Section B – Involving and Engaging Parents: what does it mean and why is it important?
Why involve and engage parents?
1. Parents, carers and families have by far the biggest influence on the lives of their children. Parents who are involved and engaged with their children’s learning can make a difference in improving attainment and behaviour. Their support can play a vital role at all stages of education.
Why is involvement in the life and work of school or early learning setting important?
2. When parents and school leaders, educators and support staff 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. Educators and support staff 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 two way communication that supports both parents and teachers. Good information sharing can assist parents to ask the right questions at home and support the learning; it can help teachers in adapting their teaching to suit the learning styles of pupils and take account of the needs of individual families and learners.
3. Consultation with parents is a crucial part of improving standards and quality in teaching and learning. Schools should foster a positive and open ethos which encourages parents to be involved in key decision making and improvement processes. ‘Parent voice’ is key to helping education authorities and schools determine the priorities for schools and can help them to plan improvement to meet these priorities.
Why is engagement with children’s learning important?
4. Evidence shows that when parents are engaged in their children’s learning this leads to better outcomes for children and young people. Parental engagement is supported by co-operation between parents/practitioners and focuses on how families can build on what they already do to help their children’s learning and provide a supportive home learning environment. Parental engagement in and support for, their children’s learning plays a crucial role in helping children to achieve and attain throughout their time in education.
The impact of involvement and engagement
5. When parents are involved and engaged this helps to support a more empowered school or early learning setting, one where all interested parties are supported to play an active role in achieving the very best for children and young people.
Who do we mean by parents?
6. The Act uses the broadly framed definition of ‘parent’ set out in the 1980 Act. This is as follows:
“parent” includes a 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;”
7. This is a wide definition which might, by way of example, include:
- parents who may not live at the same address as the child or young person, including fathers named on the child’s birth certificate or with a Section 11 order under the Children(Scotland) Act 1995;
- others with parental responsibilities, for example foster carers, relatives and friends who are caring for children and young people under a Compulsory Supervision Order supervision arrangement under the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 or permanence order under the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007, or have been place by the local authority under s 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, and;
- close relatives, such as siblings or grandparents caring for children by family arrangement. These children are not looked after under Section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
8. Everyone who is a parent, as defined in terms of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, 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 only 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?
9. Although the wording used throughout the Act is ‘Parental involvement’ the provisions in the Act go beyond what would today describe as the ‘involvement’ of parents in their children’s school. In fact the provisions in the Act cover quite a wide range of topics including i) topics of involvement of parents in the life and work of their children’s school, ii) engagement with parents in their children’s learning and iii) the learning which happens at home or in the community. In detail, the three broad areas covered by the Act and therefore the three aspects which should be central to practice and approach are:
a) Parental engagement in children’s learning and 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 build on the learning they already do at home and in the community, and about the school in their role as a member of the Parent Forum.
b) Home/School Partnership
The Act reflects the shared role and responsibility that schools, parents and the community have in working together to help children learn. Effective home/school partnerships are essential to ensure that children get the most out of their school and their education. Working in partnership will allow opportunities, improvements and emerging issues to be identified at an early stage. Schools must support parents to be as involved as they can be in the work they do and should consider different ways of providing information which helps parents engage with the school and their children’s education.
c) Parental representation
The Act provides a framework for ensuring that parents are informed and involved in 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 defines parents as automatic members of the Parent Forum at a school, and to have their views represented to the school, education authority and others, including through a representative Parent Council for the school if they choose.
|Parental Engagement – ‘in Learning’||Parental engagement is about parents’ and families’ interaction with their child’s learning. It can take place in the home, at school or in the community. Where it takes place is not important. The important thing is the quality of the parent’s engagement with their child’s learning, the positive impact that it can have and the interaction and mutual development that can occur as a result of that interaction.|
|Parental Involvement – ‘in Schooling’||Parental involvement describes the ways in which parents can get involved in the life and work of the school or the ways that parents can get involved in “schooling”. Parental involvement includes activities such as parental representation in the development of policies, improvement plans and key decisions as well as attending school events, parental consultations or parents evenings.|
More information on the differences between the terms ‘parental involvement’, ‘parental engagement’, ‘family learning’ and ‘learning at home’ can be found in the ‘Learning
together: national action plan on parental involvement, engagement, family learning and learning at home 2018 – 2021’ which is available at: