How to engage with parents in independent schools
If you work in a fee-paying school, you may well feel that your parent community has higher student and educational expectations compared to those of state school parents. Parents and students in private schools may hope to enjoy a higher class of teaching in the form of smaller classes, better support materials and enviable extra-curricular programmes. Alongside this, they may also expect superior systems and processes to be in place that help facilitate connectivity and communication with school staff. As such, independent school parents represent a rather unique community, and the school should embrace this. This short article firstly outlines the importance of parent engagement, and then offers suggestions about how to improve it, within the independent school setting.
Why improve parent engagement in independent schools?
Firstly, regardless of school type, whether it’s primary, secondary, SEN, PRU or independent, parent engagement is a key factor in a school’s success and educational outcomes. According to Parentkind’s annual parent survey (of nearly 4000 parents of school-aged children) “from behaviour and attendance to learning outcomes, research shows the benefits of engaging the whole school community.”
John Hattie’s 2008 research study quantifies this, saying; “the effect of parental engagement over a student’s school career is equivalent to adding two or three years to that student’s education”.
The Parentkind survey goes on to say that although 85% of parents are keen to be actively involved in their child’s educational journey, only one third felt like they were doing as much as they could. Barriers included a lack of time and adequate knowledge or resources. If a school could help resolve these issues, this would result in better and more successful relationship, ultimately having a beneficial educational outcome for that child.
Superior parent engagement as a marketing tool
Looking in more detail at independent schools now, it’s important to remember that these are commercial enterprises as well as educational institutions. Parents are fee-paying customers of this business and engaged parents equals happier customers. Happy customers become fans and even advocates of your ‘brand’, and could ultimately form part of an extremely effective referral campaign (one of the most reliable forms of marketing).
How to improve engagement in private schools
Make Communication Easy
A quarter of all parents cited ‘time’ as one of the main barriers to parent engagement (Parentkind’s annual parent survey), and this will be particularly true for independent school parents. This begs the question, how can we save time on effective parent communication, without sacrificing quality? As we outline in our article ‘how to improve parent engagement’ parents are increasingly inundated with information, so it’s a good idea to choose one platform to communicate with your community. One place where they can access everything they need at any time as well as one channel to both send and receive messages. A school app for example, that had a customised home screen, push notification capability, unlimited parent contact form functionality for any occasion and a digital calendar. (Guess what, we can help with that! Contact us here for more info)
Give Regular Hints Tips And Advice
We’ve established that parents want to be more involved in their child’s education, but they often don’t know how. Consider building up a bible of relevant information that’s specifically tailored to your school, and ensure it's easy to access somewhere on your chosen communication platform (and on your website).
Parents will have increased faith and trust in this as a resource if it’s consistently updated, so make it someone’s job to monitor and improve, even if it’s just for an hour or two a week. Can you offer good websites for specific study and revision plans? Could you have specific areas that outline what projects or parts of the syllabus their child is currently studying? Once you’ve established this knowledge hub, ensure you make parents regularly aware of its existence. Include a section in your newsletter that summarises ‘what’s new’ and includes a link directly to it.
Every parent loves to read about the great things occurring in the classroom or at school. And if it is specifically about their child, even better! If you’re able to include video media in your newsletters, why not film your celebration and achievements assembly and add it in? It’s a permanent momento of the occasion, and also helps to alleviate parent guilt, if they weren’t able to attend in person.
Part of the attraction of independent schools is their vast choice of extra-curricular activities available. It makes sense then to promote these successful events as much as possible through newsletters, the website and social media channels. We outline more ways to celebrate success in our article.
It Cuts Both Ways
Of course, communication isn’t just one way. If a parent has a concern, question or suggestion, they want to be able to get in touch with the relevant person easily. At the same time, school staff need to be able to maintain control. Schoolzine’s platform offers this functionality with their web forms.
Operating in a similar way to Google Forms, schools can create an unlimited number of forms for any occasion. These could be for absence, school trips, the PTA or volunteer forms. Any member of staff can be the recipient of the form, and they have digital signature capability. For more detailed and formal feedback, a platform that offers survey capability is a real benefit. This could be for an end of year survey, or inviting feedback after parents evenings. Schoolzine offers all this functionality and more, with our digital and mobile responsive websites, newsletters, parents evening and app functionality, all in one place. Contact us for a free no-pressure demo.