Engaging, Supporting, and Connecting Parents and Families in Learning
It isn't a new concept that parent and family engagement in children's learning is key to student success and development. But we are introducing and working with new technologies that can improve, reinforce, and support the engagement and communication. Microsoft Education in the United Kingdom offers resources to allow educators get the most from information technology investments and has worked with the Department for Children, Schools, and Families to share the stories of five schools that are using technology in innovative ways to better engage parents in their children’s education.
Clunbury Church of England Primary School serves a small village and larger rural area in Shropshire. The school uses technology to connect students not only with schools across the world, but to create and enrich the community across a wide area and maintain close relationships with parents. Read the case study and watch the how-to video.
- Parent engagement is best when it's learner-led.
- Parents may not need lessons in basic IT, but appreciate being familiarized with the school's software.
- Parents and children will have good ideas about the work they're doing. The means should be there for these ideas to be accepted, shared, and celebrated.
Hawes Side Primary School in Blackpool, Lancashire, has a topic-based approach to teaching that draws in parents and the wider community through parent- and pupil-led projects and work groups. Parent engagement at the school encourages students to enjoy learning and take their enthusiasm home so parents can participate and support them. Read the case study and watch the how-to video.
- Building good relationships comes before the application of IT.
- Improved parental engagement offers the best chance of continued school improvement nationally.
- Student voice can grow to become ownership of significant parts of school life. This strengthens the link between home and school.
Monkseaton High School, Tyne & Wear, specializes in computing, science, and mathematics and is recognized as a leader in the practice of how young people learn, specifically organizing around health and fitness. Parent engagement is facilitated through face-to-face consultations, paper and online reports, and the school's website. Read the case study and watch the how-to video.
- Leadership has to be committed enough to parental engagement to persuade reluctant staff of its value.
- IT literacy varies enormously from school to school, but students play a big part in helping their parents.
- Students are generally enthusiastic about parents having access to their work.
Twynham School, a training school and technology and music college in Christchurch, Dorset, uses a Learning Gateway portal to increase the amount of communication among staff, students, and parents. Read the case study and watch the how-to video.
- Each school is different.
- Don't expect online engagement to replace face-to-face contact. Twynham has the same number of parent consultation meetings as before, but each contact is now more efficient, better informed, and less likely to be stressful.
- Parents say that when they can see and understand their children's work, the relationship with them is less anxious and confrontational.
Blatchington Mill School and Sixth Form College in Hove, East Sussex, specializes in the performing arts, mathematics, computing, and applied learning and has a gifted and talented students program. The school has worked to build parent relations through community activities, parent organizations, and consultations, using technology to improve the quality of interactions and remove misunderstandings. Read the case study and watch the how-to video.
- Take feedback from parents at every opportunity, and be ready to use their ideas.
- Even in a popular and successful school where parents are supportive, building the portal improves engagement and gives it more focus.
- Students appreciate parental engagement, which takes some of the reticence and embarrassment out of sharing their work and achievements at home.
While school is important and the quality of the teaching is very important indeed, if that parental support isn't there, it so much harder for the youngsters themselves. And that's where I think the partnership between school-home-parent is so important because that's about us working together to listen and to guide.
—Dr. Terry Fish, Headteacher, Twynham School
Which of these strategies does your school or your child's school already employ? Which strategy will you bring to your next parent-teacher consultation?