Top tips for effective home school partnerships

Top tips for effective home school partnerships

Focus on developing relationships by:

  • making a sincere effort to make parents feel welcome and valued
  • staff being visible and available, for example, a welcoming smile in the morning or being present on the school gate
  • respecting parents’ choices, and give their opinions, ideas and requests real consideration
  • developing empathy by trying to see the child or young person’s situation from the parents’ perspective
  • trusting families and encouraging them to trust you through open and honest communication.
  • demonstrating reliability, confidentiality, sound judgement, openness and honesty
  • asking about the child or young person’s likes and dislikes, and their strengths and weaknesses
  • asking the family about ways to share their culture, for example, food, music, photos, and traditions with the class. This will his help strengthen the child’s self-esteem, enrich the learning experience for the entire class and foster an appreciation of diversity
  • if there is a problem staff should make contact with a family as soon as possible after it has been identified, so a timely solution can be found. Waiting too long can create new problems, possibly through the frustration of those involved. If staff or parents have said they will do something make sure they do what they say they will do
  • providing parents with frequent, ongoing feedback about how their child is performing academically and in their social development. This can be informally or formal feedback.

By developing these positive relationships between the teacher and the parent the parents will feel able to provide details about their child or young person’s home life including any recent changes. This will enable the teacher to have a complete understanding of each child in their class so they are better able to meet needs. Useful information could include parent relationship information, family or pet bereavement, illness, traditions or rituals, languages spoken at home, and other significant details unique to the child.

Be sensitive to barriers that prevent parents from participating as much as they would like.  For example, don’t perceive a lack of communication from parents as disinterest but seek to understand and work with the parents to build a relationship. This can be done through phone calls, meeting in a neutral space or home visits.

Plan homework carefully so that it can enable greater parental involvement. Interactive homework where the child or young person and the parent work together helps can increase parental involvement at home. If shared family homework is set, it is important to provide a time to support those who may not have as much support at home .To support greater parental involvement, consider including the following when giving homework:

  • Specific guidelines for parents alongside those for the child or young person. 
  • Clarify expectations regarding the amount of time spent on homework, how much help to give, and how to deal with challenging questions.
  • Offer parents a range of strategies for helping their child.
  • Set interactive homework tasks that are hands-on and relevant.
  • Support parents of older children to encourage good homework habits and create a regular routine, space and materials for homework completion.

Further support

The West Sussex SEND Information, Advice and Support (SENDIAS) Service have developed a SENDIAS school information folder to support parent engagement. This opportunity enables good practice to be demonstrated and certification to be achieved. For more information visit the working with schools section of the SENDIAS website.

Practical examples of working together

Personal contact, including meetings, home visits, telephone calls, and curriculum nights or open evenings, appear to be the most effective form of communication and may be among the most familiar.

The establishment of effective school-home communication has grown more complex as society has changed. The great diversity among families means that it is not possible to rely on a single method of communication that will reach all homes with a given message. We now need to consider a variety of strategies, which can be adapted to meet the needs of particular families and their diaries.

Some strategies to consider include:

  • Parent meetings – these can be informal opportunities, for example, a quick catch up before or after school or a more formally arranged through an appointment. These every day interactions with parents provide the foundation for mutual support and keep parents informed about school practices. This could include information about their child’s development, achievement and learning goals, as well as how they can support their child or young person at home.
  • Parent-teacher associations or school community meetings.
  • Weekly or monthly folders of their child’s work sent home for parent review and comment.
  • Parent newsletters
  • Annual open evenings
  • Curriculum nights
  • Home visits (where applicable)
  • Phone calls and texts
  • Articles in the the local newspapers
  • Annual grandparents or 'special persons' days
  • Homework hotlines
  • Annual school trip outings
  • Workshops for parents – This could include offering demonstrations of teaching and opportunities for questions and discussions, as well as making videos of literacy or maths with explanations and a commentary on the video.
  • Family learning activities
  • Communications that are focused on fathers as well as mothers.
  • Email or information on the school website. For example, event calendars, class websites or blogs to inform parents about what their child is currently working on in school.
  • Home school agreements – establishes the partnership between the school and parents.
  • Home school link books – particularly useful for parents who are not able to get into school on a regular basis.
  • The child or young person participates in or leads a parent-teacher evening.
  • Writing in a ‘family message book’ about different aspects of their school day, such as something they learned, or an upcoming event, and take it home each day for the family to read
  • The child or young person takes photographs or make videos to share with their families/in school.
  • Inviting parents to school performances and other events. For example, quiz and pizza nights
  • Using children and young people or parents as ambassadors, for example, to show other parents around the school.

Barriers to developing an effective home school partnership

From a parent perspective can include:

  • Lack of time (work, childcare).
  • Haven’t been asked to meet with teachers.
  • Low self-esteem, find the idea of getting involved intimidating.
  • Negative experience of school.
  • Low aspirations.
  • Health issues.
  • Lack of guidance on how to support their child.
  • Not sure what skills and knowledge they can contribute.

From a teacher perspective can include:

  • Lack of time for both teachers and parents.
  • Difficult getting parents interested/involved.
  • Belief among parents that educating their children is the school’s job.
  • Parents unable to support their child’s learning because of limited education.
  • Families disengaged with education.
  • Reluctance of parents to come into school.
  • Lack of training in parent engagement.
  • Challenging parent behaviour.