Parents at my school are mostly uninterested in their children's progress. How can I get them more involved?

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Ted says

First of all, beware of assuming that parents are not interested in their children if you rarely see them. I once interviewed a family, said by the school to be completely uninterested, but the mother worked a "twilight" factory shift from 5pm till 9am, while the father looked after young children and an infirm grandparent. That was why they never attended evenings for parents, not apathy.

Parents are more keen if they come to school and get a hands-on experience, than if they are simply harangued about the beauties of government initiative 63b. A session on "the science your children learn", with opportunities to try out some of their experiments, is more engaging than a lecture on the topic, especially if their children are also present to explain to them, perform something, or show a video they have made.

Communication can be a problem, as letters home may disappear into the ether and not everyone has email or a textable mobile. Think about setting up some home visiting. Interviewing 104 parents, as part of a research project, was literally a life-changing experience for me. I have never been the same since. It was interesting, moving, amusing and sometimes shocking.

You should try and involve all, or as many teachers as possible, to share the load, rather than bury one or two. It may take a feat of persuasion, but it would be worth the effort.

Another possibility is to combine a social event and a meeting for parents.

Find out what parents might like (music, a family evening, games) and invite them and their children to attend, involving pupils in the organisation and planning. Such efforts may still fail, but at least you will have tried.

You say

Put yourself in the parents' shoes

This may sound obvious, but have you tried looking at the situation at your school from a parent's point of view? Speaking as a new parent myself, perhaps it's worth remembering that this may be a parent's first involvement with a school since their own childhood and some may feel intimidated by their child's school or teachers. The children, hopefully, are given clear guidelines as to what is expected of them, but no such guidance appears to exist for parents. We are often unclear as to what our role can, or should, be and what sort of a relationship we should expect to have with the school.

Jan Eales, West Yorkshire

Promote your pupils' achievements

There are a number of things you could do to raise the profile of children's achievement, and thus stimulate parents' interest in their own child's progress. Produce "Good work" certificates that are presented in class or assembly and sent home at frequent intervals. Have regular "Achievement assemblies", featuring children's progress, and include non-academic things such as football, dance and swimming, even if these have not been gained in school. Produce a regular newsletter with details of match results and competition wins.

A school that promotes the development of good personal qualities conveys its belief in its students. Try inviting parents to special occasions throughout the year: a pancake race, fathers versus sons football match, or a "cook-in". Publicise the school by making sure that anything outstanding gets the attention of the local press. Let parents see that you value their children and they will soon want to know more about what goes on inside school.

Angela Pollard, Guernsey

Send out a questionnaire

Getting some parents in for an evening is about as easy as getting them to vote in a European Parliament election: turnout figures are depressingly low.

Perhaps an idea would be to find out why parents are not turning up. A questionnaire could be sent out that might uncover reasons (parents are put off by the waiting times, or perhaps the signing of the building is poor).

You could also use the survey to find out what parents want from such an event.

R Lloyd, Gwent

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