Learning together: national action plan on parental involvement, engagement, family learning and learning at home 2018 – 2021

Sets out a vision for parental involvement and engagement from pre-birth to age 18 and takes account of national and international evidence base and Scottish education system expertise. Provides a national vision but allows for local and community innovation and flexibility.

Parental Involvement

Parental involvement includes parental representation in decision-making, collaboration between parents and educators in matters such as school improvement planning and communication between home and early learning and childcare setting and school. It is about the partnerships and links between home and school, and the opportunities for parents and families to get involved in activities in school or early learning and childcare setting.

We have made important strides in parental involvement in the last ten years. The progress that we have made has depended on the expertise and innovation of headteachers, teachers, early learning and childcare managers, parents and families and practitioners. In addition, we have benefited from a positive policy and legislative framework developed by various Scottish Government administrations as well as clear strategic leadership from local authorities and third sector organisations. We start from a solid foundation with our legislation on parental involvement, school handbooks and statutory guidance.

The aim of this plan is to take forward a further phase of reform. This next phase will shift the emphasis from "involving" to "collaborating with" parents and families. Funded early learning and childcare settings will be supported to extend the effective practice that already exists in that sector. Parents who wish to undertake a more collaborative role in areas such as improvement activity and policy development should be supported to do so, shaping and influencing plans and strategies from the very beginning. Parent Councils will be supported to act as a partner in school improvement. A variety of opportunities should be provided, recognising that formal meetings are not going to work for everyone.

As with other sections in this plan, the themes of equalities and equity will be considered and addressed within our plans to improve parental involvement.

Goal A (Representation): Strengthen parental representation in the life and work of early years and childcare settings and school

Key steps at local authority level:

  • Ask parents how you can improve your communication with them and their families. This may include engagement with the National Parent Forum of Scotland representatives where appropriate.
  • Identify and provide career-long professional learning for practitioners and teachers.
  • Ensure that parents are provided with opportunities to access relevant support and advice to enable them to be involved.
  • Provide appropriate levels of funding to schools, early learning and childcare settings and Parent Councils to help them provide a wide range of opportunities for parents to be involved.

Key steps – practitioners, managers, families:

  • Identify approaches to support parents who might initially feel reluctant to be involved but may wish to do so with the right support and the right opportunities.
  • Ensure that all parents can have their views represented.
  • Facilitate joint working at parent representative groups.
  • Make sure that all parents feel welcomed and supported to get involved in the life and work of the school, bearing in mind that some parents may not have had a positive experience of school.
  • Work with the Parent Council or equivalent group in early learning and childcare settings to seek views of the wider parent forum.

Action 3 By March 2021 Education Scotland will develop and publish a range of further additions on parental involvement within its professional learning resources including the Engaging Parents and Families Toolkit. These additions will support further improvement in parental involvement by schools and early learning and childcare settings. Priority will be given to case studies from sectors currently under represented within the current suite of support materials.

Goal B (Collaboration): Expand opportunities for ALL parents to collaborate at every level of the education system

Key steps at local authority level:

  • Work with national parent organisations to identify opportunities for effective and meaningful collaboration in improvement and all matters which are important to parents.
  • Consider the role that co-design and participatory methods can play in delivering strong collaboration between parents and decision-makers.

Key steps – practitioners, managers, families:

  • Support parents to identify areas for improvement that are relevant to them.
  • Identify the strengths and expertise amongst parents and families and build on those strengths.
  • Identify and address any barriers which may prevent parents from being involved.
  • Develop expertise in collaborative working amongst senior school leaders, and widen the range of opportunities to obtain parents’ views in flexible "parent friendly" ways.
  • Develop opportunities for conversations with parents and families – "what matters to you?", not "what’s important to us".
  • Provide opportunities to think about how you are listening, who you are listening to and what you are doing as a result. [1]

National Actions:

Action 4 The Scottish Government will continue to support the National Parent Forum of Scotland ( NPFS) up to 2021. As part of this commitment, the Scottish Government will work with the NPFS to:

  • identify new ways to provide a representative voice for parents, reflecting the diversity of the parent community;
  • ensure that forum’s representatives are involved in all relevant forums;
  • promote the forum at every level of the system.

Action 5 The Scottish Government will ensure that the National Parent Forum of Scotland and other national parent organisations are involved in the annual review of Scotland’s National Improvement Framework for education. [2]

Spotlight on…the leadership role of local authorities

Local authorities have played a major role in achieving the shift in approach that we have seen over the past ten years. This has helped to develop the Scottish approach to parental involvement and engagement.

Scottish Government and local government will continue to work together to ensure that local authorities lead this agenda at local level by:

  • developing, implementing and monitoring local strategies;
  • reviewing those strategies every three years - involving parents, families and partner organisations as they do so;
  • continuing to support a local authority network of Parental Involvement Officers;
  • providing advice, training and support to headteachers, early learning and childcare managers and Parent Councils;
  • bringing managers and practitioners together to share practice;
  • involving parents in the recruitment of headteachers and senior staff;
  • providing simple, straightforward advice and information to parents and families about how they can be involved in education and engaged in their child’s learning and development;
  • involving parents in the work of education committees; and
  • ensuring effective arrangements for dealing with complaints and questions from parents.

A more detailed summary of the three-year priorities for the Scottish Parental Involvement Officers Network is provided later in this plan.

Action 6 The Scottish Government will work with national parent organisations to develop a "Policy Maker’s Toolkit on involving parents" by the end of June 2019. The toolkit, which will be targeted at policy-makers and strategic managers at national and local level, will focus on how to support co-design and collaboration with parents in matters of policy and strategic planning. [3]

Action 7 National guidance on Pupil Equity Funding will highlight the importance of collaborating with parents in planning and decision-making processes relating to the funding.

"Parental involvement is asking parents to identify what matters to them""

Spotlight on… participatory budgeting

Effective collaboration requires working together from the very start, before priorities have been decided and throughout the relevant process. One of the principles in the Scottish Government’s national guidance on Pupil Equity Funding is that parents and carers, children and young people and others should be involved in the planning process for how to spend the funding. One way of doing this is through a participatory budgeting approach which involves people influencing budgeting decisions that will have a direct impact on their lives. More information is available at the Participatory Budgeting website https://pbscotland.scot/

Action 8 Between 2018 and 2021 the Scottish Government will work with national parent organisations to raise awareness of participatory budgeting as an innovative and effective mechanism to involve parents, particularly those who face additional barriers.

Goal C (Communication): Improve communication with parents and families

This goal is about improving the connection between home and early learning and childcare settings or schools. It is about informing and discussing with parents what is happening with their children’s learning, reporting to parents about their children’s progress and informing parents about how well a setting or school is doing. At a national level it is about working with parents and families to develop and share a clear narrative about Scotland’s curriculum and Scotland’s education system. This narrative should make clear for parents the purpose of curriculum and how it supports children and young people to develop the knowledge, skills, qualifications and wider achievements they require. Equally communication is about listening to parents about issues that are important to them and engaging in effective dialogue with parents and families. This would include topics such as; their own children’s learning, the life and work of the school or early learning and childcare setting, and local and national policies and strategies.

Case study: Largs Academy

The school offers an annual Saturday morning Broad General Education workshop and information session. The sessions are aimed at parents and carers of young people in S1-S3. Some of the pupils’ work is showcased and sessions with teaching staff and pupils are offered to provide an insight into the Broad General Education. Over the years sessions offered were focused on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. More recent sessions include greater pupil participation and workshops on a variety of curricular areas across the school. Sessions are also offered to parents on the senior phase, the new qualifications and the importance of wider achievement.

The main impact is on our relationship with parents. The latest parents evening surveys were very positive. The results have been collated into a You Said/We Did format and this demonstrates our ability to address concerns and support parents better.

Equalities and equity are important aspects in relation to this theme. Dads, minority ethnic parents, disabled parents and a variety of other groups can face additional barriers if communication is not tailored to their needs and respectful of their role. There are therefore very strong links between this section and the Equalities and Equity section within this plan.

National Actions:

Spotlight on… Parentzone Scotland

Parentzone Scotland aims to provide parents with good quality advice, hints and tips as well as access to a wide range of high-quality, easy accessible, school level data.

Action 9 Education Scotland will continue to work with stakeholders to review and refresh the content of Parentzone Scotland. The aim will be to help parents support their child’s learning and get involved in the life and work of the early learning and childcare setting or school. [4]

Action 10 From June 2019 onwards all national communication materials for parents will be developed in line with the key principles within the National Improvement Framework Parent Communication Plan. The principles are simplicity and clarity; transparency; relevance; partnership; flexibility and timeliness. [5] This commitment is made by Scottish Government, Education Scotland, the National Parent Forum of Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education, the General Teaching Council of Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. [6]

Action 11 The Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) will use its ‘Digital First’ approach to build an understanding of parent needs, learn from parent feedback and provide a ‘toolkit’ of plain English publications including social media content, which parents will be able to access during session 2018-19.

Action 12 By March 2019 the Scottish Government will develop an online resource for parents to empower them to make informed choices about the right early learning and childcare setting for their child. The Scottish Government will work with parents and parent organisations to develop the resource.

Action 13 The Scottish Government will promote the National Parent Forum’s "Nutshell" series as providing a simple, straightforward source of information about education matters. The Scottish Government will explore with the National Parent Forum further opportunities to provide nutshell advice in alternative formats.

"Parental involvement is asking parents for their advice"

Key steps at local authority level:

  • Identify effective and appropriate communications channels to reach ALL parents.
  • Produce guidance and support on how effective communication with parents can be achieved.
  • Involve parents in meaningful ways in informing your policies and strategies.

Key steps – Practitioners, managers, families:

  • Ensure a culture and approach that is welcoming and supportive and challenge any behaviours likely to alienate or intimidate parents.
  • Develop school handbooks or alternatives for early learning and childcare settings in consultation with parents. Ensure that those handbooks are accessible in their language and share the content in a range of ways.
  • Take a strategic approach – ask parents and families what would work for them.
  • Contact parents proactively and regularly about their child’s learning and progress.
  • Support parents to share their questions, views and knowledge about their children.
  • Support parents to be active participants in the assessment and reporting process, provide advice to parents to help talk to their child about their learning and next steps.
  • Make communication and reporting to parents simple, quick and responsive to parents’ needs. [7]
  • Make innovative use of social media and other forms of electronic communication – e.g. texts, online journals - to share what children are learning - but consider alternative provision for parents who have no access to this form of communication.
  • Take steps to ensure a mutually supportive link between home and school or early learning and childcare setting.
  • Have a simple, easy to navigate website.

Goal D (Information technology): Support early learning and childcare settings, schools and parents to exploit the opportunities provided by information technology to improve parental involvement and engagement

Research has shown that information and communications technology can improve parental involvement and engagement by providing a convenient way for parents to access up-to-date information about their child’s learning. [8] Parents often find it easier to access surveys and provide feedback when using mobile technologies than paper based copies. For example, text updates on children’s progress have been shown to have important positive impacts on home/school links.

We will aim to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology to make communication more timely, to make communication more effective and to develop effective dialogue between educators, children and parents.

Action 14 The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will work with parent organisations between August 2018 and March 2019 to explore how digital and information technology resources can be better exploited to support parents’ involvement and engagement. A report on the available options and next steps will be provided by June 2019.

Key steps at local authority level:

  • Support schools and early learning and childcare settings with the appropriate use of social media and other online forums, advising on both methods and content, using plain English parent-friendly language.

Key steps – practitioners, managers, families:

  • Raise awareness of opportunities to use digital technology to support parental involvement and engagement.
  • Seek meaningful and appropriate opportunities to use digital technology to enhance parental involvement and engagement.

Goal E (Volunteering): Widen opportunities for parents and families to volunteer with the school or early learning and childcare setting

Volunteers play a vital role in shaping the lives of their communities. The Scottish Government is committed to doing more to support volunteering for all.

Opportunities to volunteer in school and early learning and childcare settings depend on a variety of wider factors including parents’ and families’ access to family friendly working opportunities and links between schools and early learning and childcare settings and wider community partnership. It is important that we bring together these three policy agendas – parental involvement in schools and early learning and childcare settings, volunteering and employment practices – in order to take full advantage of the skills offered by parents.

"Parental involvement is …giving me plenty of notice of school events"

National Actions:

Action 15 In early 2019 the Scottish Government will convene a national working group to explore practical, effective ways to make it easier for parents, families and wider communities to volunteer in early learning and childcare settings or schools. The group, involving third sector organisations, employer organisations, volunteering organisations and agencies, will seek to ensure that volunteering opportunities in schools and early learning and childcare settings are meaningful and sustainable. [9]

Key steps at local authority:

  • Ensure that broader volunteering strategies consider the volunteering needs across schools and early learning and childcare settings.
  • Make early learning and childcare settings and schools aware of broader local and national volunteering strategies and frameworks.
  • Explore where third sector organisations can engage in and support parental involvement and engagement.

Key steps – practitioners, managers, families:

  • Work with parents in their community to identify the arrangements that would need to be in place to allow parents and families to volunteer. This can include some very basic but important items such as bus tickets, crèche facilities, alternative timing of events. The important thing is to respond to any barriers to participation.
  • Ask parents and families what would work best for them.
  • Find out parents’ and families’ skills and strengths.
  • Follow up on offers of support.

Spotlight on… Allons-y ‘Wee Famille’! - Parental involvement in languages

In North Ayrshire, the languages "1+2" team have embarked on a new initiative to raise the profile of languages and engage families with their children in learning French. The 1+2 team partnered with the Family Learning team and SCILT – Scotland’s National Centre for Languages - to deliver the seven-week project, aptly called ‘Wee Famille’, in Springside Primary in Irvine. The Family Learning Coordinator, kicked off ‘Wee Famille’ with a logo design competition. Together with SCILT the 1+2 team worked to identify language learning opportunities, as well as exciting and engaging ways to deliver the language. They then consolidated key vocabulary into a ‘Wee Famille passeport’, bearing the winning logo design, to support family learning at home. For seven weeks, families were invited into school one afternoon each week to learn French with their child. Before each session, parents and carers had a cuppa and a croissant with the Family Learning team.

Further details available in the SCILT Summer 2018 Newsletter

Parental involvement means "working with parents at their level in an easily accessible environment and at a convenient time, encouraging their strengths"
Quote, parent

Parental involvement and engagement The Scottish Approach 3-18

Parental involvement means “being available to speak with parents at the school gates”


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