How to increase parent involvement at schools
In an earlier post, I discussed the need for schools to become parent-friendly spaces. At most schools, parents are involved in varying degrees by serving on the School Governing Body, doing voluntary work at the school or attending all the traditional school events. The idea though, is to get the majority of the parents actively involved in their children's learning.
Schools that are struggling to engage parents have to explore creative ways to break down the communication barriers. Here is a suggested broad framework to help schools action their family-centred approach.
1. The long view: Develop a practical, doable Parent Engagement Strategic plan.
Allow everybody - the School Governing Body, the parents, the learners and the staff - to have their say on how they want to communicate better with one another. Once this Parent or Family advocacy plan has been formulated, share and advocate it to build enthusiasm and support.
- The main features of such a broad-based, structured programme should include parent-class and parent-learner activities for each school term. Everybody at school should participate and make the plan work. The principal and the SMT should be the drivers to ensure that the parent advocacy campaign is sustained.
- Teachers and the departments can use their own creativity on the format and duration of these activities that are designed to promote inclusivity and communal learning in a fun, empowering way. Initially, schools can also decide on the minimum number of parents that should be recruited to participate in each event.
These parent events can be arranged to take place during the week as well. Many parents are unemployed and thus available to attend sessions. Outside speakers can be invited to host sessions. Usually Foundation phase learners finish their school day earlier. I see how parents wait outside the school grounds, for their children, often 30 minutes before the end of the school day. Think about how these parents can be productively engaged.
- Share the parent activity dates on the school calendar and remind parents of these events. Be creative. Send post-it notes, cards designed by their children, text messages or post the reminders on your school's Facebook page.Run fun workshops on how parents can access say, your Facebook page.
While you are developing your Programme to increase parent participation at your school, you can make immediate changes in your reception area and communication style. Ask the parents, learners and staff for ideas that you can use.
The following post in this series will explore ideas to make the reception area a welcoming space and we can discuss communication media that schools can use.
Do you have ideas we can use? Do share so that we can help one another grow.