Happy parents make happy children, and happy children arrive at school as persistent, engaged and reflective learners. So for a teacher to teach well, engaging with parents and carers is as important as engaging with each child.
We all know that engaging with parents and carers is often a challenge for schools – what is it about the school walls that create more than just a physical barrier between the classroom and the home?
In our design phase at EasyPeasy, we spoke to over 200 families to find out more about this barrier, and to really understand the lives, challenges and needs of real parents. Overwhelmingly, the message that stood out the most was that parents want the very best for their children, and do their very best for their children. Although an obvious thing to take away, that was important and moving to hear. In addition, we learned that parents and carers:
- are often time poor
- find it hard to make time for play and positive interactions with their children when juggling work, chores and other pressures
- like to be informed about educational content
- relate to other parents and carers
- like talking to other parents
We also spoke to teachers and practitioners through visits to schools, children’s centres and even local authority commissioners and through these extensive conversations, we developed some practical tips to help schools engage parents and carers in their children’s learning:
- Get parents connected with each other
Parents relate best with parents. By creating a social network for them you can make their individual engagement easy.
- Equip parents with what they need to know
Help parents feel in the loop with their child’s education and the school’s journey. Tell them about their child’s positive behaviour and inform them about the curriculum through fun and accessible information.
- Make as many contact points as possible
Set up clear and easy communication channels for parents to contact you.
- Ask parents questions, and then listen to them
Do they prefer text or email? Do they need any extra support, like IT, literacy, homework or CV writing skills? What are their obstacles getting to school on time?
- Make your school inviting
Making a small communal area and investing in a coffee machine will help connect parents and increase contact points. Reception areas can be made more welcoming with plants, music and proud displays of the children’s work.
- Involve all members of the family
Engagement means getting the whole family on board. Perhaps it’s mainly mothers who do the pick-ups, but fathers, siblings and other guardians also make up the home environment.
The school community is a rich melting pot of different backgrounds which enrich children’s cultural awareness and empathy. Make individuals feel seen and heard in the community by celebrating those differences.
Engaging parents and carers is not easy because establishing good rapport doesn’t always happen straight away. One strategy may engage some parents and not others, so the key is to use trial and error, and see what works. It is truly worth the effort, as parent engagement can be transformative and inspiring to the school and community within it.
About the Author
Jane Bradbury is Head of Content at EasyPeasy, creating and quality assuring all EasyPeasy games. She completed her Masters in Psychology of Education at the University of London. She has worked as the parent coach at Kids Company, facilitating therapeutic play groups for parents and toddlers, and as Family Support Officer at Pimlico Academy, providing family therapy for disengaged youngsters. She is a school governor at a Addison Primary School, Hammersmith, where she manages parental engagement and the EYFS.
EasyPeasy is an app for parents of 2- to 6-year-olds that supports learning through playing games at home. The app sends game ideas, presented through film clips of families playing them, and accompanied by messages that give advice and reminders on educational play. Teachers can invite parents to join EasyPeasy remotely, and target those harder to reach and less engaged parents who don’t frequent the school so often. All EasyPeasy content align to EYFS early learning goals, and support teachers and parents to make the links between learning in the classroom with learning at home.