In a survey of 3,000 teachers across the UK, we found that 55% agreed that ‘low parental engagement’ is one of the biggest hurdles they face when it comes to helping their pupil premium students reach their potential – second only to ‘low aspirations’ (57%), which we looked at in our recent ‘raising aspirations’
Although parental engagement is a complex issue – especially in cases where ‘hard-to-reach’
parents have a low level of English, low confidence, or even just negative attitudes towards school based on their own experiences – it’s often important to get their buy-in to make interventions as effective as possible.
We’ve put together some simple strategies to get parents on board with interventions, drawn from how schools around the country are tackling this challenge.
1. Involve parents in intervention planning, right from the start
Making parents feel involved in the school’s decision-making process around interventions can be a great way to get them invested at an early stage. East Riding of Yorkshire council’s ASPIRE toolkit on parental engagement
has a few useful tips on this:
- “Be upfront with parents about the Pupil Premium and how it will be spent— involve parents in spending decisions; ensuring there are ‘no surprises’ for parents in terms of progress through high quality communication.
- Discuss the intervention provision map with parents when intervention is needed, and make a joint decision on the best approach to take.
- Set up contracts laying out school input vs. parental input for interventions.”
This is a view that’s also echoed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). In their recommendations on working with parents, they underline the importance of consulting parents to make sure they feel they have a voice:
“Communication should be two-way: consulting with parents about how they can be involved is likely to be valuable and increase the effectiveness of home-school relationships.”
2. Keep parents in the loop – through a range of channels
It might be a cliché, but it’s true: communication is key! Before launching an intervention programme, publicising it to parents through a range of channels is important. These might include the termly newsletter, the school website/blog, the online parents’ portal (if you have one), email, post, or even text message.
The EEF’s Parental Engagement Guidance Report suggests that texting parents might actually be more effective than more conventional methods like sending pupils home with letters:
“If there are important messages for parents who are less involved, face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or text messages are likely to be more effective than generic emails or letters home… some groups may also benefit particularly; for example, one study found that text messaging had particularly positive effects on engaging fathers.”
3. Invite parents to come and observe – or even to help out
One way to get parents engaged in interventions (quite literally!) is to invite them along, whether just to observe or even to get stuck in and help out, where appropriate. Janet Goodall, an education researcher at the University of Bath, describes how she saw this approach in action:
“One school I worked with – in a community where most parents didn’t have computers at home – arranged with the local supermarket to put a computer in the foyer, with videos of classrooms on a loop. Whole families apparently came in to see what was happening. That might be something that could be adapted.”
An alternative might be to set up a webcam live stream of an intervention session for parents to watch from home. Or, if you’re running a MyTutor online one-to-one tuition programme in an IT suite after school, you could ask parents to volunteer to supervise while pupils are being tutored.
4. Be positive and celebrate success
There’s always a risk with interventions that the students (and parents) will see it as a punishment, rather than an opportunity – and especially so if they’re already disengaged with school.
That’s why, to encourage buy-in, framing the intervention as a privilege – something really positive that’s going to help them raise their grades and give them a personal advantage – can be very effective.
Keeping communication positive once an intervention is running can also help, for example by sending personalised postcards or ‘well done’ notes home to parents about good attendance or learning milestones. Writing for the TES, Leanne Forde-Nassey, Headteacher at the Key Centre, a pupil referral unit near Gosport, suggests:
Of course, this has the added benefit of making pupils feel good about themselves and the intervention, too. Building on this, linking an intervention programme with a reward system – for example, giving out certificates, honourable mentions in assembly, or small prizes to reward effort, attendance and progress – can also help to keep engagement from flagging.
“Share even the smallest success. A telephone call or text with positive news is the most successful relationship builder that I have seen so far.”
At MyTutor, we support our partner schools with a range of resources to help make sure parents (and pupils) are fully bought-in to our online one-to-one tuition programmes.
If you’d like more advice on how to increase parental engagement around interventions, we’d be happy to share – get in touch on 0203 773 6025, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a chat.