Research over the last decade has repeatedly shown that the more engaged parents are in their child’s education, the more likely a child is to achieve. PTA UK, the largest nationwide membership organisation for parent bodies, conducted two recent surveys of English parents that reveal 85 per cent of the parents surveyed who have a child aged five to 18 in state school want a say in how their child is educated. This is an extraordinary figure, which demonstrates how keenly parents wish to engage with their child’s learning. However, only 66 per cent feel that their child’s school is good at communicating with them. This shows a gap between the expectation of parents and the reality, and is something which schools collectively need to address.
Improving technology – when taken advantage of by schools – continues to enable parents to receive and access information on their child’s progress instantly, wherever they are. However, boosting a dialogue between home and school can sometimes feel easier said than done. Here are some suggestions for how schools can harness technology, as well as more traditional communication methods, for boosting parental engagement:
1. Social media
A large number of schools now have Facebook and Twitter profiles, and use them to engage parents, by posting updates and news throughout the day. Parents love being able to see what is happening within the school while on the go, and following a Twitter account can be a ‘light-touch’ means of feeling in the loop for them, at minimal expense or effort to the school. Posting updates and photos to keep parents informed of key news and events can be incredibly useful, for example to notify parents that a group on a trip has arrived at its destination safely. Social media is a great way of helping build a wider sense of community with you school’s parent body.
2. Text, email and apps
Electronic communication systems are being used more and more to bridge the communication gap between school and home. Texts and emails are convenient; they’re quick to send and are received instantly. After-school club cancelled? Accident in school? Parents are able to receive this information on their smartphones, and act appropriately. Apps have developed this further, and are now considered to be the future of school communication and the most proactive – not to mention affordable – way of keeping parents informed.
3. Establish a PTA
One of the most effective ways a school can harness the parent body to become a positive vehicle of influence within a school, is by establishing a parent teacher association (PTA). “Both parents and teachers have a desire to continually improve the school and the children’s ongoing educational experience, so by working together in one cohesive, cooperative group is one of the most impactful ways this can be achieved,” says Emma Williams, executive director at PTA UK. “Put a clear structure in place, and establish regular meetings in which ideas and policies can be discussed in a friendly, open environment. 96 per cent of parents surveyed felt being consulted makes them feel included in their child’s education – indicating the importance of establishing effective links between school and home. Parents play an influential role in their child’s education, so allowing them to engage and contribute is incredibly important, and a PTA is an excellent means of doing so.”
4. Update the website
As one of the first things parents look at when choosing a school for their child, a website is now a major consideration for schools. As well as the statutory information that must be posted there, make sure that yours is also being used to share updates and news. Many schools now host their newsletter on the website, in place of paper copies that can often get misplaced or left in the bottom of bags.
Parental engagement is so important to the education of children that schools need to rethink their strategy to ensure that they are maximising what is arguably their greatest natural resource: the parents themselves. There are so many opportunities for extending not only the frequency of communication, but what is being shared. Now, parents need not only be aware of the big milestones, but they can also hear about the small things or flags for potential concern that together form a comprehensive picture of a child’s development.