Teachers and primary school children pick up litter on a beach.

The Benefits of Parental Engagement to the Wider Community

Apr 20, 2023

The reasons for a school or setting to have an ongoing parental engagement programme are well documented. The most apparent aim of any educational setting is to better engage parents and families in their child's learning and healthy development. This is easier to do when schools have strong relationships with and involvement from parents and the local community.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, and keeping parental engagement on the whole-school agenda leads to continued improvements in practice around working with parents. Schools and settings that record, evaluate and share this work contribute to the wider community support that families may need. They help build the structures that enable mediation, early intervention and signposting to other agencies for parents and families to be in place when needed. And this is of enormous benefit to the community as there will be improved outcomes for all children (not just those on the school roll) regarding their learning, social, emotional and spiritual development and health and behaviour. This community engagement in learning has associated lifelong benefits for the community. And when schools and settings are better at communicating with and consulting parents, families and communities, there is less conflict and increased support for schools and settings.

Families more positively engaged in learning together see many social, emotional and educational benefits. Parents and carers will have greater knowledge, skills and confidence to support their children's learning and development, and this will, in turn, improve children's confidence and attainment. Schools with good general parental involvement and engagement see better relationships in traditionally less engaged parents, including fathers and male carers, grandparents etc. Broadening your offer to the wider community ensures that all family members are better included in activities and the learning culture. In turn, school staff will be more knowledgeable, confident and skilled at engaging parents and families, and in engaging volunteers and tapping into the skills, experience and resources of parents and the wider community to enrich children's learning

Schools and settings must partner with other agencies to provide parents with information, training and resources. Doing this enables them to support their child's learning and healthy development in many ways. Supporting parents with parenting skills is notoriously tricky for schools, and parents may perceive this good intention as a judgement or criticism. Working with grass-roots and parent-led organisations such as Sure Start can help to build trust between all parties. Community organisations can support parents to run effective groups and associations and access low-risk peer support. They can help parents and wider family members to develop their skills and access new opportunities. Engaging in lifelong learning is one of the most valuable ways parents can model learning to their children and one we know is least acknowledged by schools.

Community organisations are very well placed to ensure parents' voices are heard and supported; giving parents a voice is a powerful tool. Parents who feel listened to will more readily get involved in schools and settings and work as equal partners in governance and accountable structures. Involved and empowered parents are then available to support and signpost new parents and less experienced staff members to appropriate agencies when support is required.

When parents and carers have greater knowledge, skills and confidence to support their children's learning and development, their confidence and attainment also improve. When parents have more confidence and skills to get involved in schools, their views will be heard more effectively, and they will better support each other. Parents who develop their broader skills are more employable and can better access further opportunities. Schools will see parents as equal partners.

We urge schools that have achieved this to go that one step further. Develop the wider conversation about parental engagement through, for instance, networks, publications, a website, newsletters, training courses, conferences and social media. Share your good practice of partnership working between schools, settings and voluntary and statutory agencies. Encourage the development of information and leadership at a local, regional, national and even international level! Schools should be at the heart of evaluation and evidence-based research.

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