Recent research shows yet again parents are keen to be active partners in their children’s education. As we all know, when parents and schools collaborate on their children’s education, their academic and wellbeing outcomes improve. This week on School Stream, we look at some of the big ideas around families and schools as partners in education, and why engaged parents are good news for teacher wellbeing.
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The big ideas at the heart of family-school partnerships
By now we’re all more than familiar with the big ideas in this area, but it’s worth revisiting what researchers mean when they refer to ‘family-school partnerships’.
“Family-school partnerships involve the ways families and schools work together to support children’s academic achievement. This includes connecting what children are learning at school with how they learn at home; helping families to respond early to children’s learning challenges; and extending children’s learning around the things they are passionate about.”
Parents want to be involved
Most parents and teachers are keen to build a satisfying and effective relationship – and this starts at early education. After all, for many children and adolescents, school and home are their whole world, so it makes sense parents want to be involved from the very beginning. Decades of research in this area has reinforced that parents want to be active partners in their children’s education, most recently in a small-scale study of the parents of preschool students in the United States. The results are a reminder that parents want to be involved in their children’s education, and why it’s critical for schools to lead the way:
Most participants (86%) said they believe it’s very important for their children to engage in reading activities at home, and 77% said it’s very important to assist their children with these activities. For mathematics, 68% felt mathematics activities are very important to engage with at home, and 70% said it’s very important to assist their children.
Three key findings emerged from this research, and they underline both the implications and benefits of parents as partners in education:
- Parents prioritised children’s reading over their mathematics development.
- The difference in children’s reported engagement in such activities may come from parents lacking confidence in how to foster their children’s mathematics skills.
- Almost two-thirds of the parents wanted to receive more information from their children’s teachers, typically about children’s progress and activities and apps to do with their children at home.
The benefits for teachers when parents are engaged
While the benefits to children when their parents are engaged and partners in education has received plenty of airtime over the years, there are significant gains for teachers too. In July this year, The UK Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) released research that ‘found poor relationships with parents can add significantly to a teacher’s stress at work, increasing both anxiety and workload. The finding applies equally to state and private schools.’ The researchers concluded that ‘improving communication and ensuring that teachers feel supported and valued by school leaders and parents forms the foundation of positive relationships.’
Informed parents are engaged parents
Between years of research on this topic, and the sheer volume of parents calling the office every day, it’s safe to say families are desperate to know what happens at school and how they can help at home. Parents have a big role to play when it comes to their children’s education; they’re an essential link between home and school and are in the box seat to positively influence their children’s attitude towards learning. They’re also, in most cases, willing to support the work of educators at home. Although many parents may understand ‘parents as partners in education’ to be activities like volunteering at the canteen or reading with students, the truth is more straightforward. Keeping parents engaged as active partners in their children’s education is as simple as keeping them informed. As ever, the answer lies in clear, consistent and easy-to-access communication.
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