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Parental engagement at St Aidan's Primary School

12 Feb 2021

 

In October 2019 St Aidan's Primary School and National Numeracy began a project to increase parental engagement at the school.

We spoke to Acting Depute Head Teacher Gillian about why the school wanted to take part, the reaction from children and their families, and the unexpected benefit of the project during school closures.

Why did you apply to the project and how has it gone?

As a school we had planned to increase parental engagement across the board, and I also develop numeracy in the school, so when this opportunity came up I thought: “Perfect, that hits two of our targets!” We didn’t expect to be picked, so we feel lucky that we were.

We loved taking part in the project, and many of the Family Maths Toolkit resources have totally saved us during lockdown because the home learning materials were good to go, and the families were already supposed to work on them together. Everything else the families had was digital, but there’s a digital divide in terms of equity in our area. A lot of our families don’t have devices, or the ones that do maybe have three or four kids, so it was difficult. Having paper-based resources meant they could be included in the learning.

Did the kids enjoy doing the activities?

They really did – reading the comments from the children in their Family Maths Toolkit scrapbooks showed that. They didn’t often see it as a maths lesson, more as a fun challenge, while learning maths at the same time. They’re different to their other schoolwork and covered all different topics.

They liked that we built in a celebration of success at assembly every week, and that it forced some of their parents to work with them! It wasn’t just that they had to check it, but they had to do it with them. They also like that they learn differently now, so family members’ answers would be the same as theirs, but they would find the answers in a different way and liked the opportunity to show how they do it in school.

How did the staff find it?

It’s always difficult because we’ve got loads of staff, and at the beginning I thought: “Oh this is just going to be something else to add to everyone’s lists of things to do.” But the fact that all the resources were there meant it was just a case of teachers encouraging children to do it, and them picking the lessons – the workload was already done for them. A lot of them felt that they got a better return with feedback and homework, than they did with traditional homework. I don’t know if that was because the children got nice workbooks – it gave them ownership of something, they felt it was something special. The creative elements of the tasks and how open they were was also really popular with the teachers and children.

Did you notice an increase in parents getting involved?

I did! A lot of nursery parents came, and now that their kids are in Primary 1 it’s nice that the project meant we had that relationship with them established earlier than we normally would have.

It was great that some families were there that maybe don’t have a lot of other parent-friends within the school community, and for them to have the chance to talk about their kids and socialise was lovely. I think the parents can be hard on themselves just like we are as teachers, so it was nice for some of them to admit they struggle sometimes and don’t know how to support their children, especially with maths being completely different now.

I noticed as well, from comments in the work, that there were also a lot of grandparents or older siblings getting involved, some children had cousins to help them. We said it could be anybody in the house, so it wasn’t always a parent.

National Numeracy's Ben delivering the parental engagement workshop

What impact do you think it’s had?

It started the ball rolling with getting parents to understand maths anxiety, and how their everyday language around maths has an impact on the children.

It allowed our staff to see how fun other activities can be, and we’ve still got those activities so they can change and model and use them as suits them.

For the children, the fact they can celebrate their maths homework is wonderful, and that’s something I want to continue.

So it’s helped the children think and speak more positively about maths?

Yes, I had a Primary 7 class at the time and they definitely spoke more confidently about it.

There were kids where I could see their maths anxiety lifting throughout the project, because we took the time to celebrate their work each week.

It wasn’t just marking their homework but also talking and sharing what we did, pointing out all the positive things that we did together. That allowed them to see that even if they got the answer wrong, they could still get something right within their homework. For them it was a chance to achieve success.

Would you recommend National Numeracy’s parental engagement resources to other schools?

I actually have already! I was asked to share what we did with the authority. We have “numeracy coaches” where every school has a nominated coach and we meet up in clusters. So, at our meeting I told them about it, and there was a lot of interest with others saying it was something they wanted to do but hadn’t known existed.

I’d say to anyone who has the opportunity to do it to go for it, because there’s really no hard work involved, it’s solely positive. It’s win-win because the resources are there and the support’s there. I really enjoyed the check-ins with National Numeracy to see how things were going, and I think we need that as schools because it’s so easy to start something and not finish it because we’re so busy all the time. I couldn’t fault any part of it!

 

Read about Gillian's own journey with maths anxiety