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Jayne Davies

How to improve parental engagement through ICT

Jayne Davies, services director, RM Education discusses how IT tools can stremline and increase parental engagement in school communications

Effective parental engagement is an ongoing concern for schools, and as the default channels evolve, so must a school’s approach to communications. If schools want parents to engage fully with the school, it is important to create the right spaces to allow them to talk about the rounded education that their children receive – more than simply reporting on a child’s academic results. Some parents are hungry for information, particularly regarding the nature of their child’s studies, and the development of great parent communication channels can help facilitate valuable and helpful dialogue.

ICT at the core of communications

One of the core principles of a successful communications strategy for schools is engagement outside of the school gates, with a whole-school, community-based approach. Research consistently shows that parental engagement is one of the key factors in securing higher student achievement. The traditional reporting cycle of two, maybe three times a year does not enable positive parental involvement. If parents receive more regular feedback on their child’s progress, it is easier to foster a collaborative relationship between parent and school. Technology has huge potential to involve parents, facilitating greater learning at home and encouraging greater involvement in school activities.Streamlining parental communication

Parents communicate through a range of different channels. The most obvious change over recent years is the increase of parent communities on social media, for example private Facebook groups. It is crucial, especially when sending urgent information, that information is disseminated to parents as quickly as possible, using the channels that they engage with most frequently. There will never be ‘one size fits all’ solution, however engaging with parents using the channels they already use increases the value of communications, and the likelihood of them engaging with the school.

For parental engagement to be sustainable, school communication systems need to be easy to adopt and easy to manage.

Evaluating school communication

For parental engagement to be sustainable, school communication systems need to be easy to adopt and easy to manage. Tools which allow schools to monitor responses to texts or emails is important in ensuring messages are being received. Also, when schools are informing parents of important school updates, such as snow day announcements, it is crucial that the school knows this information is being received and read. Real-time tracking in parental engagement tools allows schools to monitor how many people have opened and read their communications and assess whether an additional communication is required.

ICT to help learning at home

Great educational outcomes are a result of excellent teaching, students engaged with their studies, and supportive parents. ICT can be used as a valuable support tool giving parents access to the same teaching resources used in the classroom. Some schools’ websites will include details about current curriculum, future assignments, and give examples of student work, all of which support the opportunities for further learning at home. In addition, the storing of students’ work in the cloud allows students to develop a digital portfolio, which can be accessible for parents at home. This also creates more opportunities for parents to be more informed on their child’s progress and involved in supporting learning at home.

Creating spaces for conversation and collaboration

Engagement with parents should be an ongoing conversation. Communications should not be confined to sending out announcements and newsletters, but instead create an opportunity for learning providers to discover what parents think. By using ICT to facilitate this, schools can make changes and improve processes in line with parents’ views and prove to Ofsted that the school is engaging with parents using the most helpful channels. Sharing videos, interactive question forms and other features in communications allow schools to really engage with parents beyond simply a one-way information flow.