Involving All Parents

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


Because all children benefit from the interest and involvement of their parents, it is important to make sure that all parents have opportunities to be involved in their children's learning and education.

Every parent wants the best for their child but may have difficulty participating in some activities. This does not mean that they are not interested or not doing what they can to support their child's learning but they may find it difficult to be involved in the school. The key is to ensure that as many opportunities as possible are available to parents.

Barriers to Involvement


Parents are busy people. They might:

  • Be working either full- or part-time
  • Be bringing up young children
  • Have children attending different schools.

Family circumstances

Families come in all shapes and sizes and have different needs. Parents may find it particularly difficult to attend meetings if they:

  • Have a child with special needs
  • Have a baby or other caring responsibilities
  • Work shifts or work away from home
  • Have a complex family structure: they might be separated from their partner; some might have new partners.


The area parents live in can be a significant factor in how much they are involved in school-based activities. Some barriers to their involvement include:

  • Parents and students having to travel some distance to the school
  • Lack of transportation
  • Having to walk through unsafe areas

Parents may feel uncomfortable in school surroundings for a number of reasons:

  • It may bring back unpleasant memories of their own school days.
  • Some may feel that their own lack of knowledge or skills puts them at a disadvantage.
  • Some parents may have difficulty themselves with reading or writing.
  • English may not be their first language.
  • Parents may feel that there is no place for them in the school or that the school is not welcoming.
  • Some men may feel out of place and that they don't have a role because many activities held during the day are mainly attended by women.


Many parents feel that membership of a formal parent body is 'not for them'. They may perceive them as 'closed', 'cliquey', 'elitist' or 'formal', or not see themselves as the right kind of person to be involved. These perceptions can be a real barrier to parents putting themselves forward.


PDF file: Activity - involving all parents at your school (42 KB)

Word file: Activity - involving all parents at your school (33 KB)

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When Things Go Well

What it looks like when things go well

  • The school is a welcoming place with space for parents and clear indications that they are welcome and valued, e.g. a parents' room or welcome posters, possibly developed with parents, in all the languages represented in the school.
  • There are opportunities at various times during the day, and in the evening for parents to meet teachers to discuss their child's progress.
  • School events and activities take account of any specific cultural or religious festivals that may affect the involvement of some parents.
  • School events and activities take account of any financial limitations that may affect the involvement of some parents. Arrangements are made to waive the cost and/or events are scheduled to reflect provincial payment dates (e.g. child tax benefit payments).
  • Parents are able to get actively involved at various times in both regular (e.g. weekly commitments) and infrequent activities.
  • The school is aware of any particular difficulties a parent may have in participating in school activities (e.g. through disability, access or language difficulties) and makes arrangements to provide appropriate support.
  • Parents are asked when their child enrols if there is anything that would help them to get involved, e.g. translation, interpretation, childcare, transport.
  • The school development plan provides an opportunity for staff, parents and students to have discussions about the different ways parents could be involved in school activities and how these will be developed and supported.
  • Childcare and/or transport are arranged (or paid for) for parents' evenings, Parent Advisory Council meetings or other events where some parents might need it.
  • There are social events that build relationships between parents, teachers and school staff.
  • Parents are asked directly and personally to participate in a particular activity by the teacher.
  • Parents are encouraged to get other parents involved - by bringing a friend.
  • No parent is turned away if they volunteer to help and the skills and enthusiasm that parent volunteers bring are matched to the needs of the school.
  • There are activities that make it easy for families to take part and develop positive relationships with each other, school staff and other families, e.g. outings, picnics and cultural events.
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Children in Care

Foster Parents and Guardians

Foster children can face barriers to achieving success in education. In order to achieve this, it is vital that schools are aware of the children in their school who are in care and that they keep in contact with the appropriate parent or guardian. This may be a relative or a foster parent. It is equally important that Parent Advisory Councils be welcoming to foster parents and guardians and include them in all school activities.


PDF file: Checklist - supporting equal opportunities and diversity (40 KB)

Word file: Checklist - supporting equal opportunities and diversity (36 KB)

Examples from Schools

Example - bilingual reading club

Four primary schools which are part of a learning community with a large number of minority ethnic families worked together to set up a Reading Club initiative for parents and children where English is not their first language.

Regular afternoon reading club meetings were held for parents and children with interpreters present to translate and support discussion with teachers. Themed story packs with activities (games, soft toys and puppets) were provided in the family's own language and sessions were held emphasising the value of reading together at home. Other resources available included:

  • Dual-language books - fiction and non-fiction
  • Dual-language dictionaries
  • Translation and interpreting services.

Many parents reported a benefit to their own learning and felt that their English improved. Mothers reported social benefits in meeting with other mothers, and a general improvement in their own relationships with their children.

Staff said that they have developed a greater insight into and understanding of the needs of bilingual learners and parents. They can now enjoy much more positive, supportive relationships with bilingual parents.

Example - a Parent Resource Room

What space in your school can parents call their own? Over 10 years ago, parents in the Fernwood community created a room for themselves at George Jay Elementary School. This comprehensive initiative paved the way for sweeping changes to the relationship between the school and its parent community.

About the Resource Room:

  • The Parent Resource Room is open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm.
  • A Family Liaison and Community Outreach Counsellor offers:
    • Counselling and support to parents dealing with issues such as family conflict, drug and alcohol problems, separation and divorce, grief and loss, or anger management.
    • Assistance with plans to manage a child's difficult behaviour at home.
    • Referrals to local agencies and organisations.
    • Information and assistance with school issues.
    • Advocacy and mediation.
    • Information on local services, recreational programs and housing.
    • Assistance with career planning and life skills.
    • Parent education programs on a wide range of issues.
    • Volunteer training and help in finding a volunteer placement at George Jay School.
  • Parents use the Resource Room to...
    • Find support and meet other parents.
    • Read the newspaper and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee.
    • Borrow materials on parenting and educational issues.
    • Access support services.
    • Use the clothing exchange.
    • Use a computer.
    • Find information on community resources.
    • Pick up a loaf of bread (on Wednesdays)
    • Work on a project for a teacher.
    • Attend parenting classes.
    • Much much more...

Example - involving fathers - the Challenge Dad project

The Challenge Dad project engaged men in learning opportunities that valued their existing skills and experience as a parent and as a foundation for further learning.

A range of activities and events were offered through the project:

  • Engagement activities, such as five-a-side football
  • Learning activities, such as joint parent and child events and one-to-one literacy work
  • Parenting or social skills.
  • Challenge Dad activities were weekly or monthly dependent on the availability of the fathers. Working fathers, for example, preferred activities to happen on the weekend.

Other ideas for involving fathers

Some schools have developed successful programs for involving fathers that are not based on the traditional models of activity-based family learning. Examples include:

  • Engagement with individual fathers about a specific child's learning and behaviour
  • Making use of father-specific skills to support work in the classroom and also to support children in a mentoring capacity
  • Father-support networks and adult learning programmes for fathers as part of an 'extended school' program.


PDF file: Activity 2 - identifying skills and experience that parents bring to the school (35 KB)

Word file: Activity 2 - identifying skills and experience that parents bring to the school (31 KB)

PDF file: Sample parent survey (42 KB)

Word file: Sample parent survey (46 KB)