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Four ways to engage with parents

It’s no secret that if a school can engage with parents about their children’s learning, it helps to improve outcomes. In 2008, John Hattie observed that the “effect of parental engagement over a student’s school career is equivalent to adding two or three years to that student’s education”.

With so much potential to raise standards, having a toolkit of strategies to improve parental engagement will give your school community the chance to help pupils meet their full potential. The tips that follow will add four more tools to your repertoire.

One: Bring parents into school

Improving pupil outcomes: Top tips to engage with parents

Apart from open evening, when was the last time that parents were shown around your school? It’s one of the peculiarities of the education system that parents stop visiting school once they have become a part of the community.

School leaders can combat this by arranging opportunities to engage with parents, such as inviting them to see their children in a school context. Parents who spend a few hours in school with their child will quickly gain a better understanding of what happens between 8am and 3pm. In short, they will know their child even better than they do already.

This strategy can work well with both younger and older pupils as this quote from an NCTL study shows:

“‘Stay and play’ days have been good with the parents of younger children and ‘come and see my best work’ days have been popular with parents of older children. Refreshments always help too.”

Two: Close the feedback loop

Some of the best ideas in your school may have originated with a comment from parents. Do they know it?

Whether parents get in touch with a comment, a question, a complaint or a compliment, then be sure to acknowledge that it’s been heard. But don’t leave it there. Inevitably, you will take action on feedback. Complaints lead to solutions. Compliments lead to sharing good practice.

Be sure to tell parents about the action you have taken so that they know they’ve been heard. Janet Goodall of the University of Bath has this advice to share:

“I’ve been in more than one school where staff have said how many helpful ideas parents had given them, while parents said that staff never listened. School staff were listening, but they weren’t closing the feedback loop and letting parents know that their ideas had been taken on board.”

Three: Make parental engagement a priority

Schools have a lot to deliver on. Exam results, safeguarding and keeping up-to-date with ever changing expectations to name just three. In this ocean of challenges, it’s easy to allow the need to engage with parents to become an extra rather than a core part of your school’s ethos.

Rather than finding ways to add parental engagement to the mix, how can you put parents at the centre of what you do? Alma Harris and Janet Goodall have the following to say on the matter:

“Parental engagement must be a priority – rather than a bolt-on extra. It needs to be fully embedded and integrated in teaching and learning plans if it is to make a difference to achievement.”

Four: Overcome misconceptions

Your school is a modern, 21st century establishment. You are meeting the latest government expectations, technology is present in every classroom and your behaviour management strategy accentuates the positive. You know this. Do your pupils’ parents know it?

When you spend your working life in school, it’s easy to forget that many parents had a bad experience of their own schooling. These negative memories lead to preconceptions about what it’s like to be in your classroom. Creative Education has some advice on how you can overcome this particular challenge:

“Many parents can be reluctant to engage with their child’s school because they have such difficult memories of their own time at school… Sometimes holding informal, fun events aimed at bringing parents into school can help to bridge the gap. Just make sure you make them feel really welcome when they get there.”

How do you engage parents?

We would love to hear the strategies on how to engage with parents. Contact us here, share your top tips in our Facebook Group or send us a tweet. We will use the best quotes as a basis for a follow-up blog post filled with your ideas… and, of course, we will close the feedback loop by giving you all the credit!

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