PTA UK recently published a report detailing the findings of a survey carried out among teachers, to assess their views on the benefits of, and their approaches to, parental engagement. The findings were encouraging, with teachers overwhelmingly (98%) agreeing that parental engagement has a positive impact on their school. Yet despite this, less than a fifth (19%) said their school had any formal parental engagement plan in place.
There are many recognised benefits to engaging parents. It can help to build trust, lead to better behaviour, boost pupils’ academic achievement and reduce absenteeism, but many teachers have told us that their schools aren’t geared up to making sure that parents are fully engaged and integrated into their decision making processes.
Only a fifth of those responding to the survey told us that their school had a written parental engagement plan in place, and even then, only a minority reported there being any measures to track parental engagement at all. Perhaps more surprisingly, half the respondents said that even where there were such measures in place, they didn’t know who within their school was responsible for this particular area of work.
The research is interesting, because teachers clearly see the value of building relationships with parents and including them in decisions that affect the day-to-day running of the school. Indeed, a school’s parental engagement plan can be an important support for teachers looking to boost their capacity for enhancing children’s education by establishing better relationships with parents.
What seems to be lacking is a commitment to embed this engagement work within school improvement plans, to the point where it could be having a detrimental effect on the families and communities they serve.
Teachers need to be better supported in their efforts to embrace parental engagement. They need to know what role they can play in addressing it, and be clear as to who in their school is leading this vital area of work. The aforementioned research showed that fewer than one in 10 teachers (8% of respondents) had undertaken any CPD training specifically related to parental engagement. By under investing in this important area of work, however, schools could be missing a trick.
Senior leadership teams, governors and trustees should be leading the way here, so that our schools can make strides towards forming better home-school partnerships, and start to establish themselves as truly parent-friendly.
Ruth Lowe is external affairs manager at PTA UK – a Parent Teacher Association membership organisation and registered charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that champions all the ways in which parents participate in education. In partnership with Parent Councils UK, the organisation also provides teachers, governors and parents with training in how to build successful home-school relationships.