Social Class and Achievement Case Studies
- 1 Social Class and Achievement Case Studies
- 2 Summary: What makes the difference
- 3 Engagement with parents/carers and the wider community
- 4 Leadership and Management
- 5 Clearly maintained boundaries, with high expectations of behaviour and attendance, consistently applied and supported by rewards and sanctions
- 6 Strong, inclusive leadership and effective SLTs
- 7 Teaching and learning
- 8 Systematic and rigorous use of data, target setting, monitoring and accountability, assessment, tracking, feedback and moving forward in learning
- 9 Curriculum innovation and enrichment
- 10 Extra-curricular activities and extended school provision
- 11 Opportunities for pupil involvement and voice
- 12 Engagement with parents/carers and the wider community
- 13 Engagement with the wider community
- 14 Appendix
Engagement with parents/carers and the wider community
An explicit focus on working with parents/carers as partners in learning
'When I first came here I spent loads of time in the community – sitting on sofas and going into homes, rather than expecting that they would come here'. (Headteacher, E)
All the schools worked hard to develop positive relationships with parent/carers. They recognised that some parents/carers' experience of education had made them wary of schools and given them negative views of the value of education. Schools also recognised that difficult circumstances might keep some from playing an active role in their child's education.
Building the trust of parents/carers and encouraging them to recognise that the school had an open-door policy was a vital first step, and the headteachers were proactive in promoting this. They and the staff were visible and approachable and worked hard to build relationships with parents/carers.
'I'm out on the playground; they like me, they see my niceness – they see I care!' (Headteacher, C)
'A lot of the younger parents/carers didn't have a good experience themselves but things are friendlier now. Introducing things in an informal way makes a big difference. The more accessible you are, the more they respond to you, so being really formal doesn't help'. (SLT, C)
'The Head appeared genuine but it took time to trust her changes. It was a shock to realise how approachable she was'. (Parent/carer, C)
Parents/carers responded by showing great trust in the schools, feeling they could approach schools with problems and that they were welcomed. They felt that schools took their concerns seriously and would act on them. A parent/carer in school F, for example, demonstrated a huge sense of trust that the school knew what was best and could give her son the best advice. Others parent/carers made comments such as:
'Key words for how I feel about this school: trust, safety'. (Parent, D)
'In the old days the school and community didn't mix, now parents are actively invited into the school'. (Parent, A)
Schools were also proactive in involving parents/carers as partners in their child's learning and ensuring that they knew what their child was doing and how they could help. Schools persisted in these activities even when response was slow to emerge.
Making a positive contribution
School B actively encouraged initially reluctant parents/carers to join a Better Reading Partnership – a family learning programme held at the local football club. Involvement had a major impact on parent/carer self-esteem as well as on pupil learning.
'It was good for me. It's built my confidence. I didn't want to go but the Head persuaded me. I thought I'd be embarrassed. I wasn't any good at school. We've done team working, mixing and working together, maths and English. After 25 years I've got a certificate. I'm so proud of myself. I'm going to frame it'.
Involving parents/carers in target setting was the norm, along with advice on how they could help at home. All parents/carers appreciated this at the level of information and involvement, but some remained unclear of their role in learning.
'I'm informed but I'm a bit ignorant about levels and grades really – I just trust them'.
All of the schools offered curriculum workshops, although take-up was often low. Some schools are now experimenting with teaching assistants running these in the family drop-in centres to make them less 'official' and encourage participation. In school B, a former learning mentor has been trained to work as a pastoral adviser working with parents/carers and toddlers. Such activities help parents/carers appreciate the importance of their role.
'I didn't think it (i.e. helping their child with reading) would work but it has. We had a folder to keep three times a week and they showed us how to not keep making them sound out every word'. (Parent, B)
'I feel valued as a parent, so (making sure) my child is being well fed, well rested and well turned out is a valued part'. (Parent, D)
Schools also invited parents/carers into the school to help with learning or to work alongside pupils, for example a fathers' reading day and parents/carers taking GCSE foreign language courses alongside Key Stage 4 pupils.
All the schools were very good at communicating with parents/carers via academic review meetings, assemblies, letters, reports, phone calls and newsletters. School H, for example, produces a high-quality, eight-page, full-colour newspaper each term to go home to parents/carers, to feeder primary schools and other outlets in the community. Some schools are beginning to explore electronic communications with parents/carers. School F, for example, has planned a survey to explore parent/carer access to computers and broadband.
The use of multi-agency expertise in overcoming barriers to learning
All the schools worked closely with other agencies and many had other agencies based in the school or on a shared campus. At school B, for example, the police liaison officer was planning to open an office in the school to make good links with children while they were young, the school nurse ran drop-in sessions and the dentist talked to foundation stage children and their parents/carers as dental health is very poor in the area. Several schools had a children's centre on campus. The schools saw the value in this joint working for speedy responses and developing healthy and safe schools, good communication and community links. Again, ensuring that pupils were ready to learn was the prime motive for schools.
School G now has a health adviser working in the school to address directly issues like teenage pregnancy, obesity and smoking. For example, working with the Primary Care Trust, the school is running a joint smoking cessation programme for pupils and staff.
'Tobacco abuse is a huge issue here but we will be a no smoking school from June'.
Several schools had (or shared) school-based, home-school liaison officers who worked with hard-to-reach families. All of the secondary schools had attendance officers/educational welfare officers on site. Non-attendance was acted on very promptly; several of the schools had attendance reward policies to promote high attendance.