Parental Engagement Pointers from our Twitter Chat with Dr Janet Goodall 12 March 2019

Transcript of our Twitter Chat with Dr Janet Goodall 12 March 2019

To start the chat off, Dr Janet Goodall (JG) asked for examples of good practice for parental engagement from participants. Participants then generously shared their ideas and experiences (these are cited as Comments, Parental Engagement Suggestion or Questions) and Dr Goodall responded.

Comment: @LearningLinkSCO has nearly completed a two year Home School Links project and will be able to share adult and family learning approaches which have worked well to engage parents, schools and third sector partnerships.

Janet Goodall: I'd like to know more about this!  Let's talk sometime.

Comment: Absolutely.  Several partners involved and @LearningLinkSCO is the lead partner, funded by @corrascot

Parental Engagement Suggestion: Tea and talk - questions on table cloths to provoke thinking and discussion, pens available to write thoughts and ideas.

Question: Many publications do focus on parental engagement in primary settings. Rightly, the earlier we get it right the better. However, it’s evident that parental engagement needs to continue to secondary. Is there evidence to suggest why more is done with primary?

JG: A bit of evidence - one is simply access, more parents come to primary schools more often; one is size -primaries tend to be smaller and less daunting; another is relationships - one teacher vs many teachers... Lots of reasons...

Comment: I would very much appreciate if you have any link to this research. I would really like to find out more about barriers to parental engagement in secondary and strategies I and my school could use to overcome these. Secondary parents need empowering too!

JG: I talk a bit about it in here - mainly this will be useful for pointers to other work, I think! [1]

Comment: As children get older, parents may take on more full time work hence less time to get involved at secondary stage.

Parental Engagement Suggestion: Holding an 'essential guide to secondary school' to inform parents and families what happens during the school day and explain 'school language' eg BGE, National Qualifications etc.

JG: Even better if last year's parents can contribute?  We found in previous research that was very much appreciated by incoming parents!

Parental Engagement Suggestion: Ask parents to nominate a free learning activity they enjoy with their kids and each week pick one for other parents to try?

JG: Yes, sounds great - parents sharing their ideas with each other and shows valuing of home learning!

Parental Engagement Suggestion: I’ve seen an excellent STEM example of parental engagement. A school provided a ‘kitchen science’ kit for parents to do science at home. Parents feeling empowered to be involved and enthusing youngsters to be more engaged in STEM.

JG: Excellent idea!  I was talking recently to a Head who was also opening the kitchen - the children had had lessons on making healthy food and wanted their parents to learn, as well.

Parental Engagement Suggestion: Targeted family learning events for hard to engage parents in a more casual and friendly atmosphere. Taking the fear out of the 'Big School'.

JG: Agreed - particularly for parents with previous uncomfortable experiences of schools - I keep saying you're trying to mend bridges broken long in the past!  One reason we suggest meeting outside of school if possible...

Note added later: Research shows that parents who are labelled as ‘hard to reach’ often find that it is the school that is hard for them to reach

Question: Are there many examples of schools that have successfully set up hubs outside of the school building that have been successful in engaging parents? Or is a one-on-one approach and home visits more engaging for these parents?

JG: We know home visits can be very powerful - the Sutton Trust work with the Parental Engagement Fund found that, as have many other projects...  But they are also costly in terms of staff time and training, so it's a trade-off - but if possible, very helpful!

Note added later: One school worked closely with their local football club, and was able to use their grounds for some learning events; another school arranged to meet individual parents as needed, including in a local coffee bar; some schools have been fortunate enough to have a room they can dedicate as a ‘parents’ room’; it’s about being creative and responding to the needs of your local community of parents

JG: And one thing to remember is that it's parents' engagement with learning *in the home* that makes the big difference - so getting parents into school shouldn't be the main aim - it's useful but it's a step, not the end of the journey.

Connect: The Scottish Government's commitment to a Home-School Link worker should also be part of the answer here!

Parental Engagement Suggestion: Love the Family Learning model where schools become learning hubs for parents, children and families.

JG: Yes - and needs to be better known!

Comment: Agree - it's been doing excellent work for over 15 years but somehow remains under the radar.

JG: Partially because things don't get written up, or if they do, are often hard to find or take too much time!  That's one value of this kind of platform

JG: Always worth checking academics' home pages - my work is mostly open access here

Comment: Parental Engagement that improves a parent/carer's knowledge and understanding of ways in which they can support their child’s learning at home, class teachers given the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and make stronger connections with parents/carers.


[1] It’s always worth looking at academic’s institutional homepages – this one links to work on Janet’s homepage.  Journal articles are often behind a paywall but authors are often allowed to put up a final Word document on such a page.