Talking point: How can parental engagement improve learning outcomes?
Posted 3 years ago
Preparing children for opportunities that offer them the best future requires more than just a teacher; not only do children need to acquire knowledge but they also need to be supported emotionally throughout their time in education.
A complete education requires a community; a whole school leadership team, teachers, administrators, friends and families working in unison, and parents are a vital cog in this machine.
Parental engagement is a broad term defined by the Department of Education as including “learning at home, school-home and home-school communication, in-school activities, decision making (e.g. being a parent governor) and collaborating with the community.”
Involving parents has a direct impact on pupil engagement, so ensuring parents are on board with their child’s learning process is critical for schools to teach effectively, which is why parental engagement is a key Ofsted requirement laid out in their inspection framework.
Why is parental engagement important?
The first step to improving parental engagement is to learn what a powerful effect it has on development. In a major study on parental involvement Prof. Charles Desforges, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, found that:
“Parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences associated with variations in the quality of schools.”
Parental engagement is not only useful for learning but is greatly beneficial in supporting good behaviour and values. Attendance and absenteeism, which are closely tied to attainment according to DfE data, have been shown to be improved by schools and parents partnering in rewarding attendance and increasing communication about expectations of attendance according to Desforges (p.60).
A study conducted by the University of the West Indies found that a control group which increased parental involvement by providing coaching visits encouraging parents to play and be involved with their children’s development resulted in children with higher IQ, better results in aggression and self-control tests as well as earning 25% more than groups which did not receive the same. In a similar approach, the UK’s Families and Schools Together programme (p.27) involved community outreach and a training programme for parents to build on their relationships with their children and the school, resulting in improved family functioning and reduced emotional and behavioural difficulties in the classroom.
How to improve parental engagement?
Involving parents has been shown to have benefits for children’s emotional development and academic achievement, however not all parents are fully involved in their children’s education. Understanding why parental engagement is of such key importance in education is just part of the story, identifying how to improve engagement is a pivotal point in fostering positive behaviours in parents and pupils which result in stronger attainment.
Support home-learning – Extend learning beyond the classroom and increase retention by giving parents the tools to explore subjects at home. Teachers can provide specific advice to parents on topics, links to online resources, conversational prompts or lists of keywords to use in discussions that will bring a subject to life.
Respond to parents’ needs – Address the limitations that parents may find such as time, costs, travel, language and confidence. Making efforts to overcome these challenges and to work with their needs will make parents feel more included in their child’s education.
Hands-on activities – Organise workshops, school trips and volunteers classes to directly involve parents in school events.
Make communication easy – If the task of maintaining communication from schools to parents is seen as an added challenge to busy school staff then this will limit the adoption of a parental engagement strategy. Work communication into the daily routine.
Keep communication two-way – Close collaboration between schools and parents is an effective way of ensuring pupils understand how to achieve their aspirations by identifying barriers to attainment and working together to overcome them.
Establishing strong and mutually beneficial relationships between schools and parents has been shown to have real positive effects on children’s behaviour, attendance, self-control and attainment.
Involving parents in their child’s education can be challenging for schools, but improving the links of communication can be made easier with new innovations in technology. Printed letters home and long phone calls take up time and resources, while powerful tech tools such as SchoolPing can make communication fast, simple and effective.
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