Invisible parents put their child’s education at risk

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Misunderstandings, a lack of confidence and unclear communication channels are putting children’s education at risk, according to a new report by Becta into the parent-teacher relationship.

The report suggests that simple technologies, such as online reporting can support a new, more effective partnership between parents and schools.

The comprehensive study of 2,000 parents and 1,000 teachers across the country revealed over half of parents are in contact with their child’s teacher just once a term or less and for various reasons are taking a back seat in their child’s education.

The findings reveal almost half (48%) of teachers believe that whilst parents are a great source of support, they don’t always know the best ways to get in contact, with over a third (39%) of teaching staff saying they would welcome ways to show parents how they might communicate differently.

Of the parents who admitted they rarely made contact with their child’s teacher, nearly a quarter (22%) said they did not see the benefit for their child. The majority (67%) of school staff said that these parents simply do not realise how important their support is in their child’s development. And 60% said that these parents often feel their job stops at the school gates.

42% of teachers said the reason so-called ‘invisible’ parents have so little contact with the school is that they lack the confidence to discuss their child with teachers - 43% of school staff admit parents might find them ’difficult to approach sometimes.’ One in five (19%) parents are worried about bothering teachers and more than a fifth (22%) say they don’t want to add to the teacher’s workload, resulting in many taking a back seat in their child’s education.

More than one in ten (11%) of the parents who do initiate communication said they felt dismissed by teachers as an ‘overly demanding’ parent and a further 11% commented they often feel they are imposing on the teacher’s time. More than a third (36%) of school staff encounter parents who want ‘constant reassurance’ and others (19%) who try to ‘influence everything that goes on in the classroom.’

89% of parents say technology could help them become better informed about their child’s education so that they can then have more focused face-to-face discussions with teachers. However, despite all schools having electronic communication tools, just 46% of parents say their schools communicate with them in this way.  

More than half (54%) of teachers believe the relationship they have with different parents varies, but that there is a need for better communication channels between parents and teachers to generate open and honest discussions to help children progress - whilst managing the impact on a teacher’s workload to ensure the most efficient use of time.

Niel McLean, Executive Director of Becta, said: “Parental engagement is vital to a child’s learning and known to help raise attainment. To do this effectively, there needs to be a meaningful dialogue between parent and school, keeping the parent informed and updated. Online reporting and text alerts can create ‘virtual classrooms’ and can support a new, more effective partnership between parents and schools. Schools need to ensure that they are able to deliver these to the benefit of parents, teachers and students”

Campaign supporter and TV presenter, Emma Forbes said; “As a parent, I can sympathise with the challenge schools have to encourage parents to become more involved in their child’s education. It’s all too easy to think when you drop your child at the school gates that your responsibility ends there. Introducing tools like online reporting is so important as it provides parents with a simple and convenient way of keeping track of their child’s work, curriculum and homework assignments, without always having to contact their teachers directly.”

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