Working with this group of stakeholders and getting the relationship right is essential but can also be quite daunting. Engaging and supporting parents is one of the most important factors that affects a positive outcome for the child.
Research shows us where the impact is most acute and with this knowledge it is important to develop your own approach to working with families and involving them in the life of the school and their individual support of the child both at home and at school.
Key Research, as reported by the Department for Education, has shown the following:
- In the early years, parental involvement has a significant impact on children’s cognitive development and literacy and number skills.
- Parental involvement in a child’s schooling for a child between the ages of 7 and 16 is a more powerful force than family background, size of family and level of parental education.
- Parental involvement has a significant effect on pupil achievement throughout the years of schooling.
- Educational failure is increased by lack of parental interest in schooling.
- A father’s interest in a child’s schooling is strongly linked to educational outcomes for the child.
- Most parents believe that the responsibility for their child’s education is shared between parents and the school.
- In a recent study in England 72% of parents said that they wanted more involvement.
Knowing this it is clear that children have two main educators in their lives – their parents and carers and their teachers. Parents and carers are the prime educators until the child attends nursery or start school and remain a major influence on their children’s learning through school and beyond.
There is no clear line to show where the parents’ input stops and the teachers’ input begins.
The school and the parents all have crucial roles to play and the impact is greater if parents and schools work in partnership. There is no universal agreement on what parental involvement is, however there are two broad strands. Parents’ involvement in the life of the school. Their involvement in support of the individual child at home and at school.
How do you as the child’s class teacher ensure that there is a positive relationship between home and school, with the child at the center?
1. Be clear and outline at the beginning of the year the rhythm of your class and your expectations
Share the class rules, the homework expectations, the class timetable, the curriculum overview and the planned events as soon as you can at the beginning of the new academic year and then every term so that the parents and carers know and understand what their child is doing and when.
2. Highlight the events that the parents and carers can attend
I would usually do this in blue and make it clear that their involvement in any homework projects e.g. 10 mins reading every evening, parents and carers can you ask your child the following questions after they read? Which part did you enjoy the most? What do you think will happen next in the story?
“You will reap the rewards of families continuing to support you by working with their children to complete the work.”
3. Schedule parent-teacher meeting accordingly
Organise a parent meeting on the same day the literature goes home so that any parents who struggle with reading and understanding can come to the meeting and hear the message orally from you. Arrange for a translator is necessary and take nothing for granted. Imagine you are hearing a lecture at college in Yoruba and expected to take notes, keep up and to contribute!
Work gently with the families and explain things clearly; again, imagine you are in an operating theatre and expected to play a key supportive role, but have no idea of the speak of the setting and the acronyms!
4. Stick to the programme!
Now the parents know all about their child’s day in school and homework outline make sure you stick to the programme as much as possible. Homework is a way of the families to see how you value their child’s work and also your expectations for content and presentation. Give it on time, collect it on time and mark it on time! You will reap the rewards of families continuing to support you by working with their children to complete the work.
5. Accept that some children will never have the support with their homework
Don’t judge this, just accept it and offer that support in school. Lunchtime clubs, opportunities during the school day or even 15 mins every day after school to complete. Let the parents know that this is an option for their child and make sure there is further discussion at your first parent/teacher conference. Start to think about the above suggestions for September to be able to start as you mean to go on!
I would suggest that the first communication with the new set of parents starts with a letter on the first day back outlining the parents meeting in the second week. They then know that you are on it and will work with you!
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