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How to get parents involved at secondary school

Parental involvement is easier to foster at primary level than in a large secondary school with multiple teachers and subjects. But Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen, with over 1,000 pupils from a diverse catchment area, has made great progress in making parents welcome. Brian Wood, the headteacher, believes there are advantages to be drawn from involving the whole community, convincing local people that it is their school. He describes an impressive variety of techniques the school has developed to encourage parental involvement, but points out that very little extra input is required of his teaching staff.

Parents in partnership is an attempt to involve parents who do not put themselves forward for the parent teachers association or the school board, but are perhaps more representative of parents as a whole. The school invited several to an evening workshop. A group of 14 now meets to discuss how the school appears to parents and how the bridge between the two could be strengthened.

Parents nights are more of a give and take, with parents filling in questionnaires on how useful they found the evening. Parents who don't attend are sent a personal invitation and given extra time to discuss problems.

Prizegiving has developed into a big occasion, going beyond the traditional prize categories. Families are made welcome, and the school cannot now accommodate everyone who wants to attend. For fourth and fifth year leavers, formal records of achievement are produced in the school and presented at an end-of-term ceremony. That too has turned into a family occasion.

Homework policy at Hazlehead was formed following a 25 per cent survey of parents.

Parent support group grew out of a course on parenting skills organised by the school. Now it acts as a mutual support group for parents facing problems with their children.

First year pupils have extra parents evenings with guidance teachers in attendance to build up the idea that the school is interested in the child and the family.

Healthy eating is encouraged in and out of the school. A health fair organised with staff from the Rowett Institute for nutritional research in Aberdeen raised the profile of a healthy lifestyle. A breakfast club is attended by 50-100 pupils every school day. Parents and staff meet every two months to suggest ways of improving diet. Since the campaign started, the consumption of chips at the school is down 50 per cent.

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