The voice of parents in education
Why parents need a stronger voice in their child's education
Parentkind exists to champion the vital role that parents play in children’s education. The charity is a membership organisation providing insurance cover, support and advice to 12,500 Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) across the country. But it also offers resources to empower every parent to be involved and engaged in their child’s education. Parentkind’s regular parent polls on a range of hot topic education matters ensure that they can have a say on the issues that affect their family.
What parents say is always passed on to policymakers. That may be through briefing MPs in Parliament, presenting research results to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Parental Participation in Education in Westminster, talking to the Department for Education and other stakeholders or even in releasing statements to the media to keep parents’ views in the headlines. We do all of this because it’s important that parents are recognised as a key stakeholder in children’s education. Evidence shows that parental participation can significantly improve a child’s school experience and academic outcomes. Having parents on board can improve attendance and behaviour too.
Despite the enormously important role that parents play in their child’s learning, there is no formalised mechanism for parental engagement for schools in England. In Scotland, there is the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 that gives parents greater rights to be informed and included in decision-making in their children’s schools, and Parentkind wants to see that sort of policy commitment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too.
Alongside the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), Parentkind developed three policy solutions that will most effectively enable parents to have a voice in education. These comprise parent participation in schools, parent consultation in school and parent consultation at local, regional and national levels. The key to embedding the first policy solution is a national roll-out of Parentkind’s ‘Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools’. It is a framework for schools leaders to implement best practice parental participation. It was built from a parent perspective with extensive consultation from across the sector including school leaders. A strong home and school partnership can make all the difference to young people’s academic attainment, especially in school communities in deprived areas or in underperforming schools. Enacting these policies would help to create a fairer education system for tomorrow.
It is not just Parentkind asking for a greater role for parents in education. Parents say that this is what they want too. Parentkind’s Parent Voice Report 2022, a large-scale survey of over 3,000 parents, found that 85% said that they want to play an active role in their child’s education. Yet only one third (32%) felt they were supporting their child’s learning as much as they wanted to. Parents reported a number of barriers to greater involvement, most notably pressures on their own time and finances, especially for parents of children eligible for free school meals (FSMs), parents of children with an identified special educational need or disability (SEND), and parents who themselves had disabilities.
Too many parents feel distanced from school decision-making affecting their child. Only half of parents (50%) agree that their child’s school takes action based on their views or feedback, and not many more (54%) agree that the school listens to what they want for their child’s education. Under half (48%) feel they are able to have a say on school decisions that affect their child’s education. At the same time, it is precisely those more vulnerable parents, such as those whose children qualify for FSMs or have SEND, who simultaneously report more barriers to school engagement and yet are more likely to want a greater say in decision-making.
Parentkind wants to see more mechanisms put into place to formalise increasing parental participation. Some initiatives are already established, but we would like these to go further. A more robust commitment from government on fulfilling the ‘parent pledge’ and keeping parents informed about additional support for those youngsters who are behind in their learning would help to ensure that they receive the right level of parental intervention in the home-learning environment.
However, removing the barriers to open up meaningful parental participation across the whole of the parent community is essential. It is one cost-effective and guaranteed way of ensuring a more equitable education system and better outcomes and experiences for all young people.
About the author
Jason Elsom is the CEO of Parentkind.