Parents

Successful schools often have children who receive strong support for learning from parents. In fact studies have suggested that the quality of parental support could be the single most important factor in determining how well a child does at school. Finding out about the parent cohort at a school and investigating a school’s relationship with its parent group is therefore a key element in deciding upon the right school for your child.

  • If a school has an active Parent Teachers Association, PTA, the likelihood is that it has a parent body that supports learning.
  • It is important to look carefully at what the school does for parents, as well as what the parent body does for the school. A school which tries hard to engage parents, even though parents may be difficult to engage, is better than a school that does not try at all.
  • A successful school involves parents in children’s learning. For example, they might have parents helping at a school production, or parents reading with students.
  • Parents should be made welcome at the school.They should be greeted hospitably and warmly by reception, and the school should facilitate all communication with parents, not hinder it.
  • It should be made very clear by the school whom parents should contact about issues concerning their children.
  • A school with a strong pastoral system usually has good communications with parents. Tutors are accessible and know their students well. The school contacts parents with good news as well as bad. The school contacts parents when they can help, not when it is too late.
  • Schools who successfully communicate with parents are more likely to be right for your child. A school should have ways of having a regular dialogue with parents. Usually, schools will have a system where each student has a journal to record homework, important dates and information; and which parents and tutors sign every week. If the use of this journal is not enforced by the school, then the system is useless. Or, in some schools now, all communication is done electronically
  •  Schools should make all appropriate publications accessible to parents. The  the prospectus, the website and the newsletter should all be parent friendly.
  • Schools which want to communicate with all of their parents and not just a select few will make sure that key communications are appropriately translated.
  • A school will usually have some sort of newsletter which it sends out to parents, keeping them up to date. If this publication is working, it should be informative, celebrate success, be published regularly and actually be read by parents.
  • Schools should have means of regularly informing parents about their child’s performance. Legally, a school has to produce a report for each child at least once a year. Some schools also give every parent an end of term breakdown of levels or grades. In others, teachers record progress in the students’ journals, or electronically.  If communications are working successfully, a parent should be able to find out, with little difficulty, what level their child is working at in each subject at any time.
  • Parents should be invited to school at least once a year for a Parents’ Evening or an Academic Review day to discuss their child’s progress.
  • Schools should have a schedule of parents’ events. These should not be limited to parents’ evenings. Successful schools could hold revision evenings, options’ evenings or curriculum evenings. Schools should be facilitating parental involvement at all the key points of your child’s career.
  • Schools which are particularly strong extended schools will offer a full programme for parents, which includes parenting support.
  • Some Head teachers are better at and more interested in communicating with parents than others. A good Head teacher works hard to involve and inform parents.
  • Remember that a Head teacher is not at the beck and call of parents. Although the notion of ‘parent choice’ is very popular at the time of writing, the Head teacher is a highly qualified professional who knows their own mind, not simply that of their parent body. As well as listening to parents, a Head teacher sometimes needs to stand up to them. Not all parents will have the good of the school at the top of their agenda, and a Head teacher must not be intimidated by parents or respond to their every whim.

Further Information

Extra-curricular

Contact the school and ask about extra-curricular events, such as the school production. If possible attend a school’s production before you decide whether to send your child there. You will get to observe the parental cohort in the audience, and you can chat to the parents who are usually involved providing the refreshments.

Informal Visit

Pop into the school to pick up the prospectus. See how the reception staff treat you as prospective parents, whether they are warm and welcoming, or indifferent.

Open Evening

Find out if the school has a parental survey and if so what they have learned from it. Have any actions been taken as a result of the survey findings? Ask about their reporting cycle.

PTA

It is helpful to talk to parents of children who attend the school you are considering. One way of doing this is to contact the school and see if there are any events coming up that are organised by the PTA, for example, a school fete, or other fund raising event. If there is, get tickets and go.Then,you can get a feel for the type of parents involved, and whether you would fit in with them.You can also ask them informally about the school, and what their endorsements or reservations are.

School Publications

Contact the school and ask for any recent back copies of their communications with parents: letters, examination time tables etc. This will give you an idea about how hard the school works to involve its parents, and also give you a taste of how the Head teacher addresses her parents. It is a good idea to ask the school for the most recent copy of their newsletter and two or three back copies. See how often the newsletter comes out, see if the school celebrates its success, and see if there is any evidence from the newsletter of parents actually reading it, for example, comments from parents etc.

Visit

Ask the student showing you round about their journal or day book, or how the school communicates with their parents electronically.  Find out whether their parents and tutors regularly sign the journal or day book, if they have one.

Summary




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