Home-School Partnerships

These materials were adapted from Parents as Partners in their Children’s Learning produced by The Scottish Government, Crown Copyright 2006.

Successful home-school partnership working depends on the development of mutual trust and respect between school and parents. Schools need to use the skills, knowledge and experiences that all parents and all staff bring to the school to support children's learning.

The development of good relationships when things are going well can make it easier for both parents and teachers to approach each other if they are concerned about something.

There are many opportunities to contact parents informally:

  • Day-to-day contact in the playground or at the school gate
  • Breakfast or after-school clubs
  • Fundraising events
  • Community activities
  • School events - sports day, concerts, etc
  • Introductory home visits.

Working in partnership with parents may be new to some staff, who may also need support to make this work effectively. Principals may want to consider what staff development opportunities are available to staff to support them in communicating with parents. For example, workshops for staff on 'How to get the best out of parent evenings' and 'Making the most of one-to-one meetings with parents' can help develop ideas and skills.

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When Things Go Well

What it looks like when things go well

  • Parents feel that they are welcome in the school.
  • There are a lot of opportunities for parents to get involved in different activities and there is evidence that they do get involved.
  • The school understands the needs of all parents and develops ways of working which are supportive and inclusive.
  • People are asked about what is important to them, and what they would like to see happening.
  • Students are contributing their ideas about what is important to them and how they want parents and others to be involved and these ideas are used to increase the involvement of parents.
  • Parents are motivated to continue their own learning.
  • Everyone recognises that parents have other commitments and responsibilities in their lives.
  • Parents are able to take part when and how they can. It is easy to step back and then pick things up later if circumstances change.
  • Parents have the confidence and skills to take part and the skills that parents have are used appropriately within the school.
  • Teachers engage with parents in a variety of ways on a day-to-day basis in order to build a positive relationship.
  • The process recognises the diversity among the parents at that school and is inclusive. For example, there is information about the ways parents can take part in the life of the school in different formats and languages. Interpreters and signers are provided when necessary to ensure that all parents have access to important information.
  • The school recognises the reluctance of some parents resulting from their own bad experiences at school and provides positive ways for parents to be involved in their own child's school at a level which they are comfortable with.
  • Support and development opportunities are offered to everyone who is taking on a new role such as membership of the parent advisory council or volunteering to help teachers with school activities.
  • The school development plan clearly indicates the different ways in which parents can be involved in the school and their children's learning.

Files

PDF file: Checklist - working together to increase parents' involvement in school (28 KB)

Word file: Checklist - working together to increase parents' involvement in school (43 KB)

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Examples and Activities

Example - a Parent Ambassador Program

Parents can be a tremendous resource in their child’s learning community. However, they are, on the whole, absent from most high schools. The Parent Ambassador Program at Rick Hansen High School in Abbotsford was developed for parents to step into the school culture. Parents volunteer, support school activities and act as advocates for the school in the community.

Resources:

Example - involving parents in planning parents' evenings

Parents were consulted on how the school could improve their partnership with parents. Many parents felt that the arrangements for parent/teacher interviews could be improved. The meetings were held in the classroom and waiting parents could overhear what the teacher was saying to others. This meant that parents could feel uncomfortable about raising issues with the teacher.

To solve this problem, the layout was changed. Soft music was also introduced to help prevent others overhearing what was being said.

Files

PDf file: Activity - a survey on arrangements for parent-teacher interviews (42 KB)

Word file: Activity - a survey on arrangements for parent-teacher interviews (40 KB)

PDF file: Sample parent survey (40 KB)

Word file: Sample parent survey (35 KB)

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Good Communication

Good communication between school and parents

Both schools and parents agree that the basis for developing positive relationships is good communication. Thought needs to be put into this and some schools have developed communication strategies which outline some of the principles of good communication and the various ways it will be done.

These are some ideas that have been suggested by parents and teachers:

  • Use local media such as TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and posters to let parents know what is happening in the school and share 'good news' stories about what the school and students are doing.
  • All information should be attractive and easy to read, using colour and pictures where possible.
  • Avoid the use of educational jargon or terms that parents may be unfamiliar with.
  • Have one-to-one conversations.
  • Have a direct approach to communications with parents - 'just ask them'.
  • Use electronic methods, for example text messages and email.
  • Build relationships through contact with parents at drama, music and sports events, and parents' nights and school concerts.
  • Make use of parent-to-parent contacts, for example 'snowballing' (where one parent agrees to bring along or introduce another), school gate, parents' nights, and information sessions led by parents.
  • Make use of existing opportunities, for example focus on transitional phases (elementary to middle, middle to secondary).
  • Share key facts such as the research findings on the difference parents make.

Example - use of email as a means of communicating with parents

A secondary school identified the need for a more efficient means of communicating with parents and received support to develop an email system.

The project piloted a dedicated email address for parent enquiries. All parents in the school were surveyed to ask if they were interested in using email and if so, for what types of communication. The email addresses were collected and entered into a new system and a protocol was developed to ensure efficient and effective responses or acknowledgements within a reasonable timescale. Guidance was given to parents/staff as to what the email system could and could not be used for.

Approximately 60 per cent of parents in the school signed up to using the new system. During the three-month trial period the school used the system to send out various information documents to parents including the school newsletter and information on drug awareness events. Parents' enquiries included fundraising and meeting arrangements.

The feedback from parents was positive. They were keen to make use of the system as a means of easier access to information relating to the school.

'Just to say that I am finding the system very useful and efficient.'

'I am very pleased, as a parent, that I now have access to the info certain teenagers in my house leave lying in the bottom of their bags.'

'I think this system will benefit many and has benefits perhaps not envisaged for people like me working away from home.'

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How Students Can Help

Students have a really important role in encouraging their parents to get involved with the school. Once they are made aware of how important it is that their parents get involved and support the school they often have a host of good ideas about how this could be done. They often know what would work best for their parents and their families.

Student Councils and clubs can also be a great resource. All of these groups could be asked to consider how parents and the wider community could be involved and support their learning in these areas.

Parent Advisory Councils could benefit from establishing closer links with young people in these groups, both from the cross-over of interest in topical issues and from gaining opportunities to develop closer partnerships.

Ways for Principals, schools and parents to involve students include:

  • Student councils
  • A District-wide student forum
  • A representative on the Parent Advisory Council (properly prepared and supported)
  • Circle time - where teachers and children in elementary schools have a chance to talk together and share news and information informally
  • Youth involvement in Community Planning networks
  • Notice boards which act as a permanent comment board
  • Scope for joint work or projects between staff/parent members and student representatives
  • Including them in formal and informal consultation processes when new ideas are being developed
  • Being part of the social events
  • Helping in practical ways with activities at the school.

Example - students interviewing parents and teachers

Students interviewed their teachers and their parent at home to get their views on parental involvement. Some children interviewed step-moms or dads, which was a very good experience for them both and in some cases the first time the step-parents had ever been asked to consider their involvement. All views gathered by the students helped develop a parent involvement strategy.

Comments from children and young people as part of developing this toolkit 'It [the toolkit] should tell parents and teachers to remember to ask us. We can help them with a lot of things.'

'It's not true that kids and their moms and dads won't want to work together. Just because we have arguments about tidying up at home and staying out late, it doesn't mean we aren't all interested in what happens at school. We want it to be a good school too.'

'The toolkit should tell people to ask grandparents to help. My gran teaches me lots of good things. Some of my friends don't have grandparents they see all the time. People could come and be grandparents for every child who needs one.'

Files

PDF file: Activity - developing a capacity or skills poster (62 KB)

Word file: Activity - developing a capacity or skills poster (42 KB)