Schools should explore the most effective ways to communicate with parents so they can be better involved in their child’s education, according to a report published today by Estyn. While many schools are embracing a growing range of ways to help break down barriers between school and home, such as using digital apps, only a few schools actively consult with parents about which types of communication they prefer.
Today’s report, ‘Involving parents – Communication between schools and parents of school-aged children’, found that schools do not always involve fathers as well as they do mothers. Also, parents from areas of high deprivation are sometimes harder to reach. The report contains case studies outlining innovative strategies from schools that have successfully achieved effective parental communication and involvement.
Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector says,
It’s generally recognised that parental support can have a significant impact on pupils’ achievement. Many schools are improving the ways in which they involve parents. The most successful schools have a well-planned and structured approach that meets the needs of all parents and is based on parents’ preferences. All schools should read today’s report to discover strategies to support how they can better involve parents.
One strategy that was aimed at involving fathers more was adopted by Lansdowne Primary School in Cardiff. Every morning the headteacher stands at the school gate to welcome families. After noticing that a group of fathers were reluctant to enter the playground, she invited them to share their reasons for their reluctance. The headteacher worked closely with them and this led to a number of changes such as widening the text messaging service to include two telephone numbers and using a group of fathers to discuss and support decisions about changes to the curriculum. As a result, there was an increase in the number of boys reading at home using a new scheme and in the number of fathers attending parents’ evenings.
Inspectors found that parents of secondary school pupils generally receive less communication than those of primary-aged children. However, an innovation at St John the Baptist High School, Aberdare using a homework app has helped to build greater engagement with parents. Since its introduction, 85% of parents have actively used the app which has led to a significant improvement in parents’ views about homework.
As well as recommending that schools consult with parents about their preferred ways of communication, Estyn highlights the need for schools to ensure that reports and parents’ evenings are tailored to a child’s specific strengths and areas for development. Making it clear how staff and parent governors can be contacted and listening to the views of parents from all socio-economic backgrounds are also steps that schools should take to better involve parents. Finally, the report provides recommendations to local authorities and the Welsh Government about their respective roles in supporting schools about this work.