Promoting parents as partners supports school improvement

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lady and child

A relaxed coffee morning between parents and seniors leaders is just one of the many strategies adopted by Trelewis Primary School as part of its parental engagement. Wider stakeholder involvement has led to a more robust and accurate picture of the school’s own performance

Number of learners: 240
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection:  February 2018

Information about the school

Trelewis Primary School is a 3-11 primary school based in the village of Trelewis, Merthyr Tydfil.  The school caters for 240 pupils, and has eight classes including a full time nursery.  The three-year average of pupils eligible for free school meals is around 15.9%.  Around 20% of pupils are identified as having additional learning needs, with a very few pupils speaking English as an additional language.  The current headteacher has been in post since September 2016.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The new school leadership team agreed that in order to secure improvements it was vital that all stakeholders within the school were able to contribute to, and be involved in, the school improvement process.  In order to do this, the school secured open channels of communication and created a community that all stakeholders could engage with and feel a part of, particularly parents.  The leadership team began promoting an ethos of ‘Parents as Partners’ and established a new vision for the school, which aimed to establish a ‘Child-centred school at the Heart of the Community’.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The school identified initially that communication was the first barrier to be addressed.  It felt it was important to provide all stakeholders, particularly parents, with information that could be easily accessed.  The school ensured that communication with parents was clear and available in a range of formats, including text messaging, social media and a new school website.  Regular newsletters and news updates also ensured that parents were provided with clear communication, as well as providing business cards to parents listing INSET training dates and term dates.  This immediately began to address issues surrounding communication between the home and the school and provided an opportunity to ensure that the ‘Parents as Partners’ ethos was regularly promoted.

Following the school’s work in improving communication, an initial survey was sent out to all parents in order to identify further areas that the school could begin to address, to remove further barriers preventing parents from engaging with school activities.  From the analysis of responses, the school identified that many parents felt they were unable to approach the school and that, as a result, they did not feel able to support their child’s learning well enough.

The headteacher began to establish a regular, visible presence around the school, and strategies were implemented in order to ensure that parents felt they were able to approach and work with the school, in order to secure ongoing improved standards for pupils.  This included establishing an open door policy, where parents were able to speak with members of the school leadership team on the phone or in person where concerns arose, providing a practical means of direct communication.

As a starting point to improving parental engagement, regular coffee mornings were held, in order to begin removing barriers that were preventing parents from engaging with school activities.  The coffee mornings provided a relaxed environment where parents could attend the school and meet with members of the school leadership team in an informal way.  From feedback received during the coffee mornings, the school was then able to identify the support needs of parents further.  This included supporting them in developing their child’s literacy and numeracy skills, which was addressed through a strategy called ‘Learn with Me’.

The ‘Learn with Me’ sessions provided regular opportunities for parents to work alongside their child within the school environment in a workshop style format, along with their child’s class teacher.  These sessions gave parents strategies and ideas about how they could better support their child’s ongoing development at home.  For example, one of the ‘Learn with Me’ sessions linked to classroom work about the Chinese New Year.  During the session, pupils spent time with their parents looking at different healthy foods to make a Chinese stir fry.  Pupils were supported to cut vegetables to various lengths, reinforcing mathematical vocabulary such as ‘longer than’, ‘shorter than’, and ‘equal to’.  This allowed parents to understand how tasks carried out at home, such as cooking, could be utilised to promote and develop pupils’ numeracy skills.

Other ‘Learn with Me’ sessions focused on areas including developing pupils’ writing skills, investigating the outdoors, and phonic development.  Each of these sessions provided a platform for parents to engage with the learning process and to raise questions or suggestions as to future events that could be run, in order to support their child’s learning better.

The school also engaged with external agencies that have experience of working with families.  This provided further opportunities for parents to become involved with their child’s learning.  For example, a regular ‘Reading Cafe’ was established at the request of parents, where they were provided with opportunities to come into school and learn about strategies that they could use to support their child’s reading skills at home.

What impact has this work had on provision and pupils’ standards?

As a result of the strategies implemented, the school notes that it continues to see a far greater level of parental engagement, and that parents feel more able to approach the school with any concerns.  They feel that parents are being provided with opportunities to support better their child’s learning and ongoing development.

An evaluation of responses from a review survey sent out by the school highlighted that nearly all parents now feel able to approach the school with questions or suggestions.  The school believes that this was a marked improvement on initial survey outcomes.  The school also notes an impact on pupils’ wellbeing, as a result of parents becoming more involved in the school.  In the most recent pupil attitude survey carried out by the school, most pupils mentioned that they have a positive attitude towards school.

The school has better refined its improvement process to involve all stakeholders actively, which is ensuring a continued focus on improving pupil standards.  As a result of a wider evidence base, gained from improved engagement from all stakeholders, the school believes that it now has a more robust and accurate picture of its performance.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has worked closely with other schools within the local cluster and in pathfinder working partnerships.  It has engaged in a peer review and shared practice with other schools, in order to continue to seek out further opportunities to engage families, based on the good practice seen in other settings.