Public Engagement

Parental Engagement Toolkit: Supporting schools to engage parents with children's learning 

Overview

Dr Janet Goodall (Lecturer, Department of Education) received £1900 to create and share a parental engagement toolkit with schools, supporting them to think about, analyse and engage with parents about children’s learning.
 

Summary

Last year, just one in every three disadvantaged school children achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C or above compared to two in every three children from richer families. Much of this achievement gap arises from the environment of the child outside of school. This includes how parents interact with their children about their learning.

I decided to work with schools for two reasons: to reach more parents than I could by working with parents directly and to help change the practice within schools which would have a long-term impact on parental engagement.

Dr Janet Goodall

Getting parents involved in learning is one of the best ways to raise the achievement and to narrow this achievement gap. To encourage parental engagement, the attitude of the school is vital but often schools do not understand the support parents need to engage with their children’s learning.
 

Sharing the toolkit with schools

Janet created a toolkit for schools that included a wish list, a planning tool, practical information and a scheme to evaluate what schools are already doing in terms of parental engagement.

Janet announced the toolkit at the 2015 Pupil Premium conference in Wiltshire with the hope of recruiting 10 to 15 schools for this pilot project. She was delighted when 30 signed up.

The toolkit asks schools to look not only at what they are doing differently, but at why they are doing things differently – and then, at what effect those changes are having.

Dr Janet Goodall

Workshops for schools were delivered as a part of the project, in collaboration with Wiltshire Local Authority, who were partners in the project. Janet showed school staff how to use the toolkit and encouraged them to share ideas on their practices. The schools then took the toolkit away and committed to using it for the year. Another follow-up workshop brought the schools back together again to discuss their progress, and a final, celebratory event was held in January, 2017.
 

Helping schools engage parents

Schools using the toolkit acquired a new way to think about and improve the way they support parents to engage with children’s learning. Janet noted that schools were mostly at an early stage of thinking about parental engagement but was impressed by the level of interest and the appetite for information and support in this area. The toolkit project has been instrumental in helping schools develop their understanding and practice.

Schools have reported: 

  • It supported us in celebrating what has been achieved so far and next steps to work towards
  • The toolkit promoted positive thinking and promoted changes
  • A useful tool to structure thinking

This comment makes me as a researcher think it’s all worthwhile - “an improvement is usually seen in pupils following communication between school and parents that the toolkit facilitates.”

Dr Janet Goodall

Schools appreciated the chance to talk to each other and to discuss best practices during the training days. “Really helpful to hear what other schools are doing” was one comment.

Even within a small timescale, the new approaches to parental engagement were making a difference to children’s learning. 

Some schools incorporated the toolkit framework into their own school development plans, embedding the ideas from the toolkit into the school ethos.
 

Developing the toolkit further

Parental engagement is one of Janet’s research areas and so working with schools has given her more information about their methods. She has seen a big divide between what is written in the literature and what schools actually put into practice, largely because school staff often do not have access or the time to read and analyse the literature. Janet has therefore identified the need for clear, easily digestible information and is proposing to write a book based around the toolkit, including case studies from some of the schools she worked with. There will also be peer reviewed articles based on the toolkit; the project was presented at the 2016 British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Conference.

The success of the toolkit can be summed up in what one school governor reported:
 
Now, we look at everything we do to see how we can involve parents.