On Thursday 4th March I gave a short presentation on parental engagement at BECTA’s conference at Old Trafford, Manchester. This will be the subject of a future post (or available through voice thread). It was a great day with lots of really powerful personal examples from practitioners, of what is working well in their schools. The keynote address in the afternoon was given by Charles Des Forges and it is from this address that I have taken the theme of this post. Des Forges gave a fantastic, albeit short, presentation on how important parental support is and how much of an impact it can have on the educational success of children.
Firing up parents to engage them in learning can reap such huge benefits for children. When they see learning is important to their parents it can help shape their own attitude to learning. Discussion about school and learning has positive impact and lets children know it matters.
Charles DesForges stated that school is all about achievement everything else is just to help you get there (technology etc..) this was interesting to hear at the Becta conference and many people would assume it was just about technolnogy. Des Forges made it clear this is just a tool to help.
Des Forges said school achievement is about:
Skills- especially literacy
Attitudes- especially responsibility and persistance
Values-especially citizenship and learning
The world changes faster than we can anticipate and best we can do is make children confident learners because that is what they need to be in today’s society. They will be constantly learning because the world is constantly changing. However many things have changed Des Forges explained that social injustice remains untouched and that without any improvement in this area we will never have the impact we wish for. He cited 1:1 tuition as an example of social justice because all children in this situation have access to the same support. In schools, if social justice can be addressed correctly, it can be a hugely powerful lever for improvement.
Effect of achievement
When you invest in parents learning massive benefits can be made. Raising the bar from the bottom end. More training and opportunities for learning for parents are needed to address this. Children with good parental engagement achieve better (statistics at A level show this from Des Forges’ research)
Des Forges also explained that good parenting is authoritative not authoritarian, conversation and discussion confer respect,values and attitudes. The impact is long lasting and far reaching.
Des Forges looked at parental support using the following levels:
1. Simple skills-talk, show, read, play, sing
2. Education Skills-listening, questioning, encouraging
3. More advanced-coaching, goal setting
He believes all parents fall into one of these groups and the level of engagement they can offer is dependent on the group.
Barriers to parental involvement
Des Forges looked at the following barriers to parental involvement:
Poverty, Social chaos, Substance abuse, Depression, Difficult relationships, Lack of confidence or knowledge, Alternative values
He then went on to discuss barriers set up by schools. Des Forges believes parents need more support than just an ICT strategy! They need good learning environments, a learner centred approach and an appropriately intellectually challenge start from what you know.
Parenting not parental:
Parenting is a process and children are very dynamic in this process
Central delivery principles
Des Forges talked about the constructive capacity of humans. He outlined the following areas as key to delivery:
Learning to learn-the challenge for any teacher is to make themselves redundant!
Embedding learning in the work
It’s how you do things- not what you do
The session was both inspiring and thought provoking, I hope this post has encouraged more dialogue around this crucial area of education. Des Forges finished the session by stating that the effect of parenting on pupil achievement is staggering. Some parents need a lot more help than others. It is up to us to make sure we are doing all we can to fire up parents to want to be involved in their children’s learning journey and to ensure they receive the best help and support we can provide through our schools.