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How Do You Involve Parents in children's Learning?

Education Endowment Foundation Series

A summary of the evidence

Parental involvement in education is commonly associated with positive outcomes for pupils, with the evidence currently suggesting that there are 3 potential areas for schools to focus on: supporting parents to have high expectations for their children, establishing and maintaining communication with parents regarding schoolwork, and promoting the development of good reading habits. Although current evidence surrounding the way that schools can influence parents in these areas is limited, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) recommends that schools should review and plan parental engagement initiatives before implementing them. Whilst planning, it is essential to talk to parents to get a better understanding of family life. By doing this, schools can gather important contextual information so that initiatives can be developed with a clear starting point. In addition, a written plan or strategy should be drawn up which outlines the steps that will be taken to enable change. This plan should also provide the opportunity for schools to assess where they are currently and how the school will measure the impact of parental initiatives.

The EEF suggests that supporting parents through guidance and providing practical strategies to support learning, particularly at home, can be achieved by providing clear advice that is tailored to the age group of the pupil. Advice surrounding homework and its importance can be particularly useful for parents, as the evidence suggests that children who regularly complete homework have better outcomes than those who do not. Evidence also suggests that the quality of homework is of greater importance than quantity, therefore initiatives to improve the quality of homework may be of interest. This is not to say that parents should be directly involved in the homework itself, but they should be encouraged to help pupils develop self-regulatory skills such as time management and planning. It is also recommended that advice pertaining to particular subjects, such as maths, should be offered to ensure continuity in support both at home and in school.

Whilst initiatives and practical guidance are important for increasing parental engagement in education, the EEF suggests that school communications with parents can be equally as important when increasing parental engagement. There is evidence to suggest that the use of technology – and, more specifically, text messaging – has been more effective when communicating with parents who are less involved. Communicating with parents through text messaging has also been rolled out in some schools to communicate whole-school announcements. Although the premise of using text messages to connect with parents has been found to be effective, it is suggested that communications have the most impact if they are personalised, linked explicitly to learning and are inherently positive in content. Schools should also consider the frequency of communication through text, as evidence suggests that overwhelming parents with text messages may have adverse effects on parental engagement.

In some instances, the EEF suggests that targeting families with greater needs may at times be required so that resources can be allocated effectively. This must be approached in a sensitive manner so that families are not stigmatised or discouraged. It is also recommended that the support on offer should be universal, however, extra support and encouragement for families with greater needs should be given. Before planning opportunities for parental support, schools should consider potential barriers to access in order to minimise potential deterring factors. Deterrents outlined by the EEF include the location and time of support, and how the support was marketed. For example, the time that support is offered may conflict with work hours or be at an inaccessible location. By considering these factors, schools can develop innovative strategies which respond sensitively to the needs of pupils and their families.


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