We all know that a positive parent-child-teacher relationship is the key to every pupil’s development and learning. But what do you do when parents are reluctant to get involved in their child’s education? We asked education expert and consultant headteacher John Searle for his advice. Below, we share his tips on building relationships with those parents who are harder to reach.
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.
Building personal relationships with parents
John said it is particularly important for members of the senior leadership team (SLT) to make sure that they are visible and accessible around the school, to help them communicate with parents on a one-to-one level.
Communicating with parents on a more personal level helps to encourage parents to engage with the school and 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’ (CLJs), 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.
Case study: engaging parents when their child starts school
Brooklands Farm Primary School in Milton Keynes ensures that the school starts building a relationship with parents as soon as their child begins his/her time there.
Executive headteacher Maxine Low explained that when pupils start at the school, in any year group, they work towards their 'open, grow, believe' badge during their first 6 weeks. The award is designed to induct pupils into the school's culture and ethos.
During this 6-week period, the school telephones the pupils’ parents at least every week to update them on their child’s progress. It is also compulsory for parents to attend the award ceremony at which their child receives their badge.
Maxine explained that this helps ensure parents are made aware of what their child is learning at school, as well as how they are expected to contribute to their child’s learning.
She said that by involving parents closely in the first 6 weeks of their child’s time at the school and their work towards their 'open, grow, believe' badge, the school sets a precedent for communication that means that parents stay more engaged throughout their child’s time at school.
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