What’s working for schools now.
In this series of blog posts, we have been looking at why parental engagement is more important than ever. For this post, we’ve been talking to our partner primary schools to find out more about how they’ve been successfully engaging parents, caregivers, and families in these truly difficult times. This is what they told us… Members of staff have been meeting and greeting parents and caregivers outside at the start and end of the day – socially distanced of course. A clipboard is helpful so important information can be collected and shared appropriately. Short regular chunks of information made available in a variety of formats is easier for families to digest than one long newsletter at the beginning of term. Reliance on digital communication has highlighted the fact that some families are just not able to receive information in this way. Regular welfare phone calls and/or doorstep visits are crucial to check that all is well and to ensure that families are fully informed. Several of our inner-city schools are working creatively with local community groups. Some small grassroots and community organisations have been in a better position to adapt and change throughout the pandemic and have been extremely creative, diversifying in some very exciting ways… For example, local food banks have been working with schools to help inform and distribute essential kit to support families who are self-isolating so that the children have access to pens, paper etc. In our experience, people are always keen to work with schools and would welcome ways in which you could work together. Don’t forget statutory services: Health, Dentist, Council, Social Services – what is their dialogue with parents? Notice boards and posters displayed outside on the school railings, eye-catching, and changed regularly so that they are safe and easily accessible to parents. At the start of the school year, one school strung up some welcome balloons on the gates to welcome new families to the school as the usual welcome activities were not possible. Primary schools have been very creative in using school apps and social media to share the children’s learning during the day and then setting family challenges to extend the learning from the classroom to home. This has been particularly successful when parents and caregivers are invited to send little videos/photographs or text messages back to share with their child’s teacher. It affirms and values the learning done at home and gives everybody the opportunity to talk about learning! Workshops for parents do not need to stop! A number of our project schools have run workshops for parents, and they suggest the following tips:
- Small groups are invited into a virtual or on-site meeting.
- Learning activities are modelled by staff. If you’re doing this live have someone to manage the chat. Mute everyone and use the ‘hand-up’ function for questions. Have a keyword for anyone struggling to follow (e.g., #ASK) and follow this up with a phone call if needed. Set your ground rules beforehand in an email, and at the start and end of the delivery.
- Regular workshops/drop-ins for parents, even virtual, will mean parents know when and where they can reach you.
- To support this work further set up a school YouTube channel where staff can share videos that model to families how to share and read stories and play games together or extend the activities/topics delivered in the classroom. Keep the videos short and sweet.