With rising staff shortages, ongoing short and longer-term absences, and wellbeing concerns due to Covid-19, the pressure on schools is at an all-time high. Understandably, parents are concerned about the impacts that the pandemic has had on their child’s development, both academically and personally, and consequently, are looking to teachers for reassurance and support.
It’s no surprise when it comes to the value of having parents who are present and involved in their child’s education journey, as it helps students to maintain motivation and engagement. But now more than ever, it is vital to ensure every part of a child’s education is aligned, including ways to keep parents engaged and active in their child’s learning.
Therefore, as we get started with a new year, let’s consider the tools that schools can harness to build stronger relationships with parents at this critical time, whilst easing the pressure on already over-stretched teachers. The key to this lies in the continual use of the technology and strategies that became the lifeline for so many teachers, parents and students during school closures and restrictions.
Continuing to keep parents involved
While it’s highly documented that higher levels of parental engagement directly influence academic achievement, the Education Endowment Foundation found that this involvement is even more influential than a parent’s job, education, or income when it comes to their child’s development.
Therefore, it’s important to capitalise on this and embed the use of technology long-term rather than it being regarded as a temporary solution. One route is by utilising hybrid learning technology to facilitate increased involvement in the first place and there are many simple ways edtech can be used to do this.
For example, creating both student and parent unique logins not only allow students to easily access tasks and activities set for homework and revision purposes, but will also enable parents to see their child’s work, track progress throughout the year and communicate with teachers on certain notices or events.
Enabling parental access – which teachers can set up for individual or multiple students’ parents – will give them tailored insight into their child’s development, including work which has been flagged by teachers, and any feedback that’s been shared. This is also helpful in the instances where teachers have provided explanations or tutorials alongside homework or revision. For example, as part of an activity, a video tutorial on long division has been uploaded, but if a student has found it particularly challenging, then these resources can also be shared with parents so that they can aid their child with their learning.
All of this is helpful when it comes to identifying areas of strength as well as those subjects or topics that may need further development. For both teachers and parents, having access to this data means more tailored support can then be provided both in the classroom, as well as an opportunity to consolidate learning at home.
Building on this further by utilising a platform that not only houses this data but creates student portfolios is useful for monitoring achievements, identifying trends and building a strong picture of progress. These portfolios may include examples of students’ best work or projects that need greater support, as well as overall grades and feedback. This can help ensure that young people have the encouragement they need to build on what they already know, as well as reinforcing key communication between the teacher, parent and child. This is particularly valuable when it comes to parents’ evenings or one to one meetings, as both teacher and parent can access the same information in real-time and review and discuss feedback, regardless of whether the meeting is in-person or virtual.
There are of course important factors for consideration when it comes to sharing parental access. Teachers and safeguarding staff should have control over granting access, and the amount of data that is made available, as well as ensuring it is easy to understand and interpret. Doing this will facilitate a level of regular involvement, enabling parents to ‘check-in’ at times which are convenient for them, rather than having to wait for specific events throughout the year.
Success in action
One example where this has worked really well is at the RGS Family of Schools, a group of four leading independent schools, catering for children aged from 2-18. As part of its efforts to consistently offer children high-quality education, opportunities and experiences, the RGS Family of Schools implemented a digital learning programme. Through this partnership with edtech resources and platforms, the schools have been able to provide engaging and flexible learning specifically designed to adapt to the interests and needs of individual classes and pupils.
Involved in this were efforts to further increase parental engagement. Staff have been able to automatically post notes, assignments, and grades to a central platform, giving parents regular updates on their child’s progress. Features like in-app video chat also play a significant role in driving parental attendance to parent-teacher meetings. Being able to replicate an instant messenger style communication for parents and enabling them to access their child’s work at the touch of a button as well as see feedback in real-time means they can feel part of what their children do and have an active contribution in their education.
This was particularly effective during school closures, not only helping children to continue receiving personalised feedback and helping to mitigate and prevent learning loss but also particularly for parents who suddenly had to play a much greater role in their children’s learning. John Jones, director of innovation across the RGS Family of Schools, noted that the intuitiveness of Showbie, for example, helped support those parents who “were often working alongside pupils, especially those in the younger age groups” and certainly allowed them to “see what a powerful tool it is.”
Edtech is here to stay
It’s safe to say that for all the challenges faced, opportunities also emerged – including the role of parents, and being able to become more actively involved in their children’s education than ever before. Edtech has proved how valuable it can be for teachers to not only assign and assess student work, but also to aid the communication process. By empowering teachers with the digital tools to quickly share feedback with parents, update them on their child’s achievements and identify any learning gaps, they can provide the much needed trust and reassurance for parents on their child’s learning and development in the months and years to come; all without adding pressure to already stretched workloads.
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