Parental involvement that does not effectively reach all families has the potential to widen gaps between disadvantaged students and their better off peers. (Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission, 2014)
Research from the last 15 years around Parental Engagement shows conclusively that when parents are engaged with their child’s education, achievement increases. Looking at some of the most high impact papers in this area, it’s clear that there is a strong correlation between engagement in the classroom (between children and teachers) and engagement at home (between children and their parents/carers).
“Parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement.” (Desforges et al, 2003)
Some of the most commonly listed barriers to parental engagement include: parents’ lack of time due to work and other important commitments, lack of confidence in helping with homework, and previous bad experience with school (not to mention language issues in multi-ethnic areas).
“Feedback from school leaders shows that one of the major concerns in running a modern school is trying to get parents to engage more. Because of the changing demographic of modern parenting…traditional approaches to parental involvement have been largely unsuccessful.” (Campbell, 2011)
Similarly, Campbell’s research has shown that teachers also find it hard to engage with parents. Ineffective communication methods between school and home and a loose or often non-existent strategy are often the most significant barriers. Also:
“Some school leaders spoke of the struggle they had in defining what the role of parental engagement is and how to reconcile this within the boundaries of their existing role and the daily demands of the job.” (Campbell, 2011)
Campbell also goes on to state that the home environment and the school environment are almost entirely separate:
“When discussing parental involvement, some school leaders did not recognise the amount of parental involvement in their child’s education that goes on unseen in the home because it is not a traditional definition of parental engagement.” (Campbell, 2011)
Everything from entertainment to administration, business to politics, charity to social networking, has been impacted by technology in a massively significant way, usually for the better. That the education sector seems to have been comparatively slow to catch up to this revolution is a constant nadir for educational professionals and policy-makers; technological innovation, when it happens, is slow to catch on and rarely sticks. Today we have things like moodle and other hub-like programs that are definitely beneficial, but given the rapid advance in technological implementation in other sectors, it does seem to be a small advance.
Schools that have the resources to provide tablets and similar devices are seeing that the technology has huge beneficial learning implications, and there is much research surrounding the efficacy of such devices in early learning; the amount of apps available for parents and teachers to help with numeracy, literacy, and creative skills is large and getting larger. Charities such as the E-Learning foundation are doing marvellous work in providing information and resources in this area.
Which is great for the classroom. But in terms of administration and management, specifically with regards to communication to parents, there is little opportunity for schools to expand beyond traditional methods such as phone calls home, restrictive text message systems, and the letter sitting at the bottom of a child’s bag containing vital information that the school didn’t have the time or money to send via post to every parent.
“It is possible to harness new technologies for parental communication purposes through the use of school blogs and podcasts, a school website (regularly updated) and online questionnaires and resources in order to reach at a distance those who are unable or unwilling to engage with the school in person. The use of text messaging alerts regarding pupil absence and school closures is a further example of this.” (Campbell, 2011)
The problem with text messaging systems for this purpose is that teachers and administrators can usually only target one phone number per family. Relevant phone numbers must be stored in the database, meaning that if parents haven’t updated their contact details, some text messages won’t get delivered. The same goes for letters in relation to old home addresses.
Even though primary teachers are generally positive about ICT and its ability to support their administrative and management duties, the findings point to low levels of use of ICT for administration and management. (Selwood, 2005)
Schools have websites – some are better than others, but they exist, and some regularly post newsletters and other resources. Schools are able to email parents as an effective means of parental communication. So what’s the problem? Why is engagement so difficult in so many schools, if this technology is being used? There are many reasons, and one of the most important is that many parents simply don’t have time to go looking for the information they need in order to feel engaged with their child’s education.
“ICT can contribute to improved parental engagement by: providing a convenient means for parents to access up-to-date information about their child’s learning; enabling parents to be more engaged with their child’s learning; supporting more flexible working arrangements for staff.” (Goodall, 2011)
Empowering teachers and parents with newer communications technology such as mobile apps can bring enormous benefits. If a parent could receive alerts through their smartphone or tablet, instantaneously, they would feel more engaged with their child’s curriculum and school activities. Along with more comprehensive messages such as newsletters and surveys, the technology would provide a direct link from school to home that would effectively push the research discussed in this article into newer, more effective territories. This is where Schoop comes in.
“In a Becta study only 25 per cent of parents received information about their child’s learning via online tools; 84 per cent of parents reported that their child’s school provided them with little or no resources to help support their child’s learning at home.” (Goodall, 2011)
The Schoop app offers a chance for schools to bypass many of the previously inadequate methods of parental engagement. Using a web-based dashboard, administrators and teachers can send out one-way, non-sensitive alerts and newsletters that parents and carers receive through push notification via the app (which is downloaded for free from the Apple iTunes store, or the Google Play store).
Receiving information in this format eliminates the need for parents to go looking for information – it finds them. Alerts can be sent to all users at once, and there is no character limit. The app is free to download, so there is no limit to the amount of family members that can access the information. The calendar function stores important event dates, and is interactive, so that entries can be added by the user, not just the school.
Researchers have found suggestive evidence of the positive relationship between school-to-family communication and student outcomes. It is possible, however, that negative teacher-parent communication that is focused on increasing parental monitoring of student behavior and school-work could decrease students’ sense of autonomy and engagement. (Kraft & Dougherty, Harvard, 2012)
Our technology totally removes the danger of so-called ‘monitoring’ techniques; students will not feel that they are being singled out for a phone call home because the same information is being sent to all parents who have selected their child’s year and class groups (as well as any other group such as Chess Club, Swimming Team, etc.). This means that, when the phone call home is necessary, its importance is emphasised.
“Parental engagement has a large and positive impact on children’s learning.” (Goodall, 2011)
It’s time to start thinking about how better technology can impact school management and administration, parental engagement, at-home learning, and community cohesiveness. Schoop is a cost-effective, time-saving, and workable solution to many of the problems associated with these issues.
If you would like to schedule a demonstration of the technology, please click here.
For more information about how it works, please watch our ‘Schoop in Two Minutes’ video:
- Review of best practice in parental engagement: Practitioners summary Janet Goodall et al, 2011
- The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A Literature Review Professor Charles Desforges & Alberto Abouchaar, 2003
- How to involve hard-to-reach parents: encouraging meaningful parental involvement with schools Clare Campbell, 2011
- The Effect of Teacher-Family Communication on Student Engagement: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment Matthew A. Kraft & Shaun M. Dougherty, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2012
- Primary School Teachers’ Use of ICT for Administration and Management Ian Selwood, 2005
- Cracking the code: how schools can improve social mobility Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission, 2014