It goes without saying that parental engagement is crucial for schools, and this is reflected in government requirements and Ofsted targets; but communication is a two-way street. Schools should not only be communicating home, but listening as well. With increased autonomy, and with many academies and free schools increasingly needing to market themselves, it is arguably more crucial than ever for schools to not just speak to parents, but also listen to their preferences and needs in order to succeed.
As with anything though, there is room for improvement. For instance, recent research we undertook into school payments, with more than 14,000 parents, revealed that more than 90 per cent would like the option to pay online for school items or expenses, while less than half of schools currently allow them to. On top of this, when questioned, remarkably almost half of schools felt that they would not be interested in switching to an electronic payment system at all. The most common reasoning was that the school was not interested, or intriguingly, that parents would not use it; there is an inconsistency here I am sure you will agree?
For parents, paying for items electronically is now an expected part of everyday life. The majority of payments are now online; from paying for car tax or the weekly food shop, to a holiday. It can then seem antiquated when a school asks for money and there is not an option to pay online.
This is just one example of schools potentially missing a ‘sign’ from parents. We are all so used to receiving feedback forms in our day-to-day lives, being offered incentives if we can leave some opinions on the people we have met or the service we have received. This same basic idea could be applied by schools, to ensure that they are engaging most effectively with their parenting audience.
So what could schools do?
Why not consider running a workshop with your parents to address key issues, policy changes, or to help them understand their child’s education process and how they can support this? These can provide a valuable opportunity for developing a bond with parents face-to-face.
You could also undertake a survey into what parents want, like or need, when and how? This could provide some illuminating and valuable results about what could be done to help shape, strengthen or improve your operation as a school!
Invite regular feedback from parents, and ensure that you run a regular data collection process to ensure contact details are up to date.
A number of exhibitors at Bett will have ideas on how you can narrow the gap between school and home, so why not pick their brains for some tried and tested ideas! We are happy to help.
ParentMail is on stand B192 at Bett 2013.