During this half term break I’ve reflecting on our work around engaging families and how we use a variety of approaches to help families play an active role in learning and teaching and support the life of the school community.
It’s a long time since I attended primary school (the 1960’s) but I can still remember the experience with clarity and there was not one single occasion where my (or any other child’s parents) parents played an active part in supporting teaching and learning. Parents could attend school fetes, sports days and collect poorly or injured kids, but other than that, they never participated in school life.
The primary schools we work with now all agree that children work best and learn most effectively when teachers and parents work together supporting the child on their learning journey so we have been helping create and deliver a variety of projects to help attract parents, grandparents and carers into school. If an adult is time pressured or hasn’t got very positive memories of their time in school, getting them to participate is a challenge. We have found a mixed approach offering everything from classroom learning, outdoor learning, creative projects and learning coaching roles works really well.
The FLIP (Family Learning in Partnership) developed at Shireland Hall provides training for parents (at T/A Level) and focuses on curriculum areas that need additional impetus. The parents are viewed as colleagues rather than unpaid help and this level of respect is very much appreciated by parents. The results have been fantastic and in addition to helping the kids learn, parents and teachers collaborate on planning and delivery of content and some parents and used the opportunity as an entry into a career in education.
At Hurst Hill Primary we have been using Saturday morning family art workshops to help create a neutral territory where parents teachers and children can have great fun whilst creating fabulous artwork that they curate and install in the schools art gallery. It has been really successful in terms of relationship development and instilling a sense of shared ownership and pride in the school community. It has also helped many parents feel more confident about approaching and sharing with teachers and the school leadership team ideas, suggestions and concerns.
At Kingsland primary we regularly invite parents and carers into school to actively take part in the delivery of classroom learning activities. The parents participate fully and help deliver curriculum content with outstanding results. Again we have seen a dramatic improvement in the children’s level of engagement and achievement and parents and skilled and equipped with insight and enriched knowledge they need to support home learning.
Relationship management with parents can be difficult and for me the key is communication by whatever means necessary and trying to focus on the positive potential of the parent, just as we do with children. Not every parent wants to, or is able to participate in the life of their child’s school, but most do, particularly if they understand how they can get involved through clear communication in a language they understand and can relate to. The letters home, texts, emails and increasingly, the use of facebook and twitter all help the school remain accessible and seeing parents, grandparents and carers as a valued, rich resource is a great way of enriching the curriculum and increasing the chances of every child reaching their fullest potential.