What parents want from schools during closures
School closures see us all adapting to change; students are adjusting to their home/school environment, parents are accommodating lesson plans in their new-found role as teachers and staff are adapting to teaching from a distance, sometimes from empty classrooms and often from home.
These are strange and surreal times. In all cases, we’re feeling a little uncertain. Parents struggling to balance work and full-time child-care need as much help from their school as possible – but what do they want to know and how can you help them?
We set about finding the answer to the one question playing on many schools’ minds today: how can we support parents during closures? Here’s what families want from you...
Keep it simple
Now more than ever, the focus should be on making learning fun and keeping stress-levels low. While parents are grateful for the resources and at-home learning packs your school is providing, they also appreciate clarity.
Set clear expectations as to whether work is optional or mandatory, how long to spend on each activity and what learning outcomes should be. Providing heaps of documents and worksheets is all well and good, but if lesson plans aren’t clearly laid out, parents will struggle – which means pupils will, too.
When it comes to home-learning, less is more. Emphasise to parents that, while education is important, it’s okay for children to explore new hobbies, arts, crafts, music and reading. Make the most of this opportunity to encourage new ways of learning. Above all else, highlight the good things about this new ‘normal’, for everyone involved.
Paper, print and internet access
One overwhelming theme from our parent survey was the expectation to print resources. The costs of printing five+ worksheets a day, per child, can quickly mount up and many families don’t have access to a printer at all.
Try to reduce paper-reliant lessons as far as possible. Online learning platforms are more popular than ever, with many websites expanding their resources as a direct result of school closures.
For those families who don’t have internet access, alternative arrangements must be made to ensure students don’t miss out. Daily phone calls and video chats via mobile phones, where possible, can help to bridge this gap. While it hasn’t been possible for all schools, many have been able to post worksheets to families who need them.
Be adaptable in your methods of communication. If you’re unsure of what to share with parents, ask them; run a survey on Facebook, utilise your Online Forms platform or turn to SurveyMonkey. If you have a parent committee, ask them to do the leg work for you and report back.
Ensure the channels you’re utilising are effective and accessible and, if they’re not working for you, make some changes. Your weekly newsletter may have done the trick prior to closures, but it’s unlikely to suffice on its own now. If you’re a tech-phobe, make the most of the knowledge on your staff team and student and parent communities; now is the time to embrace change! Who knows, you might find something that works for you, even after schools reopen.
Communication - and lots of it
Now more than ever, teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t allow parents and students to feel abandoned during closures. Stay in touch and provide regular updates on what your team are up to. Even if you don’t have much to say, many families will be appreciative of a simple ‘hello’.
Keep smiles on student’s faces by running video webinars and assemblies via Zoom or Skype. Many children will miss seeing their friends (and even teachers, though they may not admit it) during lockdown; it’s vital to keep spirits high and bridge the remote-learning gap.
Social media is the unsung hero of both school and business closures today, so make the most of yours. Reawaken your dormant Twitter account and encourage parents to follow you for updates. Many schools have separate accounts for different year groups and classes. Now’s the time to set up your own – but don’t forget to invite parents to follow!
It’s up to schools to keep channels of communication open with families right now. Parents need all the support they can get, so stay in touch and encourage families to do the same.
What’s worked for your school over these past weeks of closures? We want to hear from you! Send us a message on Twitter (@ParentMail) to share your experiences so far.
ParentMail is here to bring a little uncertainty to schools during these most uncertain times. Whether you’re gathering feedback from parents or sharing learning resources, we can help you. Let’s get started.