Between 1997 and 2007 parental involvement in schools sky rocketed. Over the course of a decade, more parents and guardians attended general meetings, had a meeting with a teacher, attended a school event or volunteered.
Yet today, even though parental involvement has fallen off a cliff, 72% of parents still say that they wanted more involvement. The question then is how teachers go about re-engaging with this new generation of parents.
The benefits of parental involvement
Children whose parents are involved with their school benefit on multiple fronts, as they tend to:
- Have fewer behavioural problems
- Achieve better academic performance
- Successfully complete high school
- Have higher attendance levels
And there are benefits for parents, too, including:
- Parents who are aware of what is taking place at the school and how they can get involved
- Parents who better understand academic areas where their child/children are struggling
- Parent-child bonding over a shared goal
But as modern life becomes more pressurised, and working weeks get longer (and longer) it can seem an impossible challenge to improve on the numbers involved with your school. It’s clear – you’re going to need a number of smart strategies if you’re to forge stronger parental connections.
1. Harness technology
There are many ready-made platforms built specifically for boosting student attainment and parental involvement.
Our own platform, EDLounge, also offers parents access to monitor and track their children’s performance, behaviour, and interaction with their individualised learning pathways.
Most platforms offer a free trial with no obligation to buy. Set up a working group within your school to choose and test different platforms with a cross-section of your students and parents, and ask for detailed feedback from everyone after the trial.
2. Make the case for more time
Time is your foe. There’s simply not enough of it. Between teaching, marking and lesson plans, cultivating parental involvement is impossible to squeeze in.
You need to make the case for this effort being one for the entire school. Convey its importance consistently – at faculty and staff meetings, ask for administrative support and an extra hour a week for all teachers to focus solely on communicating with parents.
3. Talk, share and learn from other teachers
For each and every unresponsive parent there has been a teacher who has successfully broken down whatever barriers were in the way of their involvement.
So talk – create a Google chat or Facebook group specifically for teachers to share their experiences, ideas and advice.
Discuss potential solutions with your peers and test a variety of options to see which will suit different parents.
4. Create work that leads from the classroom to the community
Re-think your student’s learning experiences so that they naturally connect classroom with the wider community.
Involve local groups, businesses and charities – take field trips to engage with community members or local experts who can contribute to course content.
Start here, with this explainer and guide on community engagement from Vanderbilt University.
5. Set boundaries and be positive
Every teacher has experienced it – confrontational parents or parents who seemingly flat-out refuse to be engaged in their child’s education.
This may be due to a lack of time or willingness – they may even have been school phobic or had poor experiences during their own education and this now manifests itself in a refusal to interact with their children’s teachers.
Rather than trying to force the issue, connect with them on a social level rather than as a teacher. Communicate positives whilst at the same time explaining how they can help increase attainment – ‘your child did very well in this lesson but with a small amount of help from you in covering this topic, they could do even better’.
If you have the time, you can even prepare simple guides for parents that explain how they can become more involved and how their children could benefit.
On the other side, there are parents who have a tendency to overstep their boundaries of teacher personal time.
Perseverance is key, as is a positive approach to setting out clear boundaries with parents (such as establishing time limits prior to a meeting). Don’t discourage their interactions but don’t be afraid to set the limits of their involvement.