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Parental involvement in school: why it's good
Good parent-school partnerships are one of the best ways to support children's learning, development and wellbeing. And these partnerships have benefits for you as an educator and for parents too.
Children whose parents are involved in school:
- perform better at school
- settle better into school programs
- feel valued and important because their parents are taking an interest in their lives
- develop positive social skills by watching parents and school staff interact respectfully
- experience better social, physical and emotional wellbeing.
When parents are involved in school, staff:
- have higher job satisfaction
- experience less stress
- can better tailor their approaches to learning and teaching because they have more insight into children's needs
- benefit indirectly from parent help in classrooms, sports days and libraries, or from parent participation in school committees and so on.
Parents who are involved at school:
- can share their child's strengths and interests with staff and suggest learning opportunities to build on these
- feel empowered to raise concerns and negotiate solutions with staff
- experience less stress, because they know they can work with staff on concerns about their child's learning or development.
Parents are members of the community too. Through parental involvement, the school gets to know the community better. This means the school is more likely to offer services that are relevant to the community and that improve community wellbeing.Building a partnership with parents is important not just in schools but in child care services too. If you're a child care educator, you can use many of the suggestions in this article to build beneficial partnerships with the parents you work with.
Schools: getting to know parents and families
For teachers and other school professionals working with parents, getting to know families is key to promoting parental involvement and developing partnerships. The best way to get to know parents is by sharing information about the school, and asking for information about families.
When you're sharing information about the school, it's always good to tell parents about what your school does and why.
For example, you might have a school handbook or prospectus that outlines your school's values and philosophy. The handbook might also include all the practical information parents need when they're sending children to your school, like uniforms, bell times, policies, procedures and so on. You might want to make this information available on a school website too.
A good initial message to parents is that the teachers respect children as individuals and are interested in them. You can say this explicitly, but you can also send this message by asking for information about children and families.
For example, before children start at your school, you might ask parents questions like the following:
- What are you and your child hoping to get from the school?
- How do you like to be kept informed about the school?
- What kind of information do you need to help us to support you?
- In what ways do you think you might like to be involved in the school?
- Does your child have any additional learning or other needs?
- Does your family have any special circumstances or support needs?
When you get this kind of information, you can better understand the everyday lives of the families at your school. And getting to know families better can help you think of ways to involve parents, based on their availability and their interests. For example, learning that a parent works for the fire service might be a great opportunity to get firefighters to visit the school.
Classroom teachers: establishing partnerships
For classroom teachers, a welcome or greeting is a great way to help new students and their parents feel included and get a partnership going. This greeting could be a note or email.
You could use your greeting to give a short summary of your philosophy and teaching practices. Remember that parents aren't teaching experts, so avoid professional jargon and use plain English that everyone can understand.
The greeting can also be a chance for you to set out classroom policies, like what the school does to encourage good behaviour and handle disruptive behaviour.
And if you send a welcome greeting, you can also take the opportunity to learn more from parents, perhaps by including a short questionnaire about how they think their child is going.
It's always good to let parents know how they can reach you - for example, in informal conversations before and after school, by email, or by phone. You might also want to invite all parents to a class meeting in the first week or two.
Keeping in regular touch with parents
After you've settled into class with your students, parents will appreciate regular updates on what's happening.
The more you can tell parents about what's happening in the classroom and playground, the better your partnership will be. And when you have regular contact about everyday classroom activities and experiences, it makes it easier to talk with parents if there's ever a problem.
There are a few ways you can keep in regular touch with parents.
You could choose one parent per day and speak to them either on the phone or in person, before or after class. And you could try sending home 'good news' messages about all students' behaviour and progress.
A weekly print or electronic newsletter is also a good idea. Some teachers use apps, websites or emails for weekly news. Whichever option you choose, you can use it to:
- let parents know what has been happening
- tell them about upcoming events
- invite parents to help in the classroom
- recognise any help from parents.
Try to make sure that your weekly update is accessible for parents from low-literacy backgrounds or who speak languages other than English.
And remember that parents usually like to hear positive things about their children. So it's great to highlight children's positive achievements, attitudes or behaviour.Learning isn't limited to the classroom. Encouraging parents to continue children's learning at home can enhance education. You can do this by updating parents on children's learning and suggesting what they can do at home. For example, 'We practised fractions in class today. Your children could show you the fractions they learned by adding up slices of apple'.
How to tell if a partnership is working
If parents are really involved in their children's lives at school, they'll be more willing to share information, ask questions, make requests, voice concerns and give constructive feedback.
Parents and teachers can keep their partnership strong by having ongoing informal conversations about children and sharing daily achievements and experiences.