School leaders are learning that parental engagement is a win-win formula for children's learning.
Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, spoke to Schools Week about supporting parental involvement:
“Teachers and parents alike have rapidly adapted and found new ways to educate and support children and young people through distance learning and home education. And those who have fared best have done so by working together.”
But, getting parents engaged with school – and keeping them engaged – can feel overwhelming. The prospect of doing more, with already stretched resources, can be daunting.
But now, off the back of school-parental engagement hitting unprecedented highs in 2020-21, isn’t the time to second guess yourself.
“Create a communication plan with families and use it consistently”, Cruddas continues. “The EEF recommends that you audit your current communications…”
To this end, we’ve drawn up a suggested 10-step plan demonstrating faff-free yet powerful parental engagement:
1) Integrate all your apps/systems
You may be using several different systems to connect with parents, which means they now have an array of logins, apps and passwords. So consider using a communications platform that will bring all your systems together under one roof. This will benefit both staff and parents alike - because one system means just one app to remember, one login to use and one support line for help.
And it's likely that your parents will be more willing to engage with you because you've kept it simple!
2) Use permissions smartly
Make it easy for parents to communicate with the right people at school. With the Weduc school app, you can set permissions that signpost parents to who they should contact about various issues, whether it’s one of their child’s teachers, a pastoral contact or a year head - or a dedicated attendance person.
3) Post news everywhere in just a few clicks...
Kill multiple birds with one stone by posting directly from one communications system to multiple places. That means your news story could appear on your parental app, your website and your social media channels in just a couple of clicks. No need to log in and out of various accounts to share information - and a great way to ensure your good news stories get seen by the wider world.
4) ...but create a 'safe social media' space
Just thinking about sharing news on social media can send a chill down a school leader's spine! It doesn't take much for an innocent comment to be taken out of context and, before you know it, there's a full scale row out there for all the world to see. Or even the risk of a parent airing their concerns in public and potentially sharing confidential information about students.
A school communications platform for the modern age should offer you a controlled social media-style newsfeed. This allows you to post information to targeted groups of parents (by class or year group) and decide whether to allow comments or not. You should also be able to set up an approval process for publishing posts. The power needs to sit with you in the school, so you aren't spending your time worrying about it all kicking off online!
5) No need for a school newsletter!
Parents want to know what's happening at school but do you and your staff really need to weekly challenge of collating all the information into a regular newsletter? Then there's the time spent making it look attractive - only to then realise that your beautiful A4 news sheet can't be read easily on most parents' mobile phones.
Wouldn't it be better to send news at the time it's relevant and only to those parents it concerns? What if you could easily embed videos or pictures - particularly if you want to overcome language and cultural barriers? And with it all looking great for you, using in-built formatting tools?
Parents are more likely to engage with your communications if you feed them bite-sized chunks that are relevant, timely and interesting. In face, here at Weduc, we have customers who haven't put out a school newsletter in years - it's so last century!
6) Use technology for parents’ evenings and home learning
Go all in with technology and switch to video calls instead of traditional on-site parents’ evening. It’s easier to arrange as you also get online booking. It offers greater flexibility to busy parents. It’s more effective. And it’s now. Parents will thank you for it. Add in a home learning app to track and submit homework tasks and parents can be even more engaged with their child's learning.
7) Get creative with volunteering
Improve parental engagement by reaching out to local community groups. Try something like holding a homework club in a venue that’s at the heart of the community. This can be especially effective in hard-to-reach communities where parents have fewer opportunities to get involved. Find and rope in key community leaders who can be act as conduits for you.
8) Nip grievances in the bud
Respond to any issues and complaints from parents and carers quickly and comprehensively, even if means sending a holding response initially. It shows you’re listening and taking parental feedback seriously.
9) PTA (Parent Teacher Association)
Encourage parents to get involved in your PTA or Friends Association. It’s the ideal backdrop for parents to be actively involved in what’s going on at school and to help shape future events. It's a useful way to pick up the topics that parents are talking about - and road test a few of your own ideas.
10) Keep your website updated
Your school website is your shop window for parents for many, many things. Make sure they’re compelled to keep revisiting, by refreshing it often with engaging content, blogs, insights, surveys and personnel. If you have news on your website, make sure you use a communications system that syncs your news across various channels. For instance, with the Weduc platform you can post to your newsfeed and Weduc website simultaneously.
Want to audit your parental engagement strategy?
Download our free White Paper about effective parental engagement and work out your next steps to engaging parents.
Talk to the experts
At Weduc, we know that supporting parental involvement with the latest technology and best practice can mean the world of difference for primary schools, secondary schools, independent schools and multi-academy trusts.
Want to discuss it further? Give us a call on 01509 221 349.
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