5 tips for engaging parents during lockdown learning

Schools always find it a challenge to engage with some parents – and lockdown has made this harder, says Lucy Flower
3rd February 2021, 12:00pm
Lucy Flower

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5 tips for engaging parents during lockdown learning

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/5-tips-engaging-parents-during-lockdown-learning
Coronavirus & Schools: Five Tips To Help Teachers Engage With Parents During Online Learning

"I've tried ringing but I've never had a response."

"They won't turn up to parents' evening anyway."

"Well, they've had the same letter as everyone else."

How familiar are the above statements? I've heard them many times in the past, and, shamefully, even said them myself on occasion. 

In this dark, grim world of yet another lockdown, although schools remain open, a significant proportion of pupils are learning from home.

And that means we need the engagement of parents and carers to support each other through these tough times.

Coronavirus: How schools can engage parents remotely

Here are five tried-and-tested methods of engaging with parents and carers: 

1. Consider your communication

Think carefully about content and accessibility. 

What is it that you need to communicate? Can the parent access this intended communication? Most parents own a mobile phone, but not all will be able to access the internet.

With the average reading age of an adult in the UK being 11, is that text-dense double-sided letter from the headteacher fit for purpose?

Ask your colleagues what languages they speak, try different technological approaches and ensure that you have covered all bases with good, old-fashioned paper copies. 

2. Build positivity

Sharing good news can have a big impact on wellbeing, and using tech to inform parents about their children's successes reinforces positive messages and fills them with confidence when it comes to responding to other communications from school.

Whether it be Class Dojo, a text messaging system, a postcard, a tweet or giving them access to their child's Google Classroom or Teams account so they can see positive feedback for themselves, this will pay dividends. 

3. A familiar face

School may have been a negative experience for some parents, which can contribute to a lack of engagement from them. One way to support people in this position is to give them some continuity.

If there is a particular staff member who has in-depth knowledge of this child, or has built up a relationship with home already, use them to be the familiar face (or voice at the end of the phone) offering support or guidance. 

4. Provide for their needs

Automated systems can be very efficient to chase up missing work, but we need to acknowledge that each household has its own priorities to attend to in a global pandemic.

Check that each family has the basics; food, warmth and safety, as well as access to the internet and devices to complete work on. If they don't, signpost to external agencies to provide support where possible.

Making the effort to find out what is needed must come before sending multiple messages asking why a child hasn't completed any work. 

5. Don't generalise

Be wary of sweeping generalisations of families. Lots of those classified as disadvantaged will be hands-on in their children's educations, and just as many from a high-income background may be neglectful.

It can be easy to categorise in education, but we still need to know our students and their home lives as individuals, and provide the very best we can for them.

Lucy Flower is a music teacher from Leeds

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