Parents’ residentials and focus group

The Willows

School context

This school is smaller than other primary schools nationally. The percentage of pupils starting and leaving the school at other than the usual time is higher than in most schools The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for the pupil premium, additional funding for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals, looked after children and those with a parent in the armed forces, is much higher than in most schools.

What was the need?

  • Parents wanted to know what their children were experiencing at Ghyll Head
  • The school needed to consult with parents about the School Improvement Plan
  • The school wanted to build stronger relationships with parents.

Overall aims of the work

  • To give parents an insight into what their children were experiencing at Ghyll Head and to build their confidence and self esteem
  • To build stronger relationships between staff and parents and between parents and other parents in an informal setting
  • To get more parents involved in a focus group and to consult with parents about the SIP

What we did and how

  • Three residentials were held at Ghyll Head Centre in the Lake District in 2012 and 2013 with approx. 15 parents from the Willows attending each one. The second one was run jointly with Haveley Hey School to support the integration of the two schools as they are now federated.
  • Some parents were invited because it was felt they could particularly benefit from the experience, other participants included a parent governor, a deputy head, the TA leader and the Family Support Worker.
  • They travelled there on the train ( so that parents could repeat the experience) and stayed for 2 nights : activities included canoeing, caving, ghyll scrambling, and a zip wire and the activities were both personally challenging and encouraged team work
  • During the residential the parents discussed the School Improvement Plan
  • On the return to school many of the parents became involved in the Willows Parents Focus group which now has 22 members
  • This meets termly and members get involved in a range of activities. These include:
    • volunteering in the school – some are involved in gardening – others have agreed to become reading buddies
    • being consulted about school policies such as the behaviour policy
    • giving other parents tours of the school
    • helping to organise a coffee morning for parents where children are being given ‘extra help’ so that they know what support they are getting and how they can support them
  • A large display has been made to publicise the work of the focus group

What were the outcomes for children, parents/families and the school?

  • 45 parents from the Willows have been on the residentials, 22 are involved in the focus group;
  • 12 parents have agreed to become reading buddies at the school;
  • Parents have been consulted and contributed a range of ideas for further improving and developing the school;
  • Parents have made the attendance and behaviour policies more parent friendly;
  • Parents who were isolated made strong friendships which have been sustained after the residential.
Other parents’ comments included:
“It was great to meet other parents and work as a team.” “I think this a great idea to get going in many schools across Manchester. If I was given the chance again I would be the first with my bag packed.”

Overcoming challenges

  • Parents’ lack of confidence
  • Some parents were worried about doing outdoor activities… some of the larger women thought they wouldn’t be able to fit in the canoe but with lots of reassurance and encouragement they did take part and absolutely loved it!

Our next steps

  • To repeat the residential using a structured questionnaire for the parents
  • To organise a visit to London or possibly abroad

Our top tips

  • To break down barriers staff need to be informal, friendly and themselves
  • Keep asking what parents want and let them make choices where possible
  • Build a strong group feeling and sense of belonging
  • Do a range of activities in a focus group to suit different parents

Resources/staff time needed

The residential cost £120 per person for the accommodation, activities and transport: half was paid by the parents and half by the school.