Parent engagement: how to give every parent a voice  

By Tom Kershaw | 28th March 2022 | 4 min read

Parent engagement has a large and positive impact on student learning regardless of social class or ethnicity, and according to the Education Endowment Foundation, this engagement can accelerate progress by an average of four months.  

Yet, in a recent speech by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, at the 2022 Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Conference, she said, “the disruption we’ve seen over the last two years has fractured the social contract around education.”   

Schools, MATs and colleges are faced with new challenges such as restoring confidence, reducing anxiety, and re-establishing standards. Amanda suggested that “wellbeing flows from normality and certainty, and the reassurance to be found in good education and the wider school experience.”  

To re-establish this social contract, parents and carers need to be fully engaged and involved in student learning.  

What are the barriers to engagement?   

There are many barriers to parent engagement. The obvious and tangible barriers are time, money and logistics, but there are also intangible barriers such as lacking confidence, feeling intimidated, and being overwhelmed.  

But there is another barrier to consider entirely, and that is over-engagement.   

Some parents are naturally more confident and engaged and can unwittingly direct and dominate senior leadership teams and communications. Forums and Q&A sessions are also often time-limited and not every parent or carer will get an opportunity to speak like the confident parents, or better yet even be able to attend. Consequently, parental feedback is not always representative, and some parents may not get the attention they need.  

How can schools break down engagement barriers?  

A standardised platform for your communications will simplify the entire process, encouraging and enabling all parents to take an active role in their children’s learning journeys – one login, no faffing between systems, no lost letters.   

Just regular and consistent updates on their child's progress, all in one easy to manage place.   

It is also a fair system that tempers the ability for specific parents to dominate the conversation. An engagement app allows all parents to speak up and gives everyone the equal opportunity to do so.   

Adding to this, parents and carers who feel informed and feel they have the right information are more likely to engage, helping to ensure that a broader range of students’ needs are met.   

Another positive of embedding and using parental communication software is that schools will be able to view data on who is engaging versus who is not, and this can be correlated with the performance and behaviour presented in school.   

Harnessing the power of this data means more tailored support can then be provided in the classroom at a much faster rate and is a proactive, not a reactive response.   

Using communication software to create continuous, long-term engagement  

Parental communication software further breaks down barriers with two-way communication, auto-translation functions, and the ability to host micro-sites.  

Two-way communication  

Two-way written communication in a specialised communications platform, as opposed to email, will allow for better management and record-keeping. Linking to a school's MIS removes barriers associated with looking up email addresses and teachers can message groups of parents immediately as they spot issues from student data.   

All communication with a parent from different members of staff can be stored in a single location, and when it comes to freedom of information requests or other investigations that can pull admin staff away for weeks at a time, communication software safeguards schools from the painstaking task of managing these requests.   

Naturally, from a parental point of view, this provides an effective and effortless way to communicate at their own discretion outside of school hours, affording them the opportunity to be better engaged.   

Auto-translation functions 

We also live in a multicultural society, where parents and carers’ may not be native English speakers. This limits the depth and potentially the understanding of communications, which in turn affects parent engagement. It also makes it harder for a teacher to communicate effectively in response. Having an app that auto translates both ways can immediately resolve this issue.  

Hosting micro-sites   

On top of this, because of Covid, there has been a long-term change in behaviour and an increase towards self-serving and remote interactions. Utilising an application that incorporates micro-sites as a feature allows parents and carers to self-serve. This will also drive parents and carers to the app, as resources and more information can all be found in one place.   

By making communications meaningful and learning what parents and carers use and like, you will enable continuous engagement throughout the whole student life and the risk of engagement trailing off will decrease.   

Conclusion   

EdTech can bridge the gap between school and home with enhanced parent engagement tools. Through this collaboration, schools and parents can improve the wellbeing and educational outcomes of students and re-establish the fractured social contract in education.   

IRIS Education can help your school   

Click here for more information.