Top tips for effective governor-parent engagement
How can governors interact positively with the school community?
We few, we dedicated few, we board of governors
The National Governing Association (NGA) recognises governance as those who have the power, make the decisions, share others’ voices, and ensure accountability of school leaders. In this article, we unpick what effective governor-parent engagement really is, what Ofsted look for and how to increase governor-parent interactions in your school.
The national picture of governors
The number of parent governors required on a maintained school board is a minimum of 2, this can be different in single trust or multi-academy trusts (MAT). From the annual governor survey undertaken by the NGA, there are growing concerns about the recruitment and retention of governors to the boards. With the numbers on boards shrinking to commonly below 10 people. Schools rely on the retired community along with parents and those working in the educational sector to make up the majority of their governing boards or trustees. With an overwhelming majority representing white British members. With so many recruits coming from parents of those with children in school, positive and active conversations with parents are vital for an accurate finger on the pulse as well as the larger recruitment picture.
Why are governors so important for school success?
Governors or trustees are crucial to the effective running of the school, championing their specific link area as well as having the wellbeing and progress of the pupils at the heart of each decision. These voices of reason and question can be essential in important decision-making. The governing board should have the same goal at heart, the positive outcomes of all the pupils in the school, whilst bringing a selection of different skills, life experiences and knowledge to the table. A governor shouldn’t be appointed for their professional skill set alone; skills should be paired with the driving motivation to improve the school’s offer. The governors are the voice for the parents, pupils and school community; not mistaking this voice as being the only voice, but a spokesperson.
Why are parents so important to school success?
Studies and statistics show us the increase in positive outcomes for pupils as well as the impact on self-esteem and relationship building when parents are actively engaged with their child’s education. Interacting regularly with the school from home via their communication system support as well as engage with school-based tasks. Parents are a significant influence on a pupil’s attitude to school, resilience, and ambition. Having parents onboard with school interactions can create a solid support network from both influential avenues: home and school. With the adaptations schools and governors have adopted due to the change in learning methods, the opportunities to interact with parents are more possible than ever: simple messaging functions over an easy-to-use app, absence reporting functions, and even tailored newsfeed content. The shared goal is the holistic progression of their child, a strong home-school communication is vital for this.
What does Ofsted look for in governor-parent engagement?
Ofsted will consult with the parent surveys on Parent View, which is a survey accessible to parents continually but is reviewed during an Ofsted inspection. Ofsted will assess governors' awareness of their roles and responsibilities and evidence they are performing their link roles effectively. Evidence may be in the form of minutes and reports from meetings, the meaning and purpose of any school visits undertaken by the governors, attendance at meetings, and discussions during their inspection visit. They will meet with the chair and as many governors who are able to attend, assessing how effectively the governing board holds the school leaders to account. The governors are expected to have a secure knowledge and understanding of the school, both historic and current priorities. Positive governor-parent interactions through surveys, visits and keeping up to date with the events of the school are vital. Many schools that effectively engage their governors with the small and large events of the school do so using their communications system. Weduc has the tailored newsfeed feature which allows governors to see the safe stream of celebrations from each year group to the closed sharing network, giving knowledge of the large outcome improvements as well as sports day results.
What does effective governor engagement look like?
The NGA advocates the 7 Nolan Principles when discussing what effective governance looks like: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; Honesty; Leadership.
Used by schools, and both private and public organisations such as the NHS, these principles underpin what effective governance looks like and can be applied easily to governor engagement.
Selflessness: the focus is the to act in the interest of the pupils, to share information from the community back to the school with no self-motivation.
Integrity: to stay true to the purpose of the role, regardless of friendly-working relationships, the decisions made must not be of financial or material benefit to themselves.
Objectivity: to make decisions impartially and on the best evidence found.
Accountability: As well as holding school leaders to account, the governors must themselves open up for scrutiny on their own practices, via Ofsted inspections or Governance reviews.
Openness: Transparency and open methods of communicating with the parents, through regular surveys and annual reports to share information found and next projected steps.
Honesty: Whilst maintaining professional boundaries, those who are parent governors with children at the school must recognise the boundaries that apply when discussing school matters on the playground with other parents, the NGA suggest appropriate routes to take for any uncomfortable parent discussions.
Leadership: Championing link areas during meetings is key, as is the active challenging of leadership decisions or actions if you feel this is ineffective to meet the priorities of the school.
Relevant questions to ask parents
Having a purposeful parental engagement strategy is essential, to focus on priorities and importantly measure impact. A parent survey is the most common method of communication used between governors and parents due to the ease and breadth of questions that can be asked. To ensure your communication strategy is targeting the correct areas of engagement, an annual broad survey can be used to understand parental concerns and communication limitations. The NGA have provided 7 initial questions to ask to help you plan your subsequent surveys:
- Do we know how parents feel about the school?
- Do we know the opinions of all groups of parents or just some?
- Do parents know what we expect of their children?
- Do parents understand what and how their children are learning?
- Do parents know how they can best support their children’s education?
- How do we support parents who don’t know how to support their children’s learning?
- Are there specific elements of our school improvement plan that require parental engagement to be successful?
Purposeful visits to school
Ofsted will look at the visits that governors have made into school, the purpose of the visit and the impact that will have had on pupil outcomes and progress. The use of the school newsfeed and regular updates from class can be used to help inform visits, to coincide with themed learning weeks that are a priority for the school, to visit a class who are particularly shining with an innovative approach to engaging pupils with reading. There are no set number of visits a governor must undertake to fulfil their duties, understanding many of the governors are full-time workers or have other commitments. However, the opportunity to see in practice what is discussed during meetings can be invaluable.
Run regular surveys
Surveys are an effective method of gathering a large amount of data to then be analysed and future improvement steps taken. Governors regularly run parent surveys using well-known websites to create their surveys. As a school, your aim is to assist with the creation of surveys and independence of the process as much as possible. Using Weduc surveys, there are no limit to the questions asked like other online websites, with the survey results available immediately and with the specific targeting available, UK-based help team, surveys for your governors become a doddle.
A range of voices
The picture of the current governing body is significantly underrepresented across all minorities with 93% of governing boards or trustees being white British. Only 3% of governors are within the LGBTQ+ community and even less from the Black, Asian or minority ethnicity background. The challenge surrounds motivating the underrepresented demographic of parents to become involved in the surveys, a discussion for the governor meetings. Weduc has the unique feature of language adaptation, to be able to translate all communications into a wide variety of languages, reducing the parental engagement barrier.
A digestible report
It is not a requirement that governors write an impact statement for the parents, although some schools do choose to do this. This can be used as a short summary to the parents about the focuses the governing body has championed throughout the academic year and the positive interactions that have occurred via surveys and use of the school communication system. You can find examples of published impact statements online.
Champion a parent-friendly school
There are many barriers for parents wanting to engage with school, you can find tips on how to overcome these barriers here. The governors should be aware of the aspects that can prevent parents from positively engaging with schools and challenge the school leaders to prioritise these barriers.
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Want to engage your governors further? Get in touch with one of our team today to see how Weduc can work for you.