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Weekly texts and 7 other ways for schools to engage parents

Be optimistic about engaging parents, urges new guidance, but keep monitoring activities to check that they are working

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Be optimistic about engaging parents, urges new guidance, but keep monitoring activities to check that they are working

New guidance and ideas for schools to get parents involved in children’s learning has been published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today.

The report draws on a recent EEF review of evidence and provides an overview of the research – with the caveat that the evidence in this area is less rigorous than in some other aspects of education.

“Although there’s good evidence that what parents do is associated with improved outcomes for children, the evidence on effective interventions that schools can do to change [parent behaviour] is much weaker,” said Matthew van Poortvliet, head of programmes at the EEF and one of the report’s authors.

Plenty of programmes exist that have been researched and which schools can use. But when the evidence for their effectiveness is mixed, the report cautions, it is important for schools to monitor that they are having the intended effect in their own school context.

"Schools should approach parental engagement [programmes while being] optimistic about the potential [benefits], but cautious about [which ones might be] the best approaches," the guidance states.

Suggestions for schools to engage parents include the following:

1. Focus on certain skills at certain ages

There is good evidence to show that particular skills are important to children at different ages, such as oral language in early years and basic reading in early primary.

2. When planning for parental engagement, have clear expectations of staff

Know what staff need to do, and give them the time and training to do it. Personal support may be needed for staff members if parental engagement becomes difficult.

3. Provide practical strategies to support learning at home

Give parents tips on how to interact with their children when reading to them, for example, by talking about what is happening in the story and linking it to the child’s real-life experiences.

4. Be clear about how parents can best support homework

There is evidence that, for secondary pupils, children who regularly complete homework do better than those who do not. Parents can have a positive effect by helping children to develop effective homework habits. But the evidence also suggests that schools should encourage parents to know about homework rather than get involved in the actual assignments.

5. Tailor school communications to encourage positive messages about learning

School communications are more likely to be effective if they are personalised, linked to learning and positive.

6. Weekly text messages to parents can be beneficial

One study found that weekly texts sent to parents of students had positive effects on GCSE results – possibly because parents who received texts were more likely to talk to their children about revising for the exams than those in the control group.

7. Offer more intensive support where needed

There is promising evidence to support some structured, targeted interventions for parents aimed at improving social, emotional and behavioural outcomes, which could support learning outcomes. But evidence is mixed for the benefits of targeted interventions for parents of children who are struggling with their learning.

8. Be aware of the challenges

When considering more intensive approaches, it is important that targeting is done sensitively. Also, putting on a series of workshops for parents can be difficult, costly and time-consuming, but attendance may be low.

For more information on parental engagement and available evidence, see the 7 December edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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