Parental engagement: making it work

With the launch of The Children’s Plan and its emphasis on parental partnerships, schools are seeking new ways to involve parents in their children’s learning.

Wells Hall Community Primary School in Sudbury, Surrey, has forged ahead with innovative and productive practice. “We recognize that children, parents and staff learn from each other, with each other, and for life,” says Judith Fardell, headteacher of Wells Hall Primary.

Action-packed learning
Words turn into action as parents are invited in to see teaching in classrooms, as well as gain insight into how children learn. Special activities are also organised including maths and science challenges aimed at adults and children, as well as gardening and art activities.

“It was really reassuring to know that science is taught in such a fun way,” says Fiona Appleby, parent of two boys attending Wells Hall Primary aged eight and nine years. She attended a science class which involved volcanic eruption experiments. “Back at home, we had discussions around scientific concepts and I felt I could support my son which was great,” she adds.

“Parents were particularly impressed by observing the School Council in action,” says Judith Fardell, headteacher. A Schools Council consists of elected children who act as representatives for their year and form. They raise school issues, debate, and decide on ways forward.

Science masterclasses for all
In a bid to improve the underachievement of Year 11 boys, Daisy Rana advanced skills teacher of The Douay Martyrs School, Ickenham, Hillingdon, will be running a series of science classes to which both parents and children are invited. “There are four Masterclass sessions aimed at teaching difficult scientific concepts to parents with their children sitting next to them in class,” says Rana. Here’s an outline of the aims of the programme:

  • To reinforce learning, parents will be encouraged to continue this work at home with specially prepared resources
  • Modelling for parents on how to coach their children;
  • How to use memory tricks and techniques to improve memory and recall;
  • How to use mind maps as a tool to ‘bring together many difficult concepts

To reinforce learning, parents will be encouraged to continue this work at home with specially prepared resources. All classes are taught by subject specialists who are also good communicators so that they can respond well to the parent-pupil dynamics. No more than five parents and their children in one Masterclass at any time.

Learning through lunch
It doesn’t have to be all work and no play, though. “We have a ‘Bring an adult to Lunch Day’ every Thursday,” says Judith Fardell, headteacher of Wells Hall Primary. “The benefits are manifold as parents learn more about healthy eating. They can see how their children socialise with their peers and join them at playtime to see how they learn playground games with the help of Play Leaders,” she adds.

For further examples of different ways to involve parents in their children’s education see case studies at the Teachernet website
http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/familyandcommunity/workingwithparents/casestudies/