo Capes
Ongoing research shows that family engagement in schools improves children’s achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents' confidence in their children's education. Children with involved parents or other carers do better at school, have better social skills, and show improved behaviour. Parent engagement in schools is defined as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children.
‘When parents and schools interact closely together they share information among themselves and this information-sharing helps families to better understand the schools and schools to understand the families.’
Bojuwoye, 2009: 463
It can be said that engaging parents and carers is not easy because establishing a good rapport take a lot of time and building of relationships which take many forms – it takes time and effort. One strategy may engage some parents and not others, so the key is to use trial and error and see what works best for your school community. It is truly worth the effort, as parent engagement can be transformative and inspiring to the school and community within it. The diagram below clearly demonstrates he different layers that are needed in order to have parental engagement at the heart of our learning community, as ultimately, we know that parents and schools working together creates positive and purposeful outcomes for the child.
When we first joined Maundene in 2016, the community did not trust the school and school leaders were rarely visible or accessible to parents. Any behaviour issues were not dealt with, the children’s behaviour was not addressed and the community was fragmented. It was clear that parents needed to trust the school and feel that they belonged to a community; work needed to take place inside school and outside with our parents and community in order to strengthen and build relationships.
It was obvious that parents needed to talk about the past in order to start afresh with a new leadership team and a school that was about to join into a partnership. Parents also needed to be told the truth about what position the school was in and that rapid improvement was needed at all levels. They needed leaders to be transparent and honest with them as this had not been the case for many years.
As quoted by Stephen Tierney at our recent Ethical Leadership day, Maundene needed to build our community and demonstrate to the parents that we were there to serve and improve the educational experience for their children and for generations to come.
Thinking point: What has your school done to help build the community?
Friends of Maundene PTA
Parent Teacher Associations are a common practice in most schools, but more often than not, they are not celebrated or the benefits of their work, highlighted within the school community. PTAs are a powerful tool for teachers and SLT alike. For Maundene, they have been instrumental in moving our school on, engaging parents and building bridges with our community.
Working with our amazing PTA has been one of the catalysts in enabling us to have greater communication between home and school, ensured parents had a voice, and also allowed us to provide children with opportunities and resources they may not have had access to before.
Maundene have an active group of parents who work alongside the leadership team and staff to have a positive impact around school and to help build relationships with the whole school community. The impact of their work is clear to see with an increased attendance from staff and the community at all of their events throughout the year, from the first ever firework displays this year, to our ever-popular summer fair in June. They have continued to raise huge amounts for our school which has been visible and communicated to parents to show them what their money has been spent on. Their many events that are put on during the year, are very well attended.
Parent and Child Workshops
At the start of our journey of school improvement, coffee mornings were opened up to all members of the school community to discuss new initiatives and to help support the changes being made. Parents attending these events were very few (sometimes none at all came) and on reflection, the leadership team realised that a new approach was necessary to ensure parents attended these events to build up the support for the changes being made, but also to allow the parents to see the positive impact on their child’s learning.
What was the impact of the change in approach?
Parents learning alongside their child workshops offered a potential method for engaging parents in their children's learning, whilst raising parents' awareness of the curriculum and building positive home- school relationships. This has been achieved by parental engagement and teaching staff supporting parents to engage in discussion and learning about curriculum topics at their child's school. This approach also involved parents working alongside their children, to undertake learning activities based around the curriculum topics and subjects. This slight change in style increased the attendance of parents significantly across the whole school and working alongside your child now happens 3 times per year for each year group – all focussing on areas relevant to their age range and all very well received by the community.
“I love learning how to teach my daughter in the way that you do too. She also loves us coming and joining in with her in school. It enables more understanding and connections between home and school. Thank you!” - Year 2 Parent 2019
Making time during parents’ evening for in depth conversations between parent and child about their learning is always cut short. Inviting parents to our learning exhibitions once a year has been an ideal opportunity for all parents to spend one-on-one time with their child looking at their books and discussing the learning that has taken place throughout the term. The number of parents attending these events has increased over time and the school continues to receive positive feedback regarding this event. Parents appreciate the time we take to showcase their child’s learning and see this as an opportunity to gain valuable insight into our in-depth learning journeys and also have that dialogue with their child.
“Great way of showing parents how our son is making progress and what a great display and way of involving us all. I am very happy with how well my son is doing in school.” - Year 1 Parent
Reading with your child:
A new initiative introduced in September 2019 has been termly ‘Reading with your Child’, where parents are invited in to the classroom at the end of the day to enjoy reading, discussing and looking at books together. This open-door approach has been well received by all year groups and despite initial concerns about the attendance of these dropping off as the year went by, our leadership team has found that this has not been the case. Giving the dates in advance has allowed the community to forward plan so that they can come in to school and be with their children.
Other parental events:
As a leadership team, we are always thinking of different ways to involve our parents into our everyday school life. Other parent events that take place at our school are:
- Class assemblies
- Mother’s Day lunches
- Father’s Day lunches
- Project outcome events
- STEM fair
- World Book Day events
- Parent helpers
- Appointing parents as midday meal supervisors
This journey of engaging parents has been a long process and not one without its hurdles along the way, but it continues to go from strength to strength at Maundene. It is an area that continues to evolve and change over time to suit our community. Ongoing reflection on how we can do this better has been instrumental as a leadership team and being honest in saying when things are not working has been and will still be a real learning curve for us. We strongly believe we are a leadership team that will continue to take on new ideas to engage our parents and will continue to have this at the forefront of our minds as we work with our community to move the school forward.
Thinking point: What could your school do to improve parental engagement?
The main benefits of this way of engaging the parents have been:
- Providing a supportive environment for addressing curriculum changes and developments with parents directly on a face-to-face basis
- Building positive relationships and trust with parents – building that community!
- An effective way to engage parents and children in reading and creative activities together at key transition points. One example is the start of foundation stage, when parents are more likely to be receptive to support around their child’s English or maths skills.
- An increased uptake of parents engaging with the school
- Increased participation and attendance at PTA events run throughout the year
“I have been very impressed with how the school has improved in respect to leadership, communication and teaching over the past 18 months. Thank you.” - Parent Survey November 18