Education and Schools is a key focus for the Big Venture Challenge as so many of our fantastic ventures contribute to this sector. We will be releasing a series of related posts over the next few weeks exploring various different issues relating to education and social entrepreneurship. We hosted the second annual Education Exchange event at Hogan Lovells last week with the Teach First Innovation Unit, bringing together a community of innovators, social entrepreneurs, teachers and others who share an interest in improving education, so that they could exchange ideas, perspectives and approaches to making education fair for all young people. The four areas discussed were:
What are the challenges for programmes seeking to develop soft skills within an increasingly restrictive curriculum?
Empathy; how do we support pupils to build it and how do we know if we’ve succeeded?
How can we encourage parental engagement within education?
Can project based learning be used to improve education?
Two of the discussions were facilitated by UnLtd staff and two by Teach First. Here, is the first reflection of one of the two discussions from the UnLtd team. Links to view the Teach First’s posts on Empathy and Challenges to Developing Soft Skills are at the bottom of the page.
How can we encourage parental engagement within education?
During the Education Exchange event hosted by UnLtd and Teach First at Hogan Lovells, we discussed the topic of parental engagement. The premise when approaching this topic is that parental engagement is a positive notion as research has showed us that higher levels of parental engagement leads to children having lower dropout rates and better grades in school.
Some participants stated that parental engagement in schools ends at parents evening and because that only occurs once a year, or occasionally once a term, it is often not enough to keep parents engaged enough to understand the level of support they need to give their children on a day to day basis.
A key universal concern was that the parents that schools need to engage with are the ones who are the hardest to reach. There can be several reasons for this including language and literacy barriers; in some cases where parents have language barriers and/or are illiterate it can often lead to them having negative attitudes to their own children’s language and literacy learning in schools which can hold their children back. One participant, a teacher, stated that at their school they had a young apprentice who was hired 4 days a week to be a Parental Engagement Officer; she speaks several languages and is an appealing friendly face to engage with parents from all backgrounds. They stated that having her there at drop off and pick up time made a huge positive impact on their school’s level of parental engagement.
Children from underprivileged backgrounds can often have disengaged parents. These are known as ‘targeted’ children. One of the participants stated that in her experience–creating situations within the school whereby ‘targeted’ parents and ‘universal’ parents were able to mix with one another and engage with one another was very beneficial in encouraging the targeted parents to follow the protocol of the universal parents and become more engaged.
Other worries were that parents are not educated about the national curriculum and therefore don’t have a clear understanding about what level their children should be at. Some sort of parental engagement tool that shared data with parents on a more day to day basis would be useful in keeping parents more engaged and not having to constantly bother teachers or have the need for teachers as a direct link to their children. However, parents are often too focused on hard data (i.e. grades) rather than wellbeing and creativity.
The notion of parental engagement always having a positive impact was taken as a given, however some participants felt that encouraging parental engagement wasn’t always wanted. In the cases of older children who are leaving school and planning careers, often parental engagement was overbearing “pushy” parents in some cases are forcing children to make decisions about their future based on their own wishes rather than their children’s preferences. In other cases some people voiced that sometimes parental engagement was too overbearing and made it difficult for schools and teachers to get on with their jobs.
Schools sometimes try and minimise parental engagement as they see it as an unnecessary hassle. This needs to be mitigated and schools need to work out what methods work best for them to engage their parents without their involvement being too overbearing. Schools also need to recognise the importance of engaging parents from before year 1 as this is an easier time to engage parents and having parents engaged from this early age makes it easier to keep them engaged for the remainder of the child’s school career.
There was a general consensus that parental engagement as generality is a complex issue that can only really be dealt with on a case by case basis, however it was universally agreed that by encouraging more parents to socialise with one another particularly by inviting them to events run by the school or to partake in educational events for example, it was much easier to better engage parents. Another simple solution was to incorporate more parents’ evening type events more frequently into the school year. Equally, by asking the parents themselves about what they think are the ways to best to engage them was a vital factor in working out the solutions to parental engagement and “actually making use of parents as a resource is the best way to maintain parental engagement”.
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Follow the link here to read the Teach First blogs.
By Jeya Lorenz, Communications and Events Coordinator at UnLtd