As schools nationwide continue to grapple with the pressures of stretched budgets, teacher recruitment/retention and ongoing assessment, many have now come to recognise and embrace how powerful parental engagement can be in helping every child to achieve their potential.
PTA UK’s review of the available evidence backs this up, showing how the active involvement of parents can deliver positive academic, emotional and behavioural outcomes. A supportive parent body can engender a strong sense of community, and help build momentum around any issues or projects a school might be facing or undertaking.
Leadership teams, governors and trustees are increasingly aware that establishing good home-school relations is fundamental to delivering good educational outcomes. Many have further seen how increased parental engagement and involvement can even help to reduce teacher workload and support overall school improvement.
So how have schools gone about doing this? Many have worked hard to provide opportunities for parents’ voices to be heard, giving schools a greater understanding of issues where parents have a genuine interest.
Indeed, parents’ views can and should be sought on a range of issues, such as homework arrangements, behaviour policies, wellbeing initiatives, school improvement objectives, the prospect of academy conversion and more besides.
Parents can be given a platform via consultation exercises, surveys and focus groups, as well as through more formal structures and bodies, such as parent forums, parent councils, or an existing PTA.
So what should schools do to kick-start their efforts a developing better parental engagement? The following tips can get you started.
- Get buy-in from your governors or SLT and encourage them to champion parental involvement in school
- Get to know what issues matter to parents, and identify opportunities to gather this feedback either on paper or more informally at school events
- Work with an existing PTA to encourage those who rarely (or never) share their views to get more involved, so that your parental opinion can be as representative as possible
- Provide parents with the results of any parental surveys or initiatives you undertake, while at the same time giving them information on how they can become more involved in future.
- Work hard to implement positive suggestions in a way that demonstrates your school’s commitment to listening; celebrate your wins as a school community!
- Consider setting up a parent council that operates within a set of ground rules and includes participants representing different parts of your parent community; see that their views are listened to by the school’s SLT, governors and trustees.
Lesley Smeardon is school programmes manager at Parentkind, previously known as PTA UK, which provides support and training for schools to set up consultative parent bodies.