Charities call for greater parental engagement

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Parentline Plus and the Teacher Support Network are calling for stronger partnerships between parents, pupils and teachers to increase parental engagement in schools.

The call follows research by both charities and the launch of the report ‘Beyond the school gate’, which shows that parental engagement in learning is crucial to wellbeing, behaviour, attendance and attainment.

The report shows that:

  • 64 per cent of teachers said they had been subjected to verbal or physical abuse by a parent.
  • 62 per cent of parents said they had been patronised, sidelined or ignored when trying to deal with an issue in their child’s school.
  •  69 per cent of teachers said that ‘specific training for teachers on parent-teacher relations would be effective or ‘very effective’. 80 per cent of teachers felt that their relationship with parents was good or very good.
  • 57 per cent of parents felt that had a positive relationship with their child’s school.
  • Teachers overwhelmingly reported that those parents who do not engage, or with whom there is a bad or difficult relationship, have an enormous impact on their wellbeing and work.
  • Both parents and teachers felt that if a child’s education was suffering as a result of a difficult home life, some form of external support such as a Parent Support Worker would be vital.

Over the last decade there has been an increased awareness of the important role that parents play in the education of their child. At the same time, the role of teachers and schools has evolved, seeing a greater focus on the wellbeing of the child and their family.

Nevertheless the work of Parentline Plus and Teacher Support Network has shown that barriers still exist between teachers and parents and can lead to stress and anxiety on both sides.

The charities surveyed parents and teachers via their respective websites. The results showed that the absence of parental engagement, caused difficulties for the child and teachers involved.

The report demonstrates that poor parental engagement is having an adverse effect on pupil, parent and teacher wellbeing. Many parents said they had felt patronised, sidelined or ignored by their child’s school, and an equally worrying number of teachers said that they had been verbally or physically abused by a pupil’s parent.

Recommendations from the ‘Beyond the school gate’ report include:

  • Every school should consult the whole school community to create a comprehensive Home School Agreement.
  • Every school should have adequate access to a visible parent support worker who is trained to deal with a spectrum of family and emotional issues and whose role and remit is fully understood.
  • Communications must detail how parents can help their child’s education in the home. Teachers must be given adequate time to undertake this work.

Jeremy Todd, Parentline Plus Chief Executive said: “It is clear that parental engagement in the form of supporting learning and reinforcing discipline in the home is key to improving outcomes for children.  We know that barriers that prevent parents from taking on an active role in their child’s learning remain, and we are committed to working collaboratively to help families overcome those barriers.

“Other forms of parental involvement may be beneficial for the school environment but not necessarily improve outcomes and raise standards in the same way.

“Schools should therefore focus efforts and resources to engage parents in supporting their child’s learning beyond the school gates.”

Julian Stanley, Teacher Support Network Chief Executive, said: “This report re-emphasises the need for both parents and teachers to be aware of each others’ needs – particularly the time constraints that workload causes for teachers – and to take measures to enhance the communication skills of both parties, particularly those new to being involved in schools.

“Teachers are still working on average 50 hours a week and workload is a contributory factor to the high levels of stress among teachers, which can ultimately lead to talented individuals leaving the profession.

“Although circumstances vary depending on the type of school, teachers tell us that the tension between a heavy workload and the demands from parents for more time-consuming forms of communications must be eased if engagement is going to improve.

“Schools, families and stakeholders across education must engage with each other and implement greater models of parental involvement for the benefit of the wellbeing of teachers and standards of education.”

School Leadership Today
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