In the latest Annual Parent Survey carried out by Parentkind in 2018, 88% of parents reported wanting to play an active role in their child’s education, while 85% said they were supportive of their child’s school.
Given such demonstrable willingness to participate, schools should be working hard to harness this enthusiasm and potential for parental involvement – so here are some ways of getting started…
Getting to know you
Our research shows that the two main reasons parents don’t get more involved in their school is because they’re unsure what skills they have to offer, and that they’ve never been asked! Without knowing it, you might have an IT Technician in waiting who could help set up your new computer suite, or a parent with excellent sewing skills who could help make the costumes for your next school play.
Try sending out questionnaires to identify what your pupils’ parents do professionally, along with their interests and hobbies, so that you can see what untapped areas of expertise might be lurking in your playground. If you don’t ask parents to help, they might not know you need them!
Be explicit, though, about the skills you’re after, and send out emails, add notices to your newsletters and post messages on social media asking for assistance with specific projects. Parents want to support you, so show them how they can.
Many parents might not have the time to regularly volunteer or join an organised parent group. Be clear about the scale of a project and the time that’s needed from them, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember that some might not be able to volunteer their own time, but may work for a business, or even own one, that could support you – for example, through match giving, volunteering hours, or providing resources such as stationery.
Promote their efforts
Don’t forget to shout about what your parents have done to help you. Take pictures of parents volunteering and publicly thank them in your newsletter. Young kids often love to see their parents around school, so ask them to come in and talk to the pupils about any projects they’ve been involved in. You could also invite the local press to take photos or write up a story about a specific project.
Recruit and maintain
Attracting parental support is one thing, but maintaining it is quite another. Ensure that you’re regularly thinking of new and innovative ways in which your parents could help out – even if that’s just, for example, volunteering for a few hours to help tidy and sort the school library. Don’t forget that each school year will bring with it a new intake of parents who may be eager to help. Make a point of tapping their potential expertise from the start, sending out questionnaires and getting to know them at welcome events. After all, you’ll never know how they might be able to help your school until you ask…
Sarah West is marketing and communications manager at Parentkind – the leading Parent Teacher Association (PTA) membership organisation which provides training and support to teachers, governors and parents for building successful home-school relationships