Parental engagement in the New Normal: why you want it, how to get it

Not unsurprisingly, a recent report issued by Ofsted indicates that lockdown has had varying degrees of detrimental impact on schoolchildren across the board. Interestingly, the research carried out in 900 schools across the UK revealed that it was not ‘advantage or deprivation’ that was the critical factor during lockdown, but rather the involvement of parents (and close family network) with their children during the period of confinement that made the difference.

This broadly follows what we already know – that parental engagement with their children’s education is crucial to attainment, even more so than socio-economic factors. With children already foregoing so much due to the Covid-19 pandemic,  it is imperative, therefore, that schools do everything possible to engage parents to ensure they are able to support their children’s studies and general wellbeing.

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Not only schools that have seen fundamental changes during the past few months, with employers also having to adapt at breakneck speed to changes in work practices. Schools have had to adjust to teaching at home, then when classes resumed, a whole new way of navigating the far-from-typical school day. Parental engagement has morphed from a ‘good-to-have’ to a necessity.

The benefits of parental engagement have become clearer over recent years, as research has shown the link between parental involvement in at-home learning and strong educational attainment emerged in various studies.

Parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences associated with variations in the quality of schools. The scale of the impact is evident across all social classes and all ethnic groups. (Desforges 2003). 

There have always been parents who are hard to reach, for whatever reason. In a period when children need all the support they can get, building relationships with all parents – not just the already engaged ones – is a target most schools have in their sights. Consequently, there has been an unprecedented surge in the digitisation of schools and classrooms.

There are still institutions, although they are now greatly in the minority, that rely on letters home to communicate important information to parents (with their commensurate arrival being very much dependent on the parent finding said note in its scrunched-up state at the bottom of a school bag). Emails and SMS texts are a typical form of communication and of course social media, in all its forms, has found its place as a staple medium for school announcements. None of these formats have proved very effective in these fast-moving days, however, when official announcements and regulations can change from one week – even one day – to another. 

In these new conditions, changing government guidance on restrictions, free school meals or advising parents of positive test for Covid cases needs to be communicated as soon as possible. Happily, we’ve found that Schoop is ideally placed to help schools cope with the new reality, for example:

  • Teachers communicate directly, and confidentially, with parents
  • Push notifications: Send out the latest information, instantly. Free and unlimited, ensure all parents receive the most up-to-the-minute news
  • Attach links to local government websites for free school meals, the latest advice or useful websites to support at-home learning
  • Our News and Engagement feature helps to maintain a sense of the school community and spirit when, for the time being, restrictions on socialising out of school are in place
  • Paperless communication – safer (and coincidentally, cheaper) in this time of contagion fears
  • Our Forms and Surveys feature is proving invaluable in ensuring parent voices are heard. Pulse surveys – short surveys that can be sent to all parents – both reassure parents that their opinion is important and can confirm that school messaging is being understood

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