Schools told reach out to pupils via families
Schools in deprived areas will be expected to give more support to parents and families as part of an effort to stop pupil disengagement and improve results.
The Assembly government wants schools to recognise that families play an important and influential role in a child's education. As part of its Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan, it is developing an "integrated approach" to assist families whose children may be at risk of becoming Neet (not in employment, education or training).
A number of speakers at the Raising Schools Standards conference earlier this month said that engaging parents in school life could help overcome their negative perceptions of education, which are often based on their own experiences.
Chris Tweedale, head of the government's school effectiveness group, said schools should be asking what support they could offer families to make sure they contribute.
David Reynolds, professor of educational effectiveness at Southampton University, said parents and families have more influence over a child's education than their schools and teachers.
He told delegates: "If we are to improve, we have to help those parents and those communities make their children more school-ready. Frankly, they have a bigger power than you do."
Professor Reynolds, who is advising the Assembly government, said parent programmes should be used to support efforts to improve literacy and numeracy and to improve the "school-readiness" of pupils.
David Hopkins, professor emeritus at London University's Institute of Education, said it was part of the "moral purpose" of schooling that teachers should engage parents to help improve pupil performance.
He said pupils feel a sense of belonging if their parents are involved with their school.
The push to engage families has been welcomed by Keith Towler, children's commissioner for Wales.
"People often think children look up to celebrities as role models, but more often than not it's actually the people closest to them - their families - that have the most influence," he told TES Cymru.
"The engagement of parents in their children's lives is crucial, especially when things aren't going as well as they should. There are some parents who don't fully take up that responsibility. Children need to be safe and healthy and if they don't have those things then learning becomes very difficult."
Mr Towler said schools should be more proactive and extend a "warm welcome" to parents and families to help break down barriers.
While teaching unions have welcomed the focus, they warned that teachers cannot be expected to do everything and that other agencies must also be involved.
- Original headline: Schools told to reach out to pupils via their families