Communicating with parents is an ongoing challenge for all schools. In addition the usual routes – eye catching posters and flyers, website updates, direct messages to parents via apps and social media – don’t forget to advertise your event face-to-face. Talking to parents in the playground about upcoming events, and explaining why attending would benefit them personally, will help build momentum and interest.
2. Be innovative
Your existing parent body, be it a PTA or parent council, is one of your greatest assets and can help spread the word. These are parents who are already engaged and well-placed to persuade others of the benefits to getting more involved with the school.
It’s important to show that all parents’ opinions and contributions matter. Providing options for parents who find it difficult to attend due to work commitments, caring responsibilities, health issues or time constraints is therefore a must. Consider filming or livestreaming the event for absent parents as it happens; ensure that minutes from meetings and information shared at events is easily accessible to those unable to physically attend.
3. Have staff there
Where possible, try and have any relevant members of staff attend the event. It’s reassuring for parents to see the familiar faces of the teachers their children are with every day, and can make them part of a bigger, well-supported community. If your event concerns a significant change – conversion to an academy, for example – your staff should be informed of all the details so that they can answer queries and allay parents’ concerns.
4. Gather feedback
Distribute feedback forms at your events, or provide anonymous suggestion boxes, so that everyone feels comfortable feeding back about how your events can be improved in future. Sending home questionnaires (both printed and electronic) asking parents for their views, and giving them opportunities to contribute their views about specific school policy changes, will make them more enthusiastic about getting more involved. It’s important to act on this parental input and explain what you’ve done as a result, so that they can see their contributions are indeed having an impact.
5. Offer incentives
Consider asking your PTA to come along and run a raffle or provide food and drink, so that school events with your staff can be made more sociable, less formal and much more inclusive for everyone.
Another way of motivating parents to come is by combining an adult event with one for children. Again, don’t be afraid to ask your PTA to organise a simultaneous event for the kids, thus encouraging the whole family to be present. If you can establish your school’s ‘parent-friendly’ credentials in all your communications with parents, support will build and your events are more likely to be successful.
Sarah West is marketing and communications manager at the Tonbridge-based charity Parentkind.