The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Improve your accountability through positive parental engagement

For Multi Academy Trusts, the matter of accountability and transparency remains a growing concern with parents calling for greater clarity on decision-making processes and lines of responsibility.

In 2018, Parentkind research found that nearly nine out of 10 parents want to play an active role in their child’s education, with six in 10 wanting a say in their child’s education at Trust level. The study also found that parents whose children attended Trust schools, were also significantly more likely to want to be consulted on the curriculum, school behaviour and exclusion policies.

There is no denying that when parents are involved in their child’s learning, that child does better emotionally, behaviourally and academically, but the contribution that can be made by mums and dads to our children’s education is often underestimated.

Ruth Lowe

Indeed, the importance of parental engagement is a key element in a school’s community leadership practice, as highlighted in the latest version of the Governance Handbook (published in March 2019). Although not a requirement in Trusts, the existence of Parent Councils or representative parent bodies is encouraged. Moreover, establishing either formal or less formal structures within schools that enable engagement with parents, becomes even more important in the context of some of the recent education reforms. For example, the new curriculum for RSE, which requires parents to be fully informed of what is being covered, while giving them the option of withdrawing their child from the lessons up to the age of 15.

Though it may seem surprising, England is somewhat behind the curve when it comes to parental participation. Our close neighbours in Scotland already have enshrined in law the requirement to have a representative parent body in their schools, while the Republic of Ireland’s National Parent Council was initiated by the Minister for Education as far back as 1985. So how can schools and Trusts respond to this growing pressure for better parental engagement?

At Parentkind we have gathered our own insights as well as collective knowledge and experience across the sector and produced a ‘Blueprint’ for parent-friendly schools – effectively providing school leaders with a framework for positive parental engagement. Currently in its consultation phase, the Blueprint will help schools to develop strategies and easy-to-implement structures that support improvement plans through consultation with and feedback from parents.

The Parentkind Blueprint is a positive step in bridging the gap and supporting schools on their parental engagement journeys. It is the culmination of many months of research and dialogue with experts in education and guides schools on how to encourage all parents to play a positive and active role in their child’s learning.

Five core elements underpin the evidence-based framework and focus on:

  1. Leadership, ethos and resources, looking at senior leaders in schools, alongside the structures that are in place to enable parental participation;
  2. Effective two-way communication, encompassing all forms of face-to-face, verbal and written communication with families;
  3. Parents supporting learning, reviewing how schools encourage parents to help their child’s learning inside and outside of the classroom;
  4. Parent involvement in school life, assessing the extent to which mums and dads play a role in school life, including decision-making and strategy; and
  5. Community engagement, relating to how schools work with organisations and individuals in their communities to draw on specialist knowledge, skills and resources in mutually beneficial ways to support parental participation, as well as, parents and children’s educational, social, health and wellbeing needs more broadly.

Through the consultation which is now live, Parentkind will gather feedback from school leaders, teachers, parents and education policy makers so that a final Blueprint can be produced which not only contains the very best current evidence on parental engagement but also ensures the framework is workable in practice, by those who will be adopting it.

There is no denying that when parents are involved in their child’s learning, that child does better emotionally, behaviourally and academically, but the contribution that can be made by mums and dads to our children’s education is often underestimated. So how can we support Trusts to be more parent-friendly, giving parents a voice beyond school level?

Through the Blueprint, Parentkind wants to support schools to develop processes giving parents the opportunities to get involved in a way that works for them and with the ultimate aim of making parent-friendly schools a reality right across the UK. We want to hear from you, as Trust leaders, so that an effective framework can be established to deliver positive parental engagement in your family of schools.

To find out more about Parentkind’s consultation on the ‘Blueprint for parent-friendly schools’ (closing on 31st August 2019) visit www.parentkind.org.uk/Blueprint.