What we did, and why
As a school we decided to initially look at Indicator A1.5 – "Staff and parents/carers collaborate". We began looking at this in January 2011, mainly because we had already begun work in this area in September 2010, with the introduction of Parents’ Forums. At the first Forum, parents expressed some high feelings of dissatisfaction with how the school communicated and dealt with them – a questionnaire at the session showed that 41% of those that attended the Forum wished to see improvements.
In order to improve parental perceptions we decided to change the format of many of our interactions with them. We have now started to move away from the traditional style of information evenings, where the School Leadership Team (SLT) stand on the stage, behind a lectern, reading from notes that use often impenetrable language. The Forums are also run in a similar way, and parents are entitled to request agenda items. At the risk of sounding rather cynical, we have become more "open" and "honest" in our dealings with parents, and have been happy to hold our hands up when things have not gone well. At the last Forum, 87% of parents claimed that they felt far more positively engaged with the school.
In order to increase parental engagement in a positive way, which is focused on learning as opposed to behaviour, we have introduced sessions for the parents of new Year 7 students, where they come to school in the evening and are taught a lesson exactly as their child would be. After the sessions (attended by approximately 45% of parents of Year 7 students) 100% of parents were really pleased and enthused. They have also requested other opportunities for parents of Year 7 students to meet and chat, and we are looking at how the PTA could support this.
Apart from the statistical information given above, there has also been a huge attitudinal impact. Parents have written in to the school to say how they have really noticed a difference in our dealings with them, and how they are now no longer so intimidated by coming in to the school. In fact, they now feel that coming in to school is actually a positive experience, as opposed to only really being invited in to talk about problems.
Parents are keen to build on this solid foundation, and are coming up with new ideas of how to increase respect and collaboration. The Parent Teacher Association is looking at changing its remit to be a parental engagement tool, with a fund raising arm. As a member of the SLT, I feel more confident and comfortable in my dealings with parents. Attendance at Parents’ Evenings has increased by 9% on 2009-10. Most of all, however, the school is starting to feel less like an institution and more like a community resource.
I could not keep it to one, so I have had to list two!
- Anytime your school starts a new initiative, grab the Index – there will invariably be links.
- Always start your project with baseline data, of whatever kind, so that you can measure impact.
27 October 2011