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5 ways to get parent buy-in

Getting parents invested in your teaching strategies is of enormous value to the student.

Firstly, it cannot be overstated how important it is that parents understand the strategies you are using for learning in your classroom. Teaching has changed significantly in the twenty-five years since they were at school, which can cause a familiarity barrier. On a practical level, parents can be alienated by the methods we use and the technology we take for granted (primary ‘chunking’ and phonics are prime examples of this). If parents cannot relate to the concept their child comes home talking about, it is inevitable that instead of furthering the conversation, they switch topic unwittingly.

Secondly, young people who experience reinforcement at home of the attitude that learning is their ticket to life success, school is important and that their parent values education has more reason to invest emotionally in the community of school as well as engage with the day-to-day classroom learning.

If you are looking to strengthen the effect that parental reinforcement can have on your teaching, here are five ideas to cultivate a triangulated learning culture.

Curriculum sharing in a yearly presentation

By inviting all parents in for a start-of-year presentation, you immediately show your expectation that parents will play an active role in their child’s education. A simple slideshow of what the year has in store can empower parents to confidently engage with their child about what they are currently learning for the whole year. Gather as many year group teachers as possible to contribute. You can use a few photos from last year’s trips then give an overview of the topics you’re covering over three terms and allow for questions. It helps to send them away with a curriculum overview for all subjects and (for primary) the spellings lists for the whole year.

Good news calls home

Young people of all ages are actually motivated by validation. Calls home are of high value, but failing that use notes home with a detail of what you were impressed by.

Playground farewells, open door night and weekly meetings

Unfortunately teachers have too heavy a workload for an open-door policy after school every day so escort the class out every afternoon and make smiling eye contact with as many parents as possible. This might seem basic advice but you can clear most queries by being available this way at the gate. One ‘after school’ open room a week will suffice as your open night and then you only need be flexible for parents who can’t make that. For children with behavioural issues, it may help if their parent has a standing visit to ‘look at their work’ weekly. Have the confidence to request the parent they appeal to for validation.

Home-school diary

This could be a homework diary but I am inclined to believe that regular, enforced homework does little but test parents and produce mounds of marking. Instead, a conversational book can allow notes of celebration of achievement and teaches the student responsibility for taking their own reminder notes for preparation-at-home. Find non-homework ways to involve parents with home learning such as the task of talking about a concept before a new topic (‘Big talk’) or multi-media research projects with open-ended outcomes of their choice.

Focus on the future

Finally, parents evening is often a lot of effort for a missed opportunity. To get the most out of this valuable meeting, switch your focus and pitch your conversation about moving forward, rather than what has been. Refer briefly to recent successes then set and agree a specific target for that student for next term and empower the parent with ways they can reinforce this at home.

What methods have you found to harness the power of parents?

5 thoughts on “5 ways to get parent buy-in

  1. I find every topic included in this blog very inspiring and Student friendly
    I am a teacher by profession and enjoy going through the updates related to pedagogy and many more

  2. Hi
    I would like to read about more examples of successful involvement, engagement & communication with parents in school.

  3. I have done something similar called “showcasing”. I plan for my pupils to complete a topic related task e.g. a piece of art, a structure in DT or a narrative piece in English. Last one was making Tudor houses for the Great Fire of London. I collate their work and display it in the class and invite parents for 10-15 minutes into the classroom when they come to collect their children at the end of the day. Children show their work to their parents with a great sense of pride. A soft drink and nibbles for the parents adds to the ambience.

  4. Parents LOVE to hear what’s happening in school. Keep it simple, use pics & video & be consistent. Successful practical solutions;
    * employ a great communications manager; allow teachers to teach & leaders to lead whilst ensuring consistent comms happen
    * playground/gate/car park greeting (SLT to share role)
    * open after-class one afternoon each month to see younger primary children in class and general chat with teacher
    * primary parents open forum – one meeting per month with SLT after school starts to discuss an important feature of the whole school
    * Newsletter – weekly or bi-weekly sent to parents & published to website (great marketing to prospective parents)
    * social media (with rules) & FB is popular with parents as well as good place for storytelling about school activity
    * sport/PE social media – tell parents about results asap
    * get the pupils involved – subject to rules of course

  5. Definitely the sharing of good news and open doors policies are helpful but teachers are often short of time to really work with parents, particularly those hard to reach families. Working with an adult learning provider to run courses for parents/carers so that they can get to grips not only with the children’s learning needs but also discuss and tackle their own, is a powerful, tried and tested solution. Family Learning programmes have been proven to successfully engage parents with very wide ranging benefits for not only the child but also the whole family. Just like their children, parents sometimes need a safe space and time to talk about their hopes, needs and fears. Schools who understand parents’ needs, and who work long term with experts in adult education to meet them, will go a long way to closing attainment gaps.

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