Five Ways to improve Parent Engagement in your School
Maintaining a good level of parent engagement in schools has become a real challenge in recent times, with remote learning, new processes and high absence levels thrown into the mix.
Yet it remains more important than ever. Parents are now looking to their child’s school to provide the reassurance they need about their child’s progress, achievements and behaviour, despite the pandemic causing havoc with mainstream communication channels. Gone are the days of chatting to teachers at the school gate, or checking school trip details with the business manager at reception.
But challenges bring new opportunities, and the chance to make positive changes to your processes that will benefit your school in the long term.
With this in mind, we would like to share five ways you can improve parent engagement in your school.
1. Choose one communication platform
Multiple communication channels can feel confusing for parents, who, in a digital sense, are becoming more and more inundated with information. From an engagement perspective, having all your school information under one roof helps immensely.
Parents know where the school ‘bible’ is on their phone, and can refer to it as and when they need to check something. Not only this, but notifications coming in from one source also helps parents feel more organised and therefore more proactive in their child’s learning.
2. Share positive news
More and more schools are waving goodbye to paper in favour of quicker and cheaper (and often personalised) email and app notifications. Whilst this is great from a convenience and budget perspective alone, there can be a tendency to overload parents with a lot of administrative and sometimes negative information.
Ensure that you are sharing just as much positive news about students and celebrating successes wherever possible. Parents can quickly become disengaged if this is absent. It sounds obvious, but parents LOVE seeing their children performing well and it creates a huge sense of pride in them. This is excellent for child/parent relationships and instills trust in the school.
For example, ensure you share photos and videos of school trips in your newsletter, not just on social media. Many parents are not actively on social channels and it’s such a pity for this engagement-rich information to go unnoticed. Record any awards in assemblies and ensure this gets shared with parents, along with any outstanding work that happens in the classroom; an incredible poem or piece of artwork, for instance.
3. Create an engaging newsletter
The secret to creating a newsletter that is well-read is to ensure it’s focused on the students, because that’s what parents want to read about. Of course, there’s a place for important notices and ‘save the date’ style information, but this has to be well-balanced by media-rich content that parents will enjoy browsing with a cuppa. If you think your newsletter will put a smile on your parents’ faces, you’re on the right track.
Just as crucial as what is in the newsletter, is how your parents receive it. The vast majority of schools do not distribute a printed copy anymore in favour of a digital version. The issue here is, to all other intents and purposes, it’s still a ‘paper’ version, or in other words, a PDF attachment on an email.
This can create a major barrier to engagement, because the lion’s share of parents will be reading the newsletter on their smartphone. The text will be tiny and therefore need to be enlarged, and there are only so many pictures you can include in such a document. Yet if it’s too text-heavy, it will be off-putting for parents to read. Further to this, it can take a long time for schools to create and format this style of letter.
We recommend using a platform that offers a mobile-friendly solution to engaging, interactive newsletters. One that supports videos and galleries of unlimited photos. Take a look at our digital newsletter example for some inspiration!
4. Encourage active involvement with parents
An involved parent will always be a more engaged parent. Whether it’s a regular invitation to celebration assemblies, a role in the PTA, volunteering for school trips or in class, the more you can include parents in a wide range of activities, the better.
If you have an online calendar, set up events that parents can sync to their phone so they don’t forget. If possible, use the same calendar that’s on your website (like ours).
If you are considering a new initiative in your school, consider a forum (even if it’s online) that parents can attend and give their opinion or share their ideas. Make it really easy for them to join, and ensure you really listen to their suggestions.
5. Tackle language barriers
Even if your communication channels and content are excellent, they may still struggle to reach parents who fall into the EAL category. Long, wordy emails can feel daunting to those parents who don’t fluently understand English.
To ensure these parents feel included, consider a communication platform that has translation capability, like our school parent app. For a parent whose first language isn’t English, app notifications that default to their mother tongue language is a godsend and they will feel like a valued member of the school community.
Ensure your communications about vital information is kept as short and succinct as possible. Keep newsletters full of images and videos as well as text.
If you’d like to explore ways you can implement this in your school, get in touch.