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How to give every parent a voice

Regardless of background, social class or ethnicity, parent engagement has a large and positive impact on student learning. In fact, according to the Education Endowment Foundation, an engaged parent can accelerate a child’s learning progress by an average of four months.

However, there’s no doubt the disruption we’ve witnessed over the last two years has put significant pressure on the social contract around education.

In the current climate, schools, trusts and colleges face a myriad of challenges ranging from mental health, especially around reducing anxiety, to re-establishing standards between parents and school staff. To ensure we improve the life chances of every pupil moving forward, parents and carers must be fully re-engaged in students’ learning.

The barriers to engagement

Out of the various barriers to parent engagement, the main reoccurring ones are time, money and logistics. However, there are also less tangible barriers like a lack of confidence, feeling intimidated based on one’s own school experience and being overwhelmed by the thought of engaging in a child’s education.

Undoubtedly, confidence varies between parents. Some are naturally more outgoing than others and without knowing or intending to, can dominate conversations with teachers. Alternative ways of communicating and engaging, like forums and Q&A sessions are also time limited and do not always allow for every parent voice to be heard. All of which means there can be a misrepresentation in parental or guardian feedback and a large portion of parents do not get the appropriate attention. So how can every parent have a voice?

Overcoming engagement barriers 

Technology can help break down many of these barriers. Through implementing the appropriate technology tools, parents and teachers can work together to provide the much-needed support for students’ development.

Having a central platform – with one login, no lost letters or need to switch between multiple systems – can make the communication process much simpler, giving parents the chance to have a more proactive role in their children’s education.

Such engagement apps also enable parents to have an equal opportunity for getting their voice heard. Further, if parents feel like they are informed and have all the information they need, the chances of them engaging will increase, which will help both parents and teachers achieve their joint goal of improving the life chances of students.

An additional positive is a centralised communication app will give schools the opportunity to access data on who is engaging with the school compared to those who are not. This can then be correlated and matched against the performance and behaviour shown in school. By using the data to its full potential, schools will be able to provide more personalised and proactive support in the classroom.

Creating continuous, long-term engagement 

Providing parents with the ability to engage in two-way written communication via a specialised communications platform, enables better management and record-keeping for both parents and teachers. Further, linking these communications to a school’s management information system reduces the amount of admin time teachers spend searching for email addresses, so groups of parents can be contacted as soon as any irregularities in student data are found. This not only reduces admin time, but it also enables schools and parents to work together more effectively when safeguarding issues arise. For parents, this can provide an effective and effortless way to communicate at their own discretion outside of school hours; providing the chance for them to be better engaged.

Communication software also safeguards schools from doing the tedious task of managing requests, such as freedom of information requests, which can pull admin staff away from other important tasks for weeks at a time.

Living in a multi-cultural society means there will be parents and carers who may not be native English speakers. This can in some cases limit the productivity of conversations between parents and staff, which in turn will affect engagement. Having an engagement app which can effectively translate for both parties can solve the issue instantly.

There’s no doubt Covid caused a long-term behaviour change, and we’ve seen a resulting push towards the desire for self-accessibility and remote interactions. Using applications which link to micro-sites enables parents to self-serve, as they can easily access resources and information in one place.

Unlocking your power to adapt

By bringing technologies parents and teachers are used to in their everyday lives into the school environment, communications can become much more meaningful and powerful. EdTech’s enhanced engagement tools can provide the missing link between school and home and the ability to maintain parental engagement throughout a student’s learning journey. Ultimately if school and home can sync, it will improve the wellbeing and educational outcomes of students and give every parent a voice.

By Simon Freeman, Managing Director of Education at IRIS Software Group

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