How Engaged are our Parents?

(Up to 60 minutes)

In this module, you will engage with the research into effective parental engagement.

Please note that where ‘parents’ are referenced in this module, this refers to anyone with parental or caring responsibility for a school-age child.

In this module you will:

  • review the continuum of parental engagement

  • identify your priorities for parental engagement

  • audit the needs of your parent community


(Up to 20 minutes)

Please read the accompanying notes and listen to the short narrated powerpoint

Parental engagement in children’s learning

What do we need to consider when thinking about the parent body of our school?

  • Not all parents are comfortable within a school environment

  • Parents love their children and want the best for their child

  • Parents have many demands on their time, and even though their children are their No1 priority, it is not always possible for them to change schedules to fulfil the school’s timetable

  • There are many reasons why parents may not attend parent functions in school

  • Wanting to support your child’s learning and knowing how to do it are very different things

  • Parents are not a homogenous group

  • Parents may not really understand how important they are in the education of their children

  • Parents not attending a parents’ evening is not evidence that they are not interested

  • Schools may be hard to reach for parents – even educated, professional parents

  • Talking about ‘hard to reach’ parents is not conducive to positive relationships

  • The vast majority of parents are doing their best and would most benefit from support and understanding (the same as children)

  • Parents are just children who have grown up

  • Being a parent is the scariest thing anybody will ever be asked to do

  • It takes a village to raise a child

So what does parental engagement look like?

Just as with learners in the classroom, there is a continuum of parental engagement:

It is important to note that these are not linear stages. The leadership in a school can create a climate that is welcoming, non-threatening and supportive of parents who want to engage fully with their child’s learning, appealing to parents at any point of the spectrum.

Parents are not a homogenous group - they are all different with different experiences of schools and levels of confidence in working with their children. 

Different levels of parental engagement - what is our experience?


The National College of School Leadership* defines disengaged parents as those who: 

  • have very low levels of engagement with school 

  • do not attend school meetings nor respond to communications 

  • exhibit high levels of inertia in overcoming perceived barriers to participation. 

*This paper describes disengaged parents as 'hard-to-reach'. This language has been shown to be unhelpful in creating an accessible, inclusive and welcoming school climate for all parents.


To disenfranchise is to deprive someone of power, rights and privileges. When parents are deprived of their right to be heard or are made feel powerless in their child's schooling, they are likely to become disenfranchised. Schools become 'hard-to-reach' and subsequently, it is difficult to build and sustain effective home-school relationships.


PTA UK uses the term ‘involvement’ in terms of how parents are involved in their child’s school (e.g. attending consultation evenings, volunteering their time to the school including as an active part in the PTA, or becoming volunteer readers) and engagement to mean all parents do at home to help their child succeed at school. The term ‘participation’ is used to describe the collective activities that parents can do to boost attainment and school life 


Parental engagement is usually seen to encompass a wide range of activities and supportive attitudes. Goodall and Vorhaus (2011) break it down in terms of ‘parenting’ and ‘engagement.’ ‘Parenting’ involves the provision of:

  • Health

  • Nutrition and safety

  • Home conditions to support learning and development

  • Information to help schools know about the child and the family.

‘Engagement’ includes:

  • Learning at home: help with homework, subject skills, other skills and talents, attitudes, values, aspirations and behaviour

  • Communication: school-home; home-school

  • In-school activities: volunteering; helping in classrooms, parents’ evenings, field trips; participating as a member of an audience

  • Decision-making: undertaking roles as school governor or other committees and advisory groups

  • Collaborating with the community: community contributions to schools and families; family and school contributions to the community.

  • (taken from desk research completed by PTA UK (2016)


Partnership is construed as a process in which those involved aim to provide mutual support and attune their contributions to each other to the greatest extent possible in order to promote the learning, motivation and development of pupils (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).

Partnership maximises the impact of the strengths of all parties.

An exercise in empathy

This is an excerpt from the novel ‘Swingtime’ by Zadie Smith:

Thinking points

How does your school welcome parents to active partnership in their child’s learning?

  • Do parents feel welcome in your school?

  • Are all parents equally welcomed?

  • Is there a need to adjust to ensure everyone feels comfortable? How can you achieve this, as a school community?

  • How do you seek to reassure parents who are not comfortable in a school environment/ with supporting their child’s learning?

1 Home school partnership slides 4-7.mp4


(Up to 30 minutes)

Think about the families of the children in your classroom.

  • Download the School and Home together for learning Audit tool

  • Where would you place them on the continuum of parental engagement?

  • Using Module 1 of the School and Home together for learning Audit tool, make some notes on the potential reasons for where you have placed people and think about evidence that might suggest a particular level of engagement.


(up to 10 minutes)

Take the opportunity to plan changes you may consider making.

  • What have you learned about the position you /your school are in?

For example:

    • Do parents feel welcome in your school?

    • Are all parents equally welcomed?

    • Is there a need to adjust to ensure everyone feels comfortable? How can you achieve this as a school community?

    • How do you seek to reassure parents who are not comfortable in a school environment/ with supporting their child’s learning?

  • What are the next steps that might be useful to move your parents on to the next stage of engagement?

  • Might you consider creating questionnaires for parents and pupils about their experience of school engagement with home?

Further Reading and Support Materials