Technology now supports many areas of our lives, enabling us to work smarter, improve accuracy and communicate more efficiently. Communication between a school and a parent or carer should be just as simple as any other type of interaction outside of school.
Getting parental engagement right can have a real impact on improving student outcomes. What happens outside the classroom can benefit children and their attainment, and it therefore comes under scrutiny as an improvement area for schools.
Getting parents involved
Rather than broadcasting to parents, it’s important schools work with parents and carers to develop practical strategies for authentic engagement. Asking parents when, how and how much they want to hear from school means providing much richer and more relevant feedback and information about their own child’s performance, homework, behaviour and attendance.
We recently ran a survey to ask what parents and carers want from schools in terms of information and engagement with their child’s learning. The responses were striking and a cause for optimism for all those school leaders who want to innovate, engage and do more to bind their whole school community into their goals. We found that 81% of parents believe they are already ‘engaged’ or ‘very engaged’ with their child’s school, with only a small drop off as their children get older, with 52% believing their engagement has stayed the same as their child has progressed through school.
At Capita, we know that communication between schools and parents is important, and that methods of communication are changing in a world of digital, mobile and social media. In our conversations with schools, we know many are experimenting and innovating with ways to improve the information flow from classroom to home.
One such school is Whalley Range, a member of the Education and Leadership Trust in Manchester. The school has been using SIMS for five years and wanted a very simple and effective way of engaging students and parents. They chose the SIMS Parent and Student apps.
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To date, the apps have been very popular, with over 80% of students and more than 650 parents already engaged. When the school rolled them out, they quickly found the ‘killer feature’ was homework – something that was invaluable for parents and students.
According to deputy head, Mike Lee, not only are students much better organised by taking ownership of their homework, parents are now much better informed about what it is their child is expected to do, and this can only benefit the outcomes for that student. Opening up the channels of communication takes away the element of surprise for parents. Students can track their own progress and parents can see what’s being set, as well as access behaviour, attendance and progress reports, all in one place.
For SIMS and Data Manager, Matthew Begg, it has brought parents closer to the school and has made communication much easier. Rather than relying on paper and post, messages now go out with just a couple of clicks and they get a response back straight away.
The future of engagement
Engagement needs to be more than just ‘getting parents in to school’ and technology will inevitably be one of the solutions. As more schools start to adopt collaborative technology, we’ll start to see dynamic two-way dialogue between school and home, turning one-way information flow into genuine two-way conversations. Technology has the power to greatly improve parental engagement with schools, helping parents get more involved with their child’s education and supporting increased attainment as a result.