From education to employment

Why colleges should strengthen home links

Jeremy Sheen, director of information at King Edward VI College, believes that the role parents play in supporting a young person through further education cannot be underestimated. Here he talks about why his institution has focussed on addressing the information fall off parents can experience when their child leaves school.

According to the latest figures, there are 1.07m people aged 16 to 24 who are not engaged in education, employment or training. There is little doubt that further education has a key role to play in reducing this figure.

There has been much research conducted on the significant impact parental involvement has on children’s achievement in school. The importance of keeping parents engaged with how their child is progressing has been championed by governments and is now largely embedded into the fabric of school life.

So why is it that the lines of communication with parents often drop away once a child leaves secondary school? And what can colleges do to help keep parents engaged through this important stage in their child’s education?

Harnessing parent power

Most parents today receive much more information on their child’s learning progress from their primary or secondary school than they did in the past. And many will expect to continue being involved in supporting their child’s achievement when they move on to further education.

At King Edward VI College, we recognise the need to involve parents in college life and the positive impact it can have on students’ learning experience. That is why we have taken steps to close the information gap that exists for many parents.

We are among the first further education institutions to introduce an online parent portal developed by Capita to give parents easy access to a wealth of information on how their child is progressing through their course. This is data we are already recording, such as details of students’ timetable, attendance, assessments and achievement, as well as course and exam timetables.

The initial feedback we have had from parents has been really positive. We have found the online portal to be an incredibly convenient and effective way for families to engage in college life without increasing the workloads of our staff.

Going online

The way it works is that parents simply log on to the portal from a PC or tablet and they can view information on any of their children studying at King Edward VI in one place.

As the data is presented in real time, parents can check whether their child is arriving on time to lessons or view details of the strengths and weaknesses their tutor has highlighted following an assessment. The system can even be configured for parents to see comments individual tutors have made on work their child has submitted and make contact with tutors directly via the portal if they have any questions about their progress.
Many schools have been communicating with parents online for years. And the benefits of offering this kind of service in further education are far reaching.

If a parent knows that their child frequently misses college on a Friday, for example, or is consistently late to their mathematics class, both college and parent can work together to identify and address any issues that might be behind this. Likewise, they are much more aware if their child’s grades start to dip and can offer the right support at home before it has a lasting impact on their achievement.

Sometimes a chat with mum and dad at home is all that’s needed to turn things around. It is conversations like this that could give a student at risk of disengaging or dropping out the support and motivation they need to achieve all they are capable of in their studies.

The way forward

Parents play an incredibly valuable part in supporting their child through the school years. With the right tool in place, they are encouraged to continue providing this vital assistance far beyond the school gates. In challenging financial times, this is key to enabling young people to take the first steps towards success in the workplace and will help foster a life long love of learning.

Jeremy Sheen is director of information at King Edward VI College, which uses the UNIT-e Parent Portal from Capita. For more information visit


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