Like many schools, the majority of our geography department interventions occur in Year 11 with all hands on deck to ensure target grades are met and significant progress has been made (and can be shown!). As part of my role as Head of Department, I am seeking ways to try to avoid this mad rush by intervening and dealing with the issues earlier.
One particular problem for our current Year 10 cohort is low parental engagement, as evidenced by a very low attendance percentage at the latest parents evening. As part of a plan to increase this, the geography department ran a pilot of a ‘Parent Book Review’ sticker for Year 10 students and their parents. The idea was simple: having marked their books, the students were sent home with the sticker and their homework task for that evening was to get their book looked at and signed. In order to facilitate this, the sticker has space for the parents to make comments and then sign to confirm they had reviewed the book.
I have to admit that prior to running the pilot I was sceptical about the idea. Although I’m always on the look out for new and creative ideas, I’m not one for a gimmick that has limited affect or adds novelty without impact. Similarly, the initial reaction from the students was mixed. Some felt concerned that their parents would have to look through their books and see the countless comments of late / missing homework but many were excited to show off their hard work towards their GCSE Geography course. In fact (and pleasingly) it was many of the boys who have made a significant improvement in presentation and effort this year who were most excited about the idea.
When the stickers were returned, the response was excellent and better than I had expected. All but three students had taken their books home and completed the task. These students were given another couple of days to complete it and did so willingly. As is evident from the photos, many parents engaged fantastically well and wrote detailed comments – clearly reflecting a genuine discussion with their child about their geography studies. Some of the comments focused on the presentation, others on the amount of classwork and homework being completed, but it was so pleasing to see evidence of the conversations that had gone on as a result of the project.
I was therefore proved wrong and this pilot scheme with Year 10s has worked better than I imagined and we will certainly be repeating it next term! The impact was evident and the positive comments from their parents have motivated the students to improve ahead of the next review or maintain their excellent efforts.
I highly recommend giving it a go as the highlight was seeing how proud the students were to have their efforts recognized at home. Let me know how it works for you!
Kate Stockings completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She joined Roding Valley High School as an NQT in September 2015 and took over as Head of Department in June 2016. Follow Kate on Twitter.