Parental engagement is the single factor which can make the biggest impact on students’ engagement (Desforges, 2003). Most teachers are aware that engaged parents lead to more positive outcomes in the classroom, but it can be challenging to find the time to research and implement strategies which engage parents.
Multiple studies have proven a direct, positive relationship between the intensity of parents’ involvement in their children’s education and those students’ educational outcomes. Parents who work to continue their child’s education outside the hours of 9am and 3.30pm can provide academic and moral support when students face difficulties at school. This is especially true when parents have frequent, positive contact with their children’s school and teachers, as problems are highlighted and understood early, and teachers and parents can work together to solve them.
Secondary school teachers face a range of challenges when engaging parents. The parents of older students have traditionally been harder to engage than primary school students, as secondary schools tend to be bigger and further from students’ homes, students have more than one teacher, and students are beginning to establish a sense of separation from their parents.
Multiple studies have proven a direct, positive relationship between the intensity of parents’ involvement in their children’s education and those students’ educational outcomes.
Further to this, the demographic of modern parents is changing: the number of single parent families is continuing to increase, and more parents are working full-time while bringing up their children (Panico et al, 2010). This leaves them with less time to attend traditional parental engagement events such as participation in PTAs or parent’s evenings. Modern teachers must be more creative in finding ways to touch base with parents which fits with their lifestyle and needs.
Research has found that many activities associated with improved literacy don’t require specialist knowledge (OECD, 2012). The impact of an active, if non-specialist, interest in students’ education can make a big difference to students’ confidence, and communicating this to parents will assure them that they can make a difference to their children’s education, even without a thorough understanding of course content.
Parents often feel intimidated by the content of their children’s studies, and aren’t confident in their own abilities to help them. Insecurities can be exacerbated when schools ask parents to help students with homework which parents don’t necessarily have the academic or pedogeological skills required to do so. This collection of Maths resources can be used to help parents to understand the content of the syllabus at different levels of schooling, and the content can also be used by parents to guide the support they provide for their students.
Parents often struggle to keep up with their children’s education due to constraints on time, money and transport. Digital means of communication are immediate and aren’t limited by location, so they can be a great way to engage hard-to-reach parents. Digital communication can also be invaluable when communicating with parents whose first language isn’t English, as online translation tools can be used to easily translate messages.
Digital means of communication are immediate and aren’t limited by location, so they can be a great way to engage hard-to-reach parents.
Try to move your communications with parents to text and email, using text for more urgent communications, and email for school reports and other updates. This will stop communications getting ‘lost in the post’, as is common when entrusting students to pass paper letters on to parents, and will also make it easier for parents to keep up with updates while on the go.
You can also use your school’s website to display key information, such as the dates of exams or parents evening, making it easier for parents to keep track of important information relating to their child’s education.
Many parents have a negative attitude towards school as a hangover from their own bad experiences as students, and this can be reinforced if they only ever hear from teachers when there is bad news about their child. This may cause parents to feel anxious about entering school premises or interacting with teachers, creating a barrier which prevents parents from engaging with their children’s education.
An emphasis on positive communication is also important when breaking down parents’ negative associations with school.
These parents will require teachers to proactively reach out to them to create a positive working relationship. Parents with particularly negative associations with school might be reached with phone calls or even home visits.
An emphasis on positive communication is also important when breaking down parents’ negative associations with school. Try to contact parents when a student has completed a good piece of homework, or reached a personal target – this can just take the form of a quick text or email to notify parents of achievements of any size.
Desforges, Charles, and Alberto Abouchaar, (2003) ‘The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A Literature Review’ London: Department of Education and Skills
Panico et al (2010) ‘Changes in family structure in early childhood in the Millennium Cohort Study’, Office for National Statistics
OECD (2012), ‘Let’s Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education’, PISA, OECD Publishing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264176232-en