Helping more Parents get involved
This is one of the main challenges for all Parent Councils. Helping parents to get involved in their children's learning is one of the most important ways of making a difference for children and young people. It's important to remember that involvement can take many different forms and parents need opportunities to get involved in ways that suit them best. You will only know what these are by asking them and by trying new ways.
Getting involved can be difficult
Every parent wants the best for their child but they may have difficulty in taking part in some activities run by the school or the Parent Council. This does not mean that they are not interested or don't care - it's just that there may be other pressures that get in the way or that they don't know how best to get involved. The reasons will be different for every parent so you will need to ask them to find out what would help them get involved.
Communication, communication, communication
Better communication between schools and parents is one of the most common themes for improvement. There are already lots of ways in which schools communicate with parents but parents might feel that these could be improved even more. You might want to think about how the school communicates with parents and how the 'Making the Difference' leaflets (see ' Finding out more' leaflet in this pack) could support this.
As a Parent Council you will want to tell parents about what you are discussing and what you intend to do. You might want to consider:
- A newsletter for parents - or if the school already has one, a specific Parent Council Update section in the school's newsletter.
- Eye-catching posters with key information about events displayed in prominent positions in the community - the post office, doctors and dentists waiting rooms and supermarkets.
- Talk to the school about how you can communicate with and involve parents for whom English is not their first language or how you can reach others who may have difficulty with usual communication methods.
- Try using new technology to reach parents; if the school has a website, include a Parent Council area featuring news and information; mobile phones and email are now the preferred method of communication for many parents; think about setting up a Parent Council website blog as a way of keeping parents informed and getting their comments back.
- Don't forget to let parents know when and where your meetings are being held and that these are open for them to attend.
- The Annual Report that the Parent Council makes to parents does not necessarily have to be a formal report but could include photos or video clips of events sponsored by the Council and be presented in a more visual way.
There are lots of ways to find out other parents' views of the school.
- Your Parent Council may be made up of year representatives but if not, having a link parent for each year group is one way of sharing information and finding out the views of more parents.
- Use every opportunity to chat to parents - at the school gate, at a parents' evening, over tea and coffee at a school event, or in your neighbourhood.
- Social events can be a good way for parents and staff to get together and meet each other and share views and opinions as well as having a good time.
- Remember the "3 F's" - Fun, Food and Families. Events that cater for all family members, provide refreshments and are enjoyable are most successful.
- Choosing the right kind of event can be important - a fashion evening can be successful in secondary schools and Quiz Nights with parents and children are also popular.
- Snowballing - where one parent agrees to bring along or introduce another - can be effective in getting people involved.
- Make links with parents who already help in the school in other ways, e.g. running clubs, helping with the library.
How can the Toolkit help?
Involving all parents - section 2 of the Toolkit gives more information about ways of reaching out to all parents. Pages 10 and 11 outline some of the reasons why parents may find it hard to join in. It also has ideas for questionnaires that you can use on parents' nights or other school events to find out what activities parents would like to see happening and to ask them what skills, experiences or knowledge they have that could help the school.
Improving communication - page 46 of the Toolkit describes some of the ways of improving communications with parents.