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