Parental Involvement In Child’s Education

The following article comes from Nicola Arkinstall, Deputy Headteacher at Little Sutton Primary School, Birmingham, UK.

Research suggests that parents can play a pivotal role in a child’s education by boosting well-being, confidence and academic progress. With school closures due to the global COVID-19 pandemic affecting an estimated 1.58 billion children in more than 180 countries, the importance of parental involvement in education suddenly and dramatically increased. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of involving parents in the education of their children. Since the mid-1960s evidence has shown that the education level of parents, their financial resources and attitudes, and the overall influence of the home environment are among the best predictors of young people’s academic achievement.

Parental involvement, both at home and at school, can translate into long-lasting benefits for children from early childhood through adult life. Parents engage in children’s education in various ways: From getting involved in their child’s daily activities at home (e.g. reading, drawing, supervising their progress in school, taking them to museums), to being active participants in their school life (e.g. communicating with teachers about their child’s progress and behaviour, volunteering in school activities, helping with fundraising). Parents are key when it comes to holding schools accountable for their child’s learning. They may put pressure on schools to reach for high achievement, take up leadership roles, and influence schools and policy, both informally (by communicating with principals, school leaders, and other parents) and formally (by assuming advising roles to governing bodies, sitting in governing bodies, or getting organised through parent’s associations).

Most countries make a range of opportunities available to parents for participating in schools and policy making (serving in school governing boards is required in some countries) as well as mechanisms for voicing their concerns.

parents as governors

Typical barriers to increased parental involvement in schools are time constraints among parents; lack of awareness of opportunities to engage; and lack of communication between school staff and parents. The extent of involvement may also differ between parents depending on their background, which may, therefore, increase inequities in education.

The importance of involving parents in their child’s education in order to support children’s learning and development is underscored in national guidelines or curriculum frameworks in many countries, except Finland and Japan.

One such country is Norway, where the curriculum framework and a national guide emphasise that parents must be well informed on legal, practical, structural and content matters relating to school. In Denmark, parents have a legislative right to form parent associations. Similarly, in Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden and Kazakhstan, collaboration between parents and teachers is emphasised in their curricula. In Sweden, for example, the curriculum stresses the importance of preparing guardians for transitions and indicate that the head teacher is responsible for ensuring cooperation between the school and the home, especially if the child experiences problems and difficulties.

There are large variations across the world, in levels of school-based parental involvement, which depends largely on whether schools have governing boards in which the parents can participate. In countries like Zimbabwe and the Kyrgyz Republic, almost all children attend schools with governing boards, whereas in Punjab (Pakistan) and Tunisia, fewer than 20 per cent of children attend schools with governing boards. Similar to school-based parental involvement, the share of parents engaging in home-based parental involvement varies greatly between and within countries.

For example, the share of children who receive help with homework is more than twice in Zimbabwe (89 per cent) than in Madagascar (42 per cent). Data shows that household wealth is a major determinant of home-based parental involvement.

Across all countries except Georgia, fewer children from lowest quintile received help with their homework than their peers from wealthier quintiles.

Another determinant of home-based parental participation in education is the availability of books for children and household wealth. Here we see wide disparities among countries – for example, most children in Georgia live in households which have child-oriented books, but more than 90 per cent of the poorest children in Punjab (Pakistan), Iraq, Madagascar, Lesotho and Zimbabwe live in households with not even one child-oriented book.

On average across the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 77% of teachers indicated that their school provides parents with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions. However, while participation in school activities and governance seems to work well for those families that know how to ‘work and navigate’ the school system, it is more difficult to encourage participation among families from vulnerable groups who are more at risk of education inequalities.

This can be particularly true in the digital space, as shown clearly during the first phase of school closures during the pandemic. Disadvantaged families were less likely to have Internet access and the devices needed for online education. In addition, disadvantaged parents were less likely to have the digital skills and knowledge required to effectively support their children with their learning. Studies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands showed that the overall education level of parents was also related to the amount of time that students spent on schoolwork during the period of school closures. Students from families with lower-educated parents spent significantly less time on schoolwork than their peers from families with higher levels of education, as their parents might not speak the same language as the language of instruction, might have limited literacy or numeracy skills, and might not understand the work that schools were sending home for their children.

Although this is not a pandemic-specific issue, in the immediate term schools would benefit from working jointly with families and the broader community on three crucial areas:

1) Reinforcing safety and trust

2) Ensuring student well-being and learning continuity

3) Building resilience through collective reflection, enhanced collaboration and distributed leadership

One very immediate concrete example could be involving parents in the creation or revision of a schools’ emergency plan, which can boost emergency preparedness while contributing to increase families’ own emergency preparedness. In the longer term, schools will need to continue to find creative and authentic ways to involve all parents, especially those who are most disadvantaged, in the school community.

Reflections

One very immediate concrete example could be involving parents in the creation or revision of a schools’ emergency plan, which can boost emergency preparedness while contributing to increase families’ own emergency preparedness. In the longer term, schools will need to continue to find creative and authentic ways to involve all parents, especially those who are most disadvantaged, in the school community.

How can Schools engage with parents to increase involvement?

• How can schools invite parents to interact more often with school staff and participate in school decision making and school activities?

• How can schools develop communications strategies to encourage parents to support their child’s academic achievement and participate in school-related activities, in particular those parents who may be perceived as estranged from the school system or distrustful of the school?

• How can schools communicate to parents that their involvement in school allows parents to have a first-hand understanding of the learning environment, learn how to navigate the education system, demonstrate to their child that education is important, and influence their child’s behaviour by establishing consistent norms?

• How can schools make the most of parents’ involvement in order to increase the school’s human or material resources?

References
Mishra, S, Brossard, M, Reuge, N and Mizunoya, S. (20 April 2020). How involved are parents in their children’s learning? MICS6 data reveal critical insights.

UNICEF. Available from: How involved are parents in their children’s learning? MICS6 data reveal critical insights – Evidence for Action (unicef.org)PISA 2018 Results (Volume III) What School life means for students lives. Chapter 10 – Parental involvement in in school activities. Available from: Parental involvement in school activities | PISA 2018 Results (Volume III) : What School Life Means for Students’ Lives | OECD iLibrary (oecd-ilibrary.org)

Stefaner, M and Baur, D. (2020). OECD. Available from: Review education policies – Education GPS – OECD: Parental involvement.

Author: Nicola Arkinstall

Deputy Headteacher - Little Sutton Primary School, Birmingham

Bio –

Nicola Arkinstall is a Deputy Headteacher in a primary school in Birmingham with over 20 years’ experience. Her primary school is a National Lead School and English Hub who provide support to a wealth of schools. She is currently studying a Senior Leadership Masters with the National College of Education, which she is finding incredibly inspiring. She is Lead DSL and also leads Art, Music and DT. She is responsible for professional development at her school, is an experienced NQT mentor and delivers the NPQ and ECF programmes.

She is passionate about celebrating and supporting anyone working within education and hosts ‘Spotlight’ on Teacher Hug Radio which shines a light on a different school or individual each week.

Twitter- @ArkinstallNikki

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