As a school leader, improving pupil attainment and achieving the strongest possible results is one of your key priorities.
But achieving steady success year after year is far easier said than done. Every pupil is different from the next, with a specific style of learning and their own attitude towards education, not to mention their individual strengths and weaknesses.
For this reason, it’s essential that your teachers are encouraged to develop lessons that engage every type of learner – and that this approach continues outside of school as well.
The importance of parental involvement in education and home learning
Children’s minds should be engaged as often as possible, whether they’re in school or not. Research proves that intellectual stimulation from primary school age leads to accelerated brain development in a child, giving a head-start to the parts of the brain that are dedicated to language and cognition – and this carries right through to their late teens. So, the more stimulated they are outside the classroom as well as inside, the more likely they will be to thrive in an academic setting.
Many parents are easily bought into the concept of continuing the learning experience at home, but the reality of how much actually takes place can be another matter.
So here are some key ways to get parents on board and actively encouraging learning outside of school:
1. Stress the importance at parents’ evenings
Parents’ evenings are primarily about providing updates on pupil progress, highlighting triumphs, raising concerns, making recommendations. But these occasions also give your teaching staff the opportunity to forge and maintain positive working relationships with parents – and this is absolutely crucial to driving better learning outcomes for every pupil across the school.
The closer the parent-teacher relationships, the more inclined the parents will be to engage their children in learning at home, whether it’s allotting time for practising literacy, getting them to memorise and recite times-tables, or even simply watching educational TV programmes such as BBC’s Planet Earth or CBBC’s Horrible Histories. Learning is learning, regardless of the format or the source. What’s most important is that the pupils remain stimulated and engaged.
2. Recommend learning apps and websites
In June 2018, the Telegraph reported that more than a third of children aged three to five have their own tablets, and a 2018 Ofcom report stated that 76% of children aged five to 15 do. Your teachers can make it easy for parents by providing a list of recommended learning apps and websites for pupils to use.
Whether it’s Times Tables Rock Stars, Jolly Phonics or even Lego Creator Islands, if your school has directly recommended it, parents will be more confident and more invested in making sure that their children make use of it.
Again, parents’ evenings may be the best times to make these recommendations, but if the parent-teacher relationships are already established – which they should be in most cases – your teachers should be able to email the parents directly or include the details in your school’s newsletter (and then follow up during the face-to-face catch-up at parents’ evening). Alternatively a printout with details of the recommended apps could be placed in pupils’ bookbags.
3. Champion the use of technology
Digital literacy is an essential skill that every child needs; it’s not a niche or a nice-to-have.
Digital literacy means more than just the ability to use digital technology such as computers and tablets: that alone is “computer literacy” or “IT literacy”. What we mean by “digital literacy” is the ability to use those devices, with a clear understanding of how to behave responsibly on them and within online environments, and with an awareness of how this technology impacts wider society.
Workplaces are becoming increasingly reliant on digital technology (as are our homes), so the sooner children are introduced to it at primary school, the better.
As a school leader, you need to ensure that your teachers are not only enthusiastic about using technology in their classrooms, but also getting the pupils involved and letting them have a go. Everything from interactive front-of-class displays to communal tablet devices can help to drive better engagement among all types of learners, which in turn enhances learning experiences and drives better learning outcomes across entire classes.
If your school is enthusiastic about using technology within the lesson environment, pupils will feel comfortable using tablets, apps and other interactive learning resources at home – and the key here is making sure that the parents are also aware of how your school uses tech to enhance learning.
The benefits of close collaboration between parents and teachers are numerous. The pupil continues to engage their brain in fun and interactive ways outside of school hours, which should increase knowledge retention. The parents are better informed about their children’s progress, and they understand the importance of home-based learning (in its various forms). The teachers, meanwhile, gain insight into how much educational stimulation each pupil is receiving at home. And strong parent-teacher relationships increase the likelihood of app and learning-resource recommendations being pursued by parents.
Finally, for the wider school or trust, there is an improvement in learning outcomes, attainment and results across entire year groups.