Despite a peculiar, challenging and worrying year for most of us, 2020 has at least brought into sharper focus, for school leaders and parents alike, the importance of a robust home/school partnership.
The Covid-19 pandemic meant that many parents were parachuted into supporting learning from home without any preparation. To gain an understanding of what parents were going through, we ran three polls between March and the start of the summer holidays. Our results highlighted the many challenges for schools and parents.
At the start, only one in five parents felt very confident to support their child’s learning. Six weeks into lockdown, parents’ confidence grew by a third. Now, over 50 per cent of parents are more engaged with their child’s learning than they were before lockdown as well. Over 90 per cent of parents felt that their school had communicated very well or well during school closures.
The goodwill fostered on both sides as schools and homes collaborated through a crisis means that the new academic year is the perfect time for school leaders to reappraise their parental engagement strategies.
Blueprint for parent-friendly schools
Our Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools helps school leaders to maximise parents’ interest in their children’s learning by creating a successful home/school partnership, built on five key drivers:
1. Leadership, ethos and resources
2. Effective two-way communication
3. Supporting learning at home
4. Involvement in school life
5. Community engagement
School leaders can use it to improve existing strategies or establish new ones.
Parentkind gauges parents’ views and attitudes to their child’s schooling over time, not least in our annual parent survey. Our results consistently show us that the vast majority of parents want to both play an active role in their child’s education and want a say at school level.
As a result of the pandemic, many parents remain anxious about safety. A sizeable minority, especially parents of children with SEND, require additional reassurance and support. It has never been a more crucial time to keep parents informed, maintain clear lines of communication, and listen to concerns.
Effective parental engagement
During lockdown, over 90 per cent of parents told us that they would have liked their child’s school to consult with them on the return to school. A common problem is that a limited approach leads to responses from a narrow pool of parents who are already engaged, and who may not be reflective of the entire parent community. Provide different ways for parents to have their say, such as text, email, phone and face-to-face meetings. Don’t forget to allow two-way communication.
Only 36 per cent of parents were satisfied with the frequency of school’s check-ins with parents during school closures, with nearly half (47 per cent) registering dissatisfaction.
Making sure there is a good ‘flow’ of information between home and school is essential. Parents need to know where to go for further information. Providing summaries of subjects that are being taught helps parents to support learning at home.
Seventy per cent of parents said they would like schools to focus on mental wellbeing when their child returns.
Provide parents with support in managing their child’s mental well-being at home as well as detailed information on exactly what you are doing to support it at school. Ensure that there is a key staff member delegated to lead on it, and that parents know how to contact them if they have concerns.
Always keep in mind how parents might contribute most effectively to your school, and give plenty of thought to the best ways of keeping them true partners, rather than just occasional visitors. The results will speak for themselves.
We are confident our Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools can reap the positive results of more effective parental participation because it has been stress tested. It received universally positive feedback from major education stakeholders during a lengthy consultation process.
Kerry-Jane Packman is the executive director of Programmes, Membership and Charitable Services at Parentkind.