Section B - Parental Involvement
Why involve parents?
1. Parents, carers and families are by far the most important influences on children's lives. Parents who take on a supportive role in their children's learning make a difference in improving achievement and behaviour. Their support can play a vital role at all stages of education. For example, where parents are actively involved in reading with their children at home, their children's reading scores improve, on average, by between 12-18 months. In the secondary sector, parents' active support for their child's learning can make a difference into adolescence. Evidence shows that most differences in achievement by 14 year olds in English, Maths and Science are due to home influences. 3
2. When parents and schools work together, children do better. The active involvement of parents in the life of the school can help promote a learning community in which pupils can engage positively with school staff and their peers. Schools can benefit from developing positive partnerships with parents by involving them in all decisions affecting their children's education and learning. A relationship of mutual trust and respect can enable effective communication that supports both parents and teachers. The better the information that schools provide to parents, the more parents can support their children's learning and the school. Information that parents share with the school can assist teachers in adapting their teaching to suit the learning styles of pupils and take account of any particular issues that may exist.
3. Parents have their own perspectives on school education and what can be done to improve standards and quality. Schools should foster a positive and open ethos which encourages parents to share these perspectives. Their voice can make a positive contribution to how education authorities and schools determine their ambitions for schools and how they plan for improvement to meet these.
Who do we mean by parents?
4. The Act uses the broadly framed definition of 'parent' set out in the 1980 Act. This is as follows:
- "parent" includes guardian and any person who is liable to maintain or has parental responsibilities (within the meaning of section 1(3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995) in relation to, or has care of a child or young person;
5. This is a wide definition which might, by way of example, include:
- non-resident parents who are liable to maintain or have parental responsibilities in respect of a child
- carers who can be parents
- others with parental responsibilities, e.g. foster carers, relatives and friends who are caring for children and young people under supervision arrangements
- close relatives, such as siblings or grandparents caring for children who are not looked after or are under home supervision arrangements.
6. Everyone who is a parent, as defined in terms of the 1980 Act, has rights under the Act. This includes the right to receive advice and information about their child's education, general information about the school, to be told about meetings involving their child, and to participate in activities, such as taking part in decisions relating to a Parent Council. Education authorities and schools should treat parents equally, the exception to this general requirement being where there is a court order limiting an individual's exercise of parental rights and responsibilities. It is for education authorities to advise schools on the application of these rights in individual cases.
What do we mean by involvement?
7. The Act's provisions cover three broad levels of engagement with parents. These are:
a) Learning at home
The Act recognises the vital role that parents and other carers play in children's learning and development. Parents are the first and ongoing educators of their own children and, as such, should receive information and support to help develop their child's learning at home and in the community.
b) Home/School Partnership
The Act reflects the shared role and responsibility that schools, parents and the community have in working together to educate children. Effective home/school partnerships are essential to ensure that children get the most out of their school and their education. Working in co-operation will allow potential difficulties and opportunities to be identified at an early stage. Schools must be open to the involvement of parents in the work they do and they should consider ways of providing information that helps parents engage with the school and their children's education.
c) Parental representation
The Act provides a framework for ensuring that parents have the opportunity to express their views and have these taken into account on matters affecting the education of their children, the school's arrangements for promoting parental involvement and other matters or issues of interest to parents. It makes provision for parents to be members of the Parent Forum at a school, and to have their views represented to the school, education authority and others, through a representative Parent Council for the school.