We have often heard it said that the primary educators of our children are ‘the parents.’ The past 30 years have seen rapid changes in family structures and the term ‘parents’ here refers to all those involved in the wide-ranging arrangements of looking after children.
It is with our parents that we spend most of our childhood days. From the moment of birth, we are nurtured in the home, learn the basics of communication, listen to surrounding talk and see activities of all kinds. ‘Home’ becomes the place we know, it is where we are loved, find shelter, the safe haven from a frantic and busy world outside.
While some parents opt for a home-based learning, the vast majority see their children attend their local primary to begin formal schooling. With this step, the attachment to the comfort zone that they are so familiar with is challenged and for the first time, children move to a new environment to meet new adults and new peers.
At the time of this transition, new questions arise for parents. How do I re-arrange my life around school time? How do I support my children now that they attend school? How do I show my interest in their educational journey? Can I sustain this interest at all the different stages?
Nearly all educational research has shown conclusively that parental involvement makes a positive difference to pupils’ engagement and their achievements. The evidence indicates that parental involvement benefits students, parents, teachers and schools.
Most parents appreciate that it makes sense that they have a responsibility to maintain an active interest and participate constructively in school life. It is clearly self-evident that parent involvement helps student success.
Competing demands such as work commitments, dealing with other children, childcare difficulties and lack of time are amongst the factors that diminish involvement. For many parents, such pressures can result in an attitude where they simply trust that the school will ‘get on with the educating of their children’ and when necessary, keep them informed of what is happening and up to date with day to day developments.
So how do we assist in shifting parents from a passing interest to a creative and active one?
- Parenting – Schools can offer information and tools that help parents better understand their child’s development and help them in creating a home that facilitates learning.
- Communicating – Schools can communicate important school events and information with parents.
- Volunteering – Recruiting parents and families to volunteer at the school and at related community events is a pathway to familiarization with the key people responsible for teaching their children. Making connections stimulates interest.
- Learning at home – Parents like to receive information on classroom activity so that they can help their children continue their learning at home.
- Decision making – Parents often do want to be involved in important school decisions. Surveys, PTO meetings, and community discussion provide that opportunity.
- Community Collaboration – Schools can develop partnerships with local businesses, interest groups and organizations to provide or enhance services to the community.
For those who are attuned to the positives that go with good relationships, the above assistance points may flow seamlessly, but for many others, reaching them is in itself an achievement. It may well be that a new source of stimulation and encouragement will develop once they are receiving simple and regular messages from the school with updates about their child's progress.
If they are not knowledgeable about what is taking place in school, because they haven’t made it their business to discover it, then the only option left to the school, is to alert them as best it can. Traditionally a letter home was the method used, but today, parents will be more likely to heed the alert on their smartphone device.
This way, parents can begin to support the work of the classroom teacher, by being able to ask or talk about what is happening at school, prompted by the notification that 'filled them in' on the daily learning.
Providing information is always a way to engagement. Most parents love to know what their child was doing in school during the day and when kept in the loop, it enables conversation about the activities of the day.
To this end, having the ability to send out any information in real time is a massive benefit to the school. The Edtap apps allow an administrator to send documents or messages of any size to the whole school community or to target groups such as classes or special interest groups.
Keeping everyone in the loop is the first part of respect in communication and with clear messaging, no one can be left in any doubt as to what was being delivered from the school. When this is issued with clarity and intent, the invitation is open for the parent to respond in their own time.