The term “Parent engagement” is increasingly cited by Principals, Schools and Educational organisations as a key strategic focus or area for improvement. More and more education organisations are seeking to understand the parent-engagement challenge and how to measure, increase and improve parent engagement in their school.
In this blog post, we take a dive into why improving parent engagement is a key goal of many schools and how you can steer clear of some common communication mistakes.
What is parent engagement? And why is it important?
Put simply, parent engagement is about playing an active role in a child’s learning.
The Department of Education and Training states:
“Parent engagement in education is about parents and carers, schools and communities working together to ensure that every parent can play a positive role in their child’s learning, school community, sport, and social life.”
Effective communication is a key part of the parent-engagement challenge.
It will come as little surprise to most school leaders that research highlights parent involvement in school life as being as a key indicator of a student’s success. There are a range of dedicated resources that aim to assist schools in increasing parent engagement and ultimately student outcomes.
Much emphasis is put on developing successful family-school-partnership. It’s clear that effective school-parent communication is a critical building block to ensuring positive parent engagement outcomes.
It’s essential that parents are well informed as to the opportunities to participate and attend school events and have access to critical information regarding their child’s learning.
Being kept across the activities within the classroom and focusing on the learning outcomes on a frequent basis presents opportunities for parents to ask questions, assist with homework and spark further interest in additional learning occasions.
Research shows that online formats of communication are by far the most popular amongst parents.
4 common communication mistakes for schools
Having worked closely with over 3000 schools that have used SkoolBag’s communication platform over the past 6 years, we have a strong understanding of where schools can struggle when it comes to using effective parent communication to increase engagement. Fortunately, when recognised, all these potential pitfalls are easy to rectify.
Mistake 1. Not setting clear expectations on how to communicate
A common mistake many schools make is failing to set expectations around school communication early on. It’s critical that all community members, from parents to staff and teachers understand what is expected in terms of when, how and where they should communicate.
Establishing a Clear School Communication policy is a key step in avoiding this pitfall.
As part of this Policy it’s ideal to suggest a primary communication channel such as a school app that should be the default method of getting in touch or staying up to date.
“We encourage all parents to download the app at the start of term. It’s essential that they know that there is one place find all information.”
Lyn Fletcher, Dalby South State School
A clear policy and centralised platform means your school can be confident that parents know how to get in touch and where to find information.
It also means that you can focus your limited resources around your chosen platforms and ensure there’s a clear central place for all information.
Mistake 2. Infrequent or inconsistent communication from the classroom
After setting expectations, it’s important to live up to them. The biggest complaint or reason why parents disengage is a sense that they are not being regularly informed of what’s happening in their child’s learning.
“Parents may start out with the best intentions of participating in school or their child’s learning, however as students progress through the years and take on more and more diverse subjects, it can be hard for parents to stay on top of what’s happening in the classroom.”
Chris Riley, IT consultant NSW Adventist Schools
Not knowing what’s happening in the classroom means it’s harder to show interest and understand where a child is engaged or struggling. Having a ‘single point of responsibility’ through which all community communications must pass, is likely to compound these challenges.
A key way to overcome this can be to empower all staff members with the right tools to communicate frequently with parents, from anywhere.
A school communication app that is accessible by staff members and has clear controls over who they can communicate with is a great first step. Adding new ways to communicate, beyond admin staff who are behind their desktop, can empower a culture of transparency and open communication. This is likely to lead to far more frequent communication and can foster a stronger sense of connection with parents.
Mistake 3. Sending generic or irrelevant communications to parents
Whilst mass communication methods are essential for communicating urgent school-wide updates, these should be the exception, not the rule.
Schools today face increasing competition for the attention of parents.
Recent research predicted that the average number of emails received per day was expected to reach 97 in 2018 - that’s 12 every working hour - and doesn’t include personal messages.
To maintain parent engagement, it’s essential that your school is sending the right message, to the right person at the right time. Or else parents are likely to miss important updates or disengage from school communications completely.
An all-in-one school communication platform enables schools to target messages to year groups or sports activities, push notifications directly to parents’ phones’ home screens and even deliver mobile-responsive newsletters.
Mistake 4. Not effectively promoting events or ways to participate
Many parents are keen to engage with school activities but face increasing pressures on their time. Therefore clearly promoting school events or engagement opportunities is essential to ensuring successful participation.
From parent-teacher meetings to school trips, if schools aren’t able to promote them regularly then participation is likely to be low.
SkoolBag can solve many of these issues by promoting events via an online newsletter, syncing a school calendar and setting up targeted reminder notifications.
Over to you
Do you have a clear sense of how you can overcome these common mistakes? Or do you need help developing a clear communication strategy for your school?
Either way, we’d love to hear from you. Speak to a school communication specialist today.