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How to involve hard-to-reach parents: encouraging meaningful parental involvement with schools (2011)

20 Jul 2018

The more parents are involved at school, the more pupils achieve. 

Parental engagement plays a key factor in children's success at school. But some parents have little interaction with school, failing to attend meetings or respond to communications.

So how do schools identify and engage with these hard-to-reach parents? Key areas for schools to focus on include harnessing technology as an outreach, working with fathers and families as a whole, and using the community to improve contact.

“It is difficult to determine who ‘hard-to-engage’ parents are, as schools do not know the full extent of family circumstances. What we do know is that there are certain parents in every school who rarely, if at all, attend school events or meetings.” - Healthy Schools co-ordinator, Salford PCT

The report found that when some school leaders discuss parental engagement, they use the term to reference mothers, however there is a large benefit to the child if fathers are also included. School leaders identified some of the main barriers in the involvement of fathers as:

  • Absent or weekend-only fathers 
  • Fathers' difficulty in attending school due to work commitments 
  • Low proportions of male staff in primary schools 

The report follows a practical study working with parents considered hard to reach, school leaders from across the country and health professionals. It looks at the barriers parents face to becoming engaged in schools. These barriers vary from their own bad experiences of education, to problems encountered in dealing with children's homework and feelings of insecurity or low self-esteem. 

“Successful schools are those where parental engagement is at the centre of the school ethos, as opposed to being at the periphery.” - Healthy Schools co-ordinator, Salford PCT

Strategies from school leaders taking part in this research in summary cover the following areas:

  • Implementing training programmes for parents, where they learn to communicate and work directly with their child 
  • Enabling parents to recognise that they are partners and consumers in the educational process, and providing them with suitable arenas to critique and formulate agendas 
  • Making it easier for parents to participate by giving them meaningful roles in school decision-making 
  • Emphasising to parents how needed and valued their involvement is 
  • Communicating to parents that their involvement and support makes a considerable difference to their child’s performance 

The report brings together a toolkit with a number of practical solutions which most schools can implement to engage all parents - see appendices 2 and 3.

Download the full report