Thorney Close Primary, Sunderland: Engaging parents and carers
Thorney Close primary school has 263 pupils on roll, with a higher than average proportion of pupils on SEN Support (16%) and also those eligible for FSM in the last six years (46%). It was rated good at its last Ofsted inspection in 2018.
Two target groups of 11 pupils were identified within Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Of these pupils, 73% were entitled to Pupil Premium and 32% were on SEN Support. The need to engage parents in supporting their children’s learning was a key factor.
The school already worked hard to get parents to attend events such as summer parties or school productions, but when the focus was on learning, they were less successful. A core of parents did not turn up for parents’ evenings.
The school introduced structured conversations through their work with Achievement for All. The school focused the meetings on how well the child was doing and what the parents’ hopes were for their children. They identified a need for greater flexibility in offering times for appointments. A personal invitation from the class teacher was followed by phone calls, and catching them in the playground to arrange an appointment that would suit the family. In one case, a teacher had to make five different appointments with the parents before eventually succeeding in getting them there. The longer meeting time of at least twenty minutes meant that parents and carers felt their viewpoint was valued.
It became clear that children needed more support to understand what they had to do to move forward in their learning. Parents and carers were involved in short-term targets, and the school developed a visual tool using RAG ratings to demonstrate measures such as attendance, punctuality and progress by subject to show how much progress their child was making. Although parents and carers valued their child’s happiness and confidence, academic attainment was a low priority. The SLT decided to raise the profile of attainment and launched the ‘We Are Proud’ celebration.
Using iPads, teachers captured the successes of each child, what they could do now that they couldn’t do before, from reading to running, and brought it together as a film. The children worked together to design a personal invitation to every parent, and other family members were encouraged to attend. Parents received a text, a phone call and a mention on the Thorney Close App (designed by the school as a communication tool via mobile technology) and in the school newsletter, The Thorney Times. The film was shown with popcorn and drinks, and parents, teachers and children talked together about their progress.
Parental engagement increased from 58% to 92% across three terms for the KS1 group and from 64% to 100% for the KS2 group; over 90% of parents and carers attended the We Are Proud celebration. The children are growing in confidence and some of the initiatives are used with other pupils across the school. Many teachers have adopted the ‘celebration’ initiative, capturing successes in photos on the walls of the classrooms and in home-school reports.
(Source: Achievement for All)
Implementing it in your classroom/ school
- Be flexible in meeting times for parents and carers. It is vital to work with them to agree on times.
- Parents and carers need help in understanding education terminology—present information in a format they can engage with.
- Develop and build on successful ways to communicate with parents and carers—in a way with which you are also familiar.
- Take time to reflect on improved practice and celebrate it with the school community.
Reflect on practice
- How do you currently engage/ involve parents and carers in their child’s learning?
- How could you better engage parents and carers in their child’s learning?