You’ll probably be aware that parental engagement is an activity which is reviewed by Ofsted. In fact, the inspection handbook states that – under the criteria of “good” – “The school works well with parents, including those who might find working with the school difficult, to achieve positive benefits for pupils.” This could be interpreted a number of ways – but its inclusion points loud and clear to the fact Ofsted consider parental engagement an important part of a school’s performance against their standards. Not only will having a strong parental engagement policy help you in part to secure higher Ofsted ratings, there are countless reports on the positive impact parental engagement has on student achievement and “learner” success.
With that being said, just what does a good parental engagement policy look like? Read on for guidance on how to develop one fit for Ofsted themselves.
Enter the DfE
For guidance around parental engagement, we need look no further than the Department for Education themselves, and their 2011 document “Review of best practice in parental engagement”. This report covers research on parents of children aged 5-19, and the impact parental engagement had on their success, which strategies were most prominent and which served to influence student success more. This document and the research as a whole provide fantastic insight into what a strong parental engagement policy looks like. We’ll unpack some of the key points in this post.
The DfE research found that parental engagement was rarely successful when “bolted on” to mainstream activities, and that the best results were achieved when a “whole school approach” was taken. This means incorporating parental engagement into all operations and activities, and instilling a school-wide responsibility for driving it. Your parental engagement policy should therefore slot neatly into your school strategy, echo the same goals and be measured by the same outcomes. It’s about the wider picture – you don’t just want to increase the number of messages being sent out to parents, or drive more attendance to parents evenings or school events – you want to improve the child’s learning experience through this activity.
Engage your staff
Having a great strategy and the right tools (which we’ll get to shortly) in place is all very well good – but who’s going to drive this parental engagement activity? The DfE guide states that “School staff should receive parental engagement training through initial teacher training or continuing professional development.” This should include all staff – from the SLT, through teaching staff, and to the admin and support staff. You should ensure that all staff members understand the value of parental engagement, the strategy you’re driving, and their responsibility to deliver it. They should also be given any necessary functional training on relevant tools used to facilitate parental engagement. Once they are comfortable with the strategy and the tools they are using to deliver it, you can really start to drive whole-school approach to engagement.
Funnily enough, input from parents is vital to great parental engagement. You should ensure that your policy “accords with the interpretations and values of the parents they are aimed at” – meaning you have considered the needs and preferences of the parents, and tailored engagement accordingly. Great parental engagement is about having an open mindset, and inviting feedback where possible. Learn from your community and what they want from you, and you’ll get true meaningful communication. Considering the needs of the parents can lead to some interesting conversations about which tools and channels to use – where and how do parents choose to communicate? Do they feel they can respond to communication, and if so, will they be heard? That leads us nicely on to selecting the right technology to drive your strategy.
Picking the right tools
We always tell our customers that simply deploying an app won’t solve all your problems – but selecting the right technology to support your parental engagement policy is key. If the goal is more meaningful, two-way communication – do you currently have the systems and tools in place to support this? As it stands, many schools use a combination of mass text messaging and perhaps their website to facilitate communication with parents – a better approach would probably be investing in a dedicated communication app which can bring all of this together, enabling two-way messaging and more meaningful engagement. Getting your parental engagement policy in place first will help you identify a need for this type of technology, and help you go out into the market more quickly with your requirements.
Start with the strategy
The above is the foundation you need on which to build a strong parental engagement policy. The key thing to remember is that it’s not just about the what, or the how, it’s about the why. You’ll get most value out of parental engagement activities if everyone is working to the same common goal and strategy. Weduc are passionate about helping our customers not just use our technology, but get the most out of it with a great strategy. If you would like to find out more, get in touch.