Good communication between school and parents
Both schools and parents agree that the basis for developing positive relationships is good communication. Thought needs to be put into this and some authorities and schools have developed communications strategies which outline some of the principles of good communication and the various ways it will be done.
These are some ideas that have been suggested by parents and teachers:
- Reach out to parents at places they already visit: shops, post offices, supermarkets, libraries, doctors' surgeries and ensure that information is available there and a positive image of the school is presented
- Use local media: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, posters etc, to let parents know what is happening in the school and share 'good news' stories about what the school and children are doing
- All information should be attractive and easy to read, using colour and pictures where possible
- Avoid the use of educational jargon or terms that parents may be unfamiliar with
- Have one-to-one conversations with parents
- Have a direct approach to communications with parents - 'just ask them'
- Use electronic methods, for example, text messages and email
- Build relationships through contact with parents at drama, music and sport events, parents' nights, school concerts
- Make use of parent to parent contacts - 'snowballing' (where one parent agrees to bring along or introduce another), school gate, parents' nights, information sessions led by parents
- Make use of existing opportunities for example focus on transitional phases
- (pre-school to primary, primary to secondary)
- Share key facts such as the research findings on the difference parents make.
example 3 - use of email as a means of communicating with parents
A secondary school in the Stirling Council area identified the need for a more efficient means of communicating with parents and received support to develop an email system.
The project piloted a dedicated email address for parent/carer enquiries. All parents in the school were surveyed to ask if they were interested in using email and if so, for what types of communication. The email addresses were collected and entered into a new system and a protocol was developed to ensure efficient and effective responses or acknowledgments within a reasonable timescale. Guidance was given to parents/staff as to what the email system could and could not be used for.
Approximately 60% of parents in the school signed up to using the new system. During the 3-month trial period the school used the system to send out various information documents to parents including the school newsletter and information on drug awareness events. Parents' enquiries included pastoral care issues, fundraising and meeting arrangements.
The feedback from parents was positive. They were keen to make use of the system as a means of easier access to information relating to the school.
"Just to say that I am finding the system very useful and efficient."
"I am very pleased, as a parent, that I now have access to the info certain teenagers in my house leave lying in the bottom of their bags."
"I think this system will benefit many and has benefits perhaps not envisaged for parents like me working away from home."
example 4 - pupil focus groups
In East Renfrewshire, some Pupil Councils have developed separate Pupil Focus Groups. These special pupil sub groups address issues like Equality - one school has an 'E Team', The Equality Team. Other groups have focused on issues relating to inclusion, healthy eating and enterprise.
Parent Councils could benefit from establishing closer links with young people in these groups, both from the cross over of interest in topical issues as well as gaining opportunities to develop closer partnerships.