Taking back the reigns
by Andrew Sharp – Headteacher at Pear Tree Junior School in Derby
Children across the UK have been at home with their parents for almost half of 2020. The challenge for schools now with children back in the classroom is re-engaging parents. Some schools only manage to engage with a third of parents, so how can schools re-engage parents post lockdown?
It’s really challenging in schools at the moment. At a time when we need to be engaging with parents, we can’t send newsletters, notices and even reward stickers. There is a danger that at a time when we’ve never needed parental engagement more, it could fall flat. EdTech has a crucial role to play, to help re-engage parents in a meaningful way. Parents must trust the school where they send their children, but at the moment they are naturally worried about welfare post-COVID, so it’s important to get parental engagement right.
Small changes for significant impact
Today, it’s about looking at how parents communicate daily and tapping into that. Most parents would like to have access to information about their child’s education at their fingertips. With parents juggling work and home life, and only so many hours in the day, sometimes a simple reminder about a PR kit to their mobile phone can make life a lot easier. With COVID, access to school teachers and the school office are limited, face-to-face meetings are impossible. But, using technology in the right wat can transform how parents are kept in the loop, maintaining the vital parent/teacher relationships. With 98% of adults with a school-aged child having 24/7 access to a smartphone or tablet, it makes sense to communicate this way with parents, keeping them informed about their child’s education and progress.
Engaging with parents during the pandemic
Through embracing edTech, teachers can deliver, in these strange times, an education which provides an engaging experience that meets the needs of every pupil, as well as their parents. It can help us overcome the obstacles, such as looking at parents evenings. How can we provide parent consultations online, for example? Daily updates and reassurance for parents are also critical at this time, as well as boosting pupil morale. In our school, we put communication in the hands of teachers, and we’ve given them the tool MarvellousMe to send reminders and positive parental engagement, such their child worked hard in maths. We also use this to communicate and reinforce our school values, with our unique badges. In a time when we cannot deliver physical badges or certificates, we can email these home to parents who create a positive discussion around their child’s education at home and allow parents to play a more active role in their child’s learning development.
Not wasting the crisis
There’s also the other side of the coin. For many parents, having their child and supporting remote learning means that they had been highly engaged with the school. It’s essential with those parents to keep that momentum going and continue to work at keeping them engaged today and in the future by making it easy to do so. For example, during the lockdown, our pupils were showing parents how they were learning on Times Table Rockstars (@ttrockstars) and Google Classroom (@GoogleforEdu). There’s never been a more critical time to maintain and build on these levels of engagement by finding technology which is easy and straightforward to use, quick to pick up and run with, but delivers high engagement with parents.
Twitter’s Top tips
We asked influencers on Twitter to give us their top tips for parental engagement, they said:
- Claire Lotriet (@OhLottie) Go where the parents are, share important info alongside the lovely sparkly stuff too.
- Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) Parental engagement starts with parental involvement. Involve them in school life through sharing information.
- Andrew Sharp (@AJSharp77) The school culture and ethos should be unashamed of partnership. Schools need parents and parents need schools.
- Claire Lotriet (@OhLottie): Parent surveys. Get feedback; engage in a real, timely, more informal way.
Technology should never replace face to face engagement, but in the current climate with the help of technology parental engagement and communication is now able to take place beyond the confines of the classroom walls or the playground. Technology helps in building positive partnerships with parents and a mOre collaborative approach to education, which will lead to something we all strive for, better outcomes for our pupils.
Andrew Sharp is Headteacher at Pear Tree Junior School in Derby where they are using @MarvellousMeApp to transform parental engagement.