The importance of the relationship between a school and its parents is already well documented, but its impact is being recognised now more than ever. With schools having to rely on parents to support distance learning, their ability to engage fully with their child’s school is critical in maintaining continuity of learning.
Any counsellor will tell you that one of the keys to a healthy relationship is good communication. So let us consider as teachers, how often do we actually talk meaningfully with parents? All too frequently, the main points of contact have been end of term reports or annual Parent’s Evenings. If anything takes place outside these particular windows, they have generally been as a result of concerns and as such have tended to be stressful events.
If we can find a way to have regular, (ie daily, weekly) communication with parents then they will be better able to understand and support their child’s learning, and issues will not have time to escalate. Ongoing communication and updates will also help to ensure that face to face meetings can be more meaningful, as the parents are already aware of their child’s day to day school experience.
As soon as we talk about communication, then the opportunities for technology quickly become manifest. However, we also need to ensure that regular communication does not become a burden for all involved; teachers should not be spending inordinate amounts of time emailing updates to the families of their students, and of course parents do not want to be ‘spammed’ with emails from school.
So what is the information that is important to parents? Generally, they want to know:
- What is my child learning?
- What progress is my child making?
All of this information is already available and being used by teachers and students as part of the teaching and learning process. The trick lies in how we can make parents part of this ‘learning conversation’. So how might schools achieve this?
Give parents real-time access to student progress
Traditional VLEs already provide a channel whereby course structures and learning resources can be made available to both students and parents, but this only covers the first part of the question - what is my child learning. This material needs to be supplemented with information about how the student is progressing if we are to help parents provide effective support for their child.
Create a feedback loop
A good technology solution will provide a platform whereby teachers can share the feedback they are giving students, quickly and easily with the parents of that student. This allows the parents to be proactively engaged in their child’s learning, rather than simply the course they are following. Crucially, the best solutions will do this in a way that makes it easy for parents to ‘pull’ information from the school at a time that suits them. This might be data concerning the behaviour of the child, or assignments that have been set/completed, along with the marks and feedback that they have received. The more informed the parents are, the stronger the relationship between school and home will be.
Share news & updates beyond academic progress
Furthermore, it is important to ensure that parents feel that they are part of a wider community, engendering a sense of belonging within the school. Sharing news and updates with parents, beyond the academic progress of their children, helps to give families a more rounded sense of everything that the school offers, extending beyond the classroom into the entire learning experience. This will be even more important as children start to return to the classroom and the concerns of parents increase. For many children, coming back to school and seeing their friends and teachers after such a long enforced absence will be one to celebrate and enjoy. Helping parents understand and be part of this will go a long way to alleviating many of their concerns.
The transformational impact of technology on teaching and learning is already well known and has seen particular growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the capabilities of Edtech continue to grow and evolve it will become equally important to consider the effect it might have on other factors affecting the learner. The home/school partnership is a key aspect in learning and we, as educators need to know how technology can best be used for the good of all those involved in the teaching and learning process; students, teachers and parents.
Want to discover more? We recently explored ‘How to stay connected with parents’ in our distance learning webinar series. Feel free to watch the webinar recording.