Three ways to involve parents in the summer term

How to involve parents in education - Playground art

As we enter the final term, many teachers will already be thinking ahead to next academic year. As the pressure of SATs and GCSEs subsides, the summer term is a perfect time to reflect on the year and plan ahead for September. But it’s also a great opportunity to get parents engaged with your school, which will pay huge dividends in the autumn term.

Try our three top tips to involve parents in your school community.

1. Make the most of what you’ve got

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Many events during the summer term lend themselves to parental involvement. School calendars across the country will be packed with sports days, awards assemblies and summer shows.

But how much can you involve parents in these events? If you get low attendance, it might be worth considering how you approach parents. How far ahead do you invite them? How do you go about making them feel welcome and included?

Try including something to make parents feel special. If it’s an awards assembly, why not have the pupils present their parents with certificates too? The more positive an experience you make it, the more likely parents are to come back for more.

2. Try something new

If you tend to get low attendance at whole school events, maybe your school community needs something new to get excited about.

There are so many dates throughout the year where you can involve parents in their child’s education. The summer term includes national walking monthnational picnic week and the Festival of Learning (previously adult learners week).

If none of these appeal, then why not plan an event that’s unique to your school? If it’s a success, you could establish your event as an annual tradition.

Think about what makes your school what it is, and what matters to your pupils and parents.

You could celebrate the cultural diversity of your school community with an international festival. Invite parents and pupils to come in traditional dress, or bring a dish that represents their country’s cuisine.

Or perhaps there is something of historical interest that makes your school special? Hold a fête and centre your theme around the decade your school was built in.

3. Ask for help

Whatever sort of event you organise, make sure you use it as an opportunity to build a stronger sense of community. Inviting parents to volunteer will make them feel more valued. Of course, there will be parents who can’t help out, but there will be many who are willing to give their time and resources.

This approach will also help you to get to know them better. Appealing for volunteers might reveal hidden talents and interests you wouldn’t otherwise have known about.

Making sure that you involve parents will help you to build more meaningful relationships with them. Just think about the impact this will have on pupil outcomes in the long-run!

Finally, make sure you have good communication systems in place so that parents are well informed. Don’t let all your good work go to waste because of missed communication!

Parents’ Evening Tips: Pitfalls to avoid

Parents' evening tips - classroom

Ask any teacher about parents’ evening and they’ll have a few tales to tell. When you’re busy teaching a full timetable, parents’ evening can seem like an uphill struggle and little mistakes can fall through the cracks.

Some teachers might even feel that parents’ evening can be a waste of time. Perhaps it would be better spent getting ahead with planning and marking.

But when it goes well, parents’ evening is a golden opportunity to get your pupils on track for success and make your life easier for the rest of the academic year.

Here are our parents’ evening tips and some common pitfalls to avoid if you want to make the most of the time!

Fail to plan for parents’ evening?… Plan to fail

How many times have you found yourself frantically gathering printouts, books and mark sheets five minutes before parents’ evening is due to start?

Take a few minutes a week before parents’ evening to think about what you need. Then get those resources ready in advance.

Try our parent’s evening checklist to get yourself organised. Then you can use those precious five minutes to get yourself a cup of tea and clear your head before the first appointment.

Getting your facts wrong at parents’ evening

Have you ever wrongly accused a child of missing homework or being behind on coursework? It can happen to anyone, but once you’ve done it, it can be difficult to rebuild trust between you, the parent and the child.

To avoid this pitfall, take some time to think about what you want to get from each conversation. Check that you’ve got your facts straight and note your key talking points ahead of schedule.

Saving bad news for parents’ evening

This pitfall is the worst one to fall into. Avoiding it will help you to build stronger and more meaningful relationships with parents throughout the school year.

It can be tempting to put off contacting parents to discuss an issue with their child’s learning when you know that there is a parents’ evening soon.

But rather than let it fester, why not get the problem out in the open straight away? This frees you up to use parents’ evening as an opportunity to touch base and update the parent, hopefully with good news.

This tactic will also help to keep your appointments within the allotted time. This allows you to follow up with parents unable to attend, instead of digging yourself out of a hole!

One of our most important parents’ evening tips? Get ahead! With a custom school app, you can improve the communication with parents early, meaning that you have a better chance at a positive experience.

Improving parents evenings

How to improve parents’ evenings

Parents’ evening is an opportunity to get your pupils on track, celebrate their achievements and get their parents on-side. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Appointments run over and some parents don’t show up. Add in the anxiety of parents who have negative memories of school and parents’ evening can be a stressful few hours.

So, how can you improve parents’ evenings? We’ve gathered five tips:

One: be prepared for parents’ evening

Taking a few minutes to plan ahead helps you make the most of the opportunity and improve parents’ evening for yourself and those involved.

How many times have you found yourself rushing to the hall for your first appointment? A flustered teacher doesn’t inspire confidence!

Two: get pupils’ names right

Everyone forgets names sometimes – even teachers are human!

Pre-empt this by checking pupils’ photos on the school system beforehand. It’s just as important to get parents’ names right – and so easy to cause offence by using the wrong surname or title.  Avoid this in one easy side-step – simply using the child’s name. “Hello, it’s lovely to meet you. I’m _____’s maths teacher.”

Three: start and finish appointments with a positive

No parent wants to hear negative comments about their child. Start with a positive comment, however, and you’ll reassure them that you’re voicing a professional opinion – not a personal vendetta! A great way to improve parents’ evenings is to start and end with positive news or ideas.

You don’t want to gloss over any important issues but both parent and child will be so much more open to listening if they feel like you’re on their side. End the appointment with a positive comment and a handshake to make it clear you’re looking to move forward.

Four: stick to your appointment times

Sticking to your allotted time will keep everyone happier. Parents don’t want to be kept waiting. And you don’t want to be the last person in the building at the end of the evening!

At the start of the appointment, remind parents that you only have five minutes. Use your smartphone or tablet as a timer. If anything needs further discussion then make an arrangement to do this by phone at a later date.

Five: make sure you’re up to date with your marking

The week before parents’ evening, check that your marking is up to date.

Parents are bound to comment if their child’s work hasn’t been marked. This doesn’t mean wasting time making sure there is red pen on every inch of each exercise book – just ensure that pupils’ work has been marked in line with your school and department policy.

Getting parental support in exams

Getting parental support for exam revision

The daffodils are out, which can only mean one thing… exam season is almost upon us. This can be an incredibly stressful time of year for teachers and pupils. While you busy yourself scheduling numerous revision sessions and extension classes, have you thought about how you will motivate pupils to attend?

Setting revision tasks for pupils to complete at home can be hit-and-miss. Imagine the difference it would make if you had parental support for exam revision! We’ve got four suggestions…

Close the loop

You know the awkward feeling. You’re at parents’ evening and calmly explain how Mr and Mrs Smith’s daughter is falling behind. Mrs Smith’s eyes widen with shock and Mr Smith’s jaw drops. They had no idea.

It’s tempting to save information about performance and behaviour for parents’ evening. Wouldn’t it be better to share it straight away? Keeping parents in the loop creates an ethos of teamwork. You can nip problems in the bud earlier, saving precious time before exams season gets into full swing.

Provide a clear structure for parents and pupils

In the run-up to exams, you can improve parental support for exam revision by delivering a one-page handout showing which topics will be covered each week. Highlight any revision sessions you intend to run so that parents know what’s going on at school.

Breaking the revision into weekly topics will help to make it feel more manageable for pupils.

Send a push notification home the day before revision sessions are due to take place. That way parents can remind their children to attend.

Give helpful revision tips

Parents often want to support their children with revision, but simply don’t know how. Offering revision advice in the form of handy tips is a friendly way to guide parents and pupils in their revision without being too heavy-handed.

Provide a list of tips and revision techniques alongside your handout of topics. Or, if you have a dedicated school app, then why not send ‘tip of the day’ notifications with a daily revision technique to try at home.

Provide links to resources

How often do parents ask for revision materials to access at home? How much of your school’s budget gets wasted on re-printing revision sheets and booklets for pupils who have lost them?

Why not use your school’s website or dedicated app to send parents links to all the resources they need to support their child? This will save you a fortune in wasted printing and create a ‘no excuses’ culture.

Improving parents' evening attendance

Improving parents’ evening attendance

Parents’ evenings are a golden opportunity to engage parents and improve outcomes for pupils. A good parents’ evening can lead to improved home-school communication, and pupils feeling more motivated.

A key challenge when organising a parents’ evening is getting the right people to attend. The parents who don’t attend are often the ones that teachers are most keen to talk to.

Improving parents evening attendance is crucial. But how can you do this effectively? Here are three ideas…

Change the record

Parents are only human. It isn’t surprising when they’re reluctant to come into school, especially if they expect to be bombarded with bad news. Some parents will become defensive when they hear of their child’s poor behaviour or lack of effort. The parents can even take it as personal criticism.

Why not pre-empt this with some positive news before parents evening? Get into the regular habit of sharing the best of your school and you’ll find that they are much more open to hearing about areas for development. Improving parents evening attendance is far easier when the parents feel they will be greeted by good news as well as bad.

Send positive news home as often as you can. A quick call, text message or notification through a school app could make a big difference.

Communicate regularly

Teachers are busy and it’s tempting to save up home-school communication for parents’ evening. But this can be disastrous when it comes to engaging hard-to-reach parents.

Imagine one of these parents has plucked up the courage to attend parents evening for the first time. They then spend the next hour hearing how their child is misbehaving and falling behind in their learning. Have you shared this information before? If not, then how likely are they to come back for more?

If you’ve got bad news, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. If there is an ongoing problem, get in touch straightaway keep supply regular updates. Then use parents evening as an opportunity to share some good news!

Make parents feel welcome

Parents’ evening doesn’t have to be the only time you invite parents to school. There are lots of opportunities throughout the year to get parents involved in the school community. Invite them to join in with fundraising events, or to take part in activities for awareness days.

Why not hold a coffee morning for charity and invite parents to socialise? This is a great way to change attitudes about coming into school. It’s also a handy opportunity to remind them of when the next parents’ evening is!

If parents are used to coming in and having a positive experience, they are more likely to attend parents’ evenings and academic review days in the future.

Find opportunities to engage parents in your school

For ideas to help in improving parents evening attendance through better communication throughout the year, discover our school apps

Engaging parents with their child's learning

Best practice for engaging parents in the spring term

Now that the spring term is well underway, there are many important dates coming up. Engaging parents now will make it much easier to enlist their help for KS2 SATs, KS3 options or exams and assessments at KS4.

It is often those ‘hard-to-reach’ parents that teachers most want to talk to. These are the ones least likely to attend parents’ evenings and academic review days. For many parents, the thought of coming into school can be quite intimidating and overwhelming, especially if they are expecting bad news.

Of course, if they came and talked to your teaching staff they would realise how supportive your school is. But how to get them in?

The key is to break the vicious circle and change parents’ expectations. If they are used to coming through your school gates and having positive experiences, they will be more open to attending those all-important parents’ evenings.

Here are three chances to engage parents in your school community this term:

National Storytelling Week

National Storytelling Week takes place from 28th January to 4th February and is a celebration for all ages of the oral tradition of storytelling, National Storytelling Week takes place in schools, theatres, museums, hospitals and care homes all over the country.

Invite parents to school for a Storytelling Week Event such as a bonfire with blankets, hot chocolate and stories. Enlist the help of your Drama department to organise the storytelling, or seek pupils, staff and parents to volunteer.

National Bug Busting Days

It would seem that busting bugs needs to happen more than once a year, so the National Bug Busting Days are 31st January, 15th June and 31st October.

The idea behind this initiative is to take a whole-school approach to tackling head lice and get rid of them all in one fell-swoop. Many schools across the country take part in National Bug Busting Days. Synchronising bug busting in this way helps to prevent lice from circulating.

From the perspective of engaging parents, addressing and educating all parents in one go takes away any stigma or blame associated with treating head lice.

Time for a Cuppa

Time for a Cuppa (1st-8th March) helps to raise money for Dementia UK, with the goal of employing more Admiral Nurses to help families facing dementia.

Host a Time for a Cuppa tea party and invite parents to attend. Make sure you give plenty of notice to get good attendance, and remind parents again nearer the time.

Invite pupils’ families to bring a contribution – either in the form of food or a donation to the charity, or even to help run the tea party. Engaging parents with an opportunity to socialise whilst helping the school to raise money will help them to feel a part of your school community. You could even get pupils to serve their parents so that they can put their feet up for a change!

Teacher Toolkit: Custom school apps are “the perfect solution”

Custom school apps - person with smartphone

Ross Morrison McGill, better known as Teacher Toolkit, is the most followed teacher on Twitter and writes the most influential UK blog on education. His latest post is called ‘Communicating with Parents’ and looks at Piota’s custom school apps.

So, what does Teacher Toolkit have to say about our custom school apps?

Piota has huge potential for schools, encouraging parents to engage with the daily experiences of their child, or at least have peace of mind that the information is there and available for them to see when it suits.

He also describes our apps as ‘the perfect solution’ for engaging ‘hard to reach’ parents.

Read the full ‘Communicating with Parents’ article by clicking here or get in touch with us to find out how you can get a free trial of your own Piota school app.

Building positive relationships with parents

Building positive relationships with parents

At Piota, we believe that building positive relationships with parents is the key to pupil success. Getting parents on-side and helping them to feel valued by the school will get them invested in their child’s success and this will have a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

Improving communication with parents drives attendance and punctuality, homework completion and even exam results.  So how can you harness this powerful tool?

Invite parents to school (and not just for parents evenings)

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to create a stronger community ethos in your school. Why not invite parents to help mark an awareness or fundraising day? Children in Need and Red Nose Day are just two options.

If parents are used to coming into school for positive experiences, they are far more likely to attend academic review days and parents evenings.

Ask the parents what they want

Before you organise any event aimed at parents, it might be a good idea to find out what they want!

If parents have been involved in the planning, they are far more likely to attend. Many parents will have had negative experiences at school themselves, and so they may feel vulnerable when it comes to communicating with you.

Build a positive relationship by asking parents for input on a regular basis. A simple parent survey is a highly effective way to do this (and can easily be achieved using a school app).

Building positive relationships with parents by sharing good news

We all know that pupils respond well to positive feedback. Parents do too!  Encourage your teaching staff to share pupils’ successes with parents on a regular basis, no matter how big or small.

If parents are used to being contacted by your school, they will engage more with what you have to say, even when it isn’t what they want to hear. Get into a habit of sharing good news with parents on a regular basis so that they are more receptive when you need to have difficult conversations with them.

Building positive relationships with parents will help to grow a supportive school community where staff and parents work together to bring about the best outcomes for the pupils.

How are you building a positive school community? We would love to hear more on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

How to keep parents engaged during school holidays


School holidays are a crucial time for staff, pupils and parents to unwind and refresh. But that first day back after a break can feel like a shock to the system, and getting back into the routine can be a struggle. So how can you help parents, pupils and staff to feel more prepared? Here are our three top tips for keeping parents engaged in the school holidays:

Share good news with your school’s parents

Keeping parents engaged - improving pupil outcomes

The end of term is always a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of pupils and staff. A key step in keeping parents engaged is making sure they feel completely up to date with all the good news in the school. If there are any difficult conversations to be had, ensure that these are dealt with before the end of term so that everyone can end on a high.

To start the new term on a positive note, why not save some of the good news for the first day back? You could send parents a notification the night before school starts telling them about something exciting their child is going to be involved with, or sharing a piece of good news for the school.

Above all, remember that there is no such thing as too much good news. In a recent survey by Piota, 98% of parents said that they wished their child’s school would share good news with them more often.

Don’t save up all your good news for the holidays – spread it out throughout each term and you’ll keep parents, pupils and staff feeling positive all year round!

Make sure that school term dates are communicated

Ensure parents and pupils know when they are expected back to school. This is especially important if the date is different for teachers and support staff.

If your school has a dedicated app, send parents a notification the day before term is due to start. Tell them that you are looking forward to seeing them and set expectations for the weeks ahead.

Suggest homework rather than direct it

Parents and pupils can sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to holiday homework. Rather than setting compulsory tasks, why not offer parents some suggestions for broadening their child’s horizons during the holidays?

Alongside the usual list of revision resources and websites, you could include information about local events and activities (especially free ones) that families can get involved with.

You are far more likely to get parents on-side if they feel you are offering them some helpful ideas and suggestions rather than telling them how to spend their time during the holidays.

Keeping parents engaged with improved communication

By the time the next set of holidays roll around, you could have a fully-customised school app ready to send parents instant information about your school. At Piota, we can build a free trial of your app in a matter of weeks, ready for you to test out and discover just how vital a tool it could be.

What parents want from your personalised school app

What parents want - Personalised school app

Your school’s leadership team is planning the content for your new personalised school app. The whiteboard is full of ideas for content that you could share, messages that you could send and data that you could collect. It’s an exciting time for your school. At this point, it’s important to be sure that your planning takes into account the needs of parents. So, what information do parents actually want to receive from schools?

You could guess the answer but there’s already some solid data on this topic thanks to Web Foundry’s report into school’s digital strategies. Let’s look at the key information that parents want you to share.

70% of parents want information about school holidays

It’s not surprising that parents want to know about school holidays. They need to organise work and childcare around these key dates and, of course, they need to plan their family holidays.

67% of parents want to know about school events

Parents’ evenings, school concerts and sporting fixtures. One of the quickest ways to improve attendance at these events is to make sure that parents have an easy way to find out the dates, times and venues.

66% of parents want to receive urgent notifications

Is there an emergency school closure? Then you want to get the message out quickly. The good news is that parents want to receive this information too. Push notifications about time critical events have proved to have an impact beyond the event itself, even leading to improved pupil attendance in the school day.

51% of parents want to know about homework

Homework diaries are a great tool for teaching students about the importance of organisational skills. They are not, however, the most reliable way of making sure that homework actually gets completed! Parents value being able to access information about homework, especially if it includes suggestions for adding a bit of stretch and challenge.

Give parents the information they want

As school app specialists, Piota develops apps that meet the needs of parents and your wider school community.

We will build your school an app that features a calendar to tell parents about holidays and events. Our push notification system can send instant information to the entire school community. Teachers can even use the news module to keep parents informed about homework and other curriculum information. And that’s just scratching the surface of what’s possible with a personalised school app.

Click here to get in touch about an app for your school.