Facilitating A Parent WorkshopJun 25, 2021
Helping families to support their children's learning and development.
At PEN, we acknowledge that parents are the first educators of their children. As only 15% of a child's life is spent at school, parents play a significant role in their learning. Therefore, respect between parents and schools is essential to ensure that every child does their very best both at school and in life beyond school.
Running sessions accessible to all parents and wider family members encourages them to develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence to support their own and their children's ongoing learning and development.
Sharing our Learning
One of the first things to get right is what you will call your session. Inviting your parents to a workshop will likely put some parents off. Whether you plan to invite families into school or deliver your sessions online, remove barriers by using friendly and accessible language. Our PEN member schools have had great success by inviting families to attend 'Mouse Club' sessions.
The internet now provides us with any-time any-place access, a real bonus for working or busy parents. However, when you invite parents into the school, first thing in the morning seems to work best in our experience, especially if you combine it with a healthy breakfast! This timing seems true of all phases. In Early Years and KS1, half an hour before school ends also works well.
Feedback from parents suggests that a crisp half an hour to 40 mins is great and 10 - 15 minutes if using a recorded session on the internet.
It is essential to decide the aims of the session, whether a one-off or a series of sessions and then ensure there is equal opportunity for ALL families to have access. This is because all families are different. Like all of us, they are often juggling work and family responsibilities, so offering different ways to access the information provided in the session is essential.
It has been interesting to observe that parents who do not usually access traditional in-school opportunities have attended the online sessions during lockdown and enjoyed them. As a result, schools are continuing to provide support for parents on – line.
The most effective way of encouraging parent and caregivers to attend a session is with a personal invitation. Give a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of how the session will support their child's learning. All parent and caregivers want their children to do well. In primary schools, one of the most effective ways is for the child to write the invitation. In Secondary schools, a personalised text to the parents with a clear call to action works well. Encouraging the young person to also tell their parent or caregiver that they must attend is a strong reinforcement!
Publish dates for your diary at the beginning of each term, but then think of lots of fun ways to advertise and remind families as the session draws near.
The session itself
Keep them short and crisp, friendly and informal, and if possible, provide refreshments. Avoid teacher speak; parents and caregivers do not need to know the curriculum and all its acronyms to support their child's learning at home.
A personal, friendly welcome is essential. Ensure that reception staff are aware of the event and that parents and caregivers who are attending do not get caught up in the morning office rush!
The key to supporting parents to engage with their child's learning is to show parents' how to' and briefly explain why providing opportunities at home will help their child.
Give the parents an opportunity to do the activity or talk to their child within the session if possible. This is much better done in smaller table groups, allowing parents and caregivers to ask questions and share ideas with the support and encouragement from others at the table. This can be particularly helpful if the families struggle with literacy or learning in English. School staff can then circulate, chatting and answering any questions.
Any tasks or activities to be practised or done at home need to be easily achievable in a family setting, and lots of fun! Keep the required kit or equipment to a minimum.
Record a version for those parents and caregivers who cannot come into school and share via the usual platform. It will act as a reminder to families who have attended too.
With permission, take photos or video during the event to demonstrate to parents who couldn't attend. Consider sharing via social media to encourage a broader conversation about learning and recognition that learning is not something that only involves children between 9.00 and 3.00 pm.
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