1. Does your school value home/school relations? How does your community know?
2. What does your school do well to foster closer home/school ties? Share your success stories?
3. What are the barriers to good home/school collaboration with parents and the wider community?
4. Do home/school agreements have value?
5. Is an open door policy (a) desirable and (b) truly possible?
6. Is it desirable to maintain parental interest beyond KS1? If so, what can we do in KS2-4?
7. How does your school and the community communicate and share, and how could this be improved?
8. What advice can you offer new teachers for communication face to face with parents.
I’m fascinated by the impact that home life has on our pupils. The first few years of life is the most rapid development period of a person’s life and is largely done away from formal schooling. Our pupils spend far more time at home than at school, so any school who ignores the home school relationship will be at an immediate disadvantage, yet many schools simply do not give the home/school relationship the attention it needs.
The discussion began by asking whether the participants’ school values the home/school relationship and how do the community know. Most chatters responded positively to the first part, but answers were more vague on the latter point. Many people tweeted about ‘open doors’, but (to mis-quote Douglas Adams) on the whole it isn’t the doors that are unhappy! It is all well and good that these doors are open, but the community need to feel they are able to walk through them and get something of value for it. However, there were many good suggestions for building successful relationships with the community. Inviting the community to organised sessions of activities seemed to yield positive results to overcome initial hurdles.
The most intriguing section of the chat was about the barriers to home/school ties. Some chatters thought that many parents were simply unreachable, while others felt that parents were happy with the level of ‘arm’s length’ interaction they had currently. Both may be true for some individuals, but it would seem sensible to find out whether these were true before trying to develop strategies for closer home/school ties. Interestingly, the barriers suggested were almost exclusively parent focused – perhaps the opinion’s of someone from outside the school would disagree and governors, as people with one foot in the school and one in the community, may have valuable insight here.
The discussion moved on to home/school agreements or contracts. The majority of chat participants saw little value in these, unless they are tailored to the individual group or child. Most schools have a standard agreement for every pupil and parents and children can not question what appears in the contract. Some chatters didn’t like the idea of an agreement at all, while others thought some form of differentiation and tailoring was needed.
The discussion turned to the apparent drop-off in parental engagement as their child moved up through the school system. Is this a reflection of the child’s growing independence or a switching off by parents? There were a mix of views from UKEdChatters and some examples given when engagement increased with the age of the pupil. Clearly, there are large differences between how primary and secondary schools approach parental engagement, but the drifting away appears to happen before this transition.
The discussion briefly moved to methods of communication. Most schools seem to be using a combination of emails, text messaging, and now mobile apps, but it is interesting that almost all still produce a paper newsletters for those parents who are off the grid.
The discussion closed with participants offering their advice for new teachers and trainees who are talking with parents for the first time. The general advice is to be open, honest and welcoming. Good advice for both new and old teachers!