How to Engage Parents in Their Child’s Learning Journey

We know how important it is for schools to get parental engagement right. Parent engagement is a vital part of successful education delivery and needs careful planning and management.

Juniper Education is one of the UK’s market leading providers of education software, support services and whole school effectiveness solutions across primary and secondary schools and has decades of experience that is built around industry knowledge and first-hand expertise.

Juniper Education provide over 12,500 schools and multi-academy trusts with the tools needed to enhance the effectiveness of school operations and improve the lives of pupils through improved learning outcomes.

Therefore, we know how important it is for schools to get parental engagement right. Parent engagement is a vital part of successful education delivery and needs careful planning and management. We bought together a panel of education experts to discuss this topic on our latest webinar, titled ‘How to engage parents and families in their child’s learning journey’, to help answer some of the important questions we know are being asked in education:

  • Why is parental engagement important?
  • What are the challenges and how to overcome them
  • Best methods and best practise for communication
  • Tactics and tools to improve parental engagement

Our panel of experts have over 45 years of combined experience in the education sector and can also draw from real-life engagement experiences as parents.  Let’s meet them:

Ryan Pummell, Community Engagement Specialist, Juniper Education and School Governor

Ryan has worked with schools and trusts for the last five years, helping them better engage with their parents and communities through creative websites and communication technology. As a parent of two young children and Vice Chair of Governors and SEND Link Governor for Hampton Lakes Primary School, Ryan has first-hand experience of the challenges and barriers to effective engagement.

Andrew Sharp, Executive Head Teacher at Allenton Community Primary School and Pear Tree Community Junior School

Andrew Sharp has spent over 20 years in primary education. He has worked in a variety of schools as a leader across Nottingham and Derby. As Head Teacher, he has overseen the rapid improvement of two schools in areas of high economic disadvantage, including gaining a ‘good’ judgement in a school described as stuck (never having a good judgement) by the DfE. He is currently a Partnership Lead and Executive Head Teacher with Transform Trust and has a particular interest in the impact of successful parental engagement.

Adrian Burt, Founder, MarvellousMe Parental Engagement App

Adrian has worked in education for nearly 20 years. A parent of two children, he is passionate about all children being happy, motivated and successful at school, and equipped with life-long learning skills. His frustrations with traditional school communications inspired him to create MarvellousMe, to improve outcomes through more positive parent engagement.

Now we’ve introduced our panel, let’s see what they had to say!

What is parental engagement and why is it important?

The act of parental engagement is how teachers and schools work to get parents involved in their children’s academic progress and support their learning. This requires good two-way lines of communication between teachers and parents, to benefit both learning outcomes and the wider community as a whole.

Without those lines of communication in place, parents find it much more difficult to understand what is going on within a school day-to-day. And without that knowledge, they aren’t able to provide support to their children to the best of their ability. Most parents want to be able to provide that support but feel hampered by the communication channels available to them, a lack of encouragement to get involved, or reliance on children to pass on information.

In the webinar, Andrew stresses the importance of a collaborative, inclusive approach that brings everyone together, including parents: “It’s the value that I would add to any key stakeholder group that we have in our schools, and making sure we’re engaging all of those. Parents are just as important as the children, and I think sometimes schools can forget that.”

What do parents want from engagement?

At a practical level, parents are constantly hungry for information from schools. This applies to the progress of their own child, be it annually, termly or even daily, and to the overall success and development of the school. There are many different means of achieving this: email, website, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, social media and so on, but schools often make the mistake of prioritising the quantity of messaging over quality.

Adrian emphasises the importance of positive messaging in the webinar, so that parents look forward to receiving new communications instead of dreading it: “All too often in every Ofsted report, parents always say they want more communication from the school. What schools typically then do is they throw in another channel of communication. They don’t actually sit back and consider the type of communication that parents are asking for.” He goes on to advocate personalised messaging to parents, ensuring it is relevant to individual pupil progress as much as possible.

Making parental engagement a success

With the right strategy in place, parental engagement can be a win-win situation for everyone. Parents feel more assured about the progress and learning of their child, as well as their social and emotional development. Schools benefit from better attendance and a more positive community culture around them. And perhaps most importantly, pupils get the backing of both teachers and parents, so that they feel safer, more confident, more motivated, and happier at school.

Tactics and tools to improve parental engagement

To understand how to get this strategy right, our panel recommends the following tactics and tools to help improve parental engagement:

  • Solicit feedback: instead of trying to second-guess the content and platforms that parents would prefer, ask them for their views and devise a plan based on their feedback.
  • Embrace positivity: explore new ways to deliver positive news to parents as much as possible and try to keep negative information to a minimum (i.e., only content that is absolutely necessary).
  • Involve the wider family: ensure that all stakeholders within a child’s education have the opportunity to get engaged, such as other family members or separated working parents.
  • Coordinate through software: use parental engagement software such as MarvellousMe to plan regular content streams for parents, celebrate their success with ePostcards and reward badges, and seamlessly integrate all three of the points above.

In summary

The good news is that parents want to get involved in their child’s education and progress, so with the right methods of engagement in place, it will be easy to get them on board. Of course, with large numbers of pupils and therefore parents to take into account, delivering regular positive content can be a time-consuming task for teachers who are already very busy. This is where apps like MarvellousMe can make a real difference in facilitating easy, fast and clear communication between teachers and parents.