CONTRIBUTORS Keeping parents in the loop

This month, regular Education Today contributor GRAHAM COOPER, head of education at Capita SIMS, considers the importance of keeping your pupils’ parents informed and up to date.

Parental engagement has long been a hot topic in schools with the general consensus being that a greater level of involvement from parents brings about higher rates of achievement from children in the classroom. However, how best to bring this about this remains something of a mystery to many individuals and schools I visit. According to a survey I recently read from, the potential benefits that

schools would see in return for additional investment in parental engagement make this approach more than worthwhile. More than two thirds of teachers surveyed felt that building trust and improving relationships between parents and teachers was the single biggest benefit, while other positive impacts included areas such as improving academic achievement and pupil behaviour, as well as reducing absenteeism. Schools which can create sustainable, long-lasting programmes where

parents take an active involvement in supporting the education of their children can expect to enjoy increased pupil performance and behaviour as children progress through their learning journeys.

Make a plan – and stick to it As with most objectives, the best way to build an environment of parental engagement in schools is to make a concrete, dedicated plan and build a strategy around what your school is looking to achieve. As every school is different, that plan will need to be individual to your

particular community, so considering the factors that differentiate your pupil population and their support networks is key.

Involve everyone The most successful strategies for parental engagement require buy-in from all corners of the school and the most likely way to achieve this is by setting a strong example from senior leadership to clarify what is expected from all staff. It’s important to remember that not everyone working in a school may be

that familiar or comfortable interacting with children and their parents, so consider this when identifying expectations. With this in mind, schools may need to invest in training or coaching for

staff to build confidence and reinforce positive behaviours – this could form part of formal teacher training or continued professional development programmes.

Tap in to technology The explosion in recent years of affordable, easy-to-use technology has provided us all with more access than ever before to resources and tools that make life easier – mobile apps, cloud-based storage and high-speed internet access to name a few. Schools that are on the ball with technology can reduce much of the work

and time involved in keeping in touch with parents, while also operating at much greater speed, communicating almost in real-time on a wide range of activities and events taking place in their schools. The schools that I see do this best tend to send many more positive messages home about pupil achievements and successes. When it is easier to communicate generally, its easier to share good news – and not just messages about lateness or missed homework (even though they are also important!) Achieving a thriving community of parental engagement will, of course,

always remain a challenge for schools and should never be considered as ‘job done’, and a task to tick off your to-do list. By taking a flexible, needs-based approach to bringing parents closer to the

fold, schools have a great opportunity to create a positive, energetic environment where every child feels as understood and supported in the classroom as they do at home.


Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018

Comment by MARK BENTLEY, Online Safety and Safeguarding Manager, London Grid for Learning

The Department for Education’s flagship safeguarding document is ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ or KCSIE for short. It has been updated for September 2018, with valuable new additions that all schools need to consider. Designated Safeguarding Leads and school leaders need to read it all, but here is an introduction to some of the key changes that will have an impact on everybody. Whenever I talk to teachers about safeguarding, I like to ask if

everyone at their school has read Part 1 of KCSIE. The guidance is statutory, which means that schools must follow what it says, and within the introduction it points out that Part 1, the first 15 pages of the document, is to be read by all staff. That means everyone, from teachers to office and canteen staff, site team and others. Annex A covers specific forms of abuse and safeguarding issues

and should be read by leaders and anyone in school who works directly with children. If you think this isn’t the case in your school, why not go and set the wheels in motion for this to take place now. A key new area is the new Part 5, which refers to DfE advice on

sexual violence and harassment – the full document is very helpful, with case studies and guidance on a range of issues. It stresses that all forms of sexual violence and harassment must be taken seriously and explains how it exists on a continuum. Behaviours sometimes considered as ‘low level’ must be treated

seriously and not allowed to perpetuate. Schools need to take action on a range of issues and the document makes specific reference to behaviours which are often tolerated or treated as minor misdemeanours, such as bra-strap flicking and the careless use of language. Many schools, especially those in London will now be more

familiar with ‘county lines’ – the exploitation of children to traffic money or drugs from cities to remote locations – than at the time the 2016 document was published. KCSIE now gives a useful summary of the phenomenon in Annex A with key factors involved in this type of abuse. Other changes include new mention of contextual safeguarding

and the importance of understanding the full picture of children’s lives to complete the overall safeguarding jigsaw. Schools are now recommended to hold at least two emergency contacts after documented cases of single contacts being found dead. New resources and signposting have been added to Annex C on

Online Safety, as well as mention of topics such as fake news, pornography and racist extremism. The role of the school designated safeguarding lead is defined in KCSIE; this edition adds the words ‘including online safety’ after safeguarding and child protection, highlighting that the DSL has lead responsibility and that online safety is inseparable from safeguarding. Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, so get your colleagues

reading – remember this is just an overview of some of the changes! September’s CPD updates for all school staff always include reminders and new aspects to look out for, but the updated KCSIE gives us an opportunity to return to these issues and cover new areas to help make the next academic year a great one for keeping children safe.

June 2018

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