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When schools are looking to raise aspiration, parental power is an invaluable and powerful way to enhance and introduce enthusiasm and motivation.

Success is seen at its highest when schools and parents work together as a partnership, but whilst almost all schools involve parents in activities at the school itself, this is parental involvement rather than engagement and does not directly affect achievement as opposed to direct parental engagement which increases aspiration for all the family.

The role of parental engagement

The biggest influence in the life of a young person is that of their parents. Those parents who support learning when their child is at home are seen to have greater success in raising aspirations than those who only support school-based activities.

The element that parents often don’t realise is how much they matter in how their child is going to perform over the years. They don’t feel that being part of the education of their son or daughter makes any difference and so don’t proactively look to raise the levels of aspiration.

Schools which reinforce the message that parents DO matter develop a much more fruitful two-way relationship. Trust increases, communication improves, respect is given and received and the parents show a true commitment to helping to improve learning outcomes.

The issues surrounding parental engagement in raising aspiration

The socio-economic status of the family has been well-evidenced to being linked to the level of parental engagement offered and in turn the amount of aspiration they can bring to the family as a whole. Certain ethnic and social groups are shown to have particularly low engagement levels and those schools which have recognised this and offered bespoke programmes such as parental support classes and adult literacy are reaping much more in the way of rising engagement than schools which do not.

Those parents a school views as ‘hard to reach’ often see the school just as ‘hard to reach’. Schools which really make the effort to get a conversation started with this group of parents though really do make breakthroughs. This is seen through improved attendance, higher levels of learning and better behaviour patterns emerging.

There will always be barriers to engaging with parents. Time is a factor which often crops up as an issue along with childcare issues, language differences and the practical skills which could be lacking such as levels of literacy and general social and negotiation skills.

The results of parental engagement in raising aspiration

Overall family aspirations rise in correlation with the levels of engagement with the work and achievement of their child. Those pupils who enjoy higher attainment will enjoy much more engagement from their parents as the parents want to be more involved. This leads to an overall positive scenario for all.

The schools which use parental engagement as a catalyst for raising aspiration are those which see the biggest improvements. When parental engagement is seen as a priority by the school, change takes place through the awareness of the role of the parent and the recognition of linking the engagement to learning.

For schools in challenging locations, creating and sustaining engagement becomes the central influence for raising aspiration throughout the whole family, not only for the pupil involved and their parents but for younger siblings who will reap the rewards in later years where engagement and aspiration naturally go hand in hand.