How parents can support your school’s literacy strategy
Tips for engaging these key stakeholders
It goes without saying that a good whole-school literacy strategy requires the understanding and support from staff across the school. But the most successful implementations also engage another key stakeholder: parents. Indeed, the Education Endowment Fund recommends schools position parents “as equal partners who can make a difference”.
Find out how you can best engage parents in order to support your school’s literacy strategy.
The link between students’ performance at school and their learning environment at home is well established. Moreover, parents can better encourage their children’s learning when they feel closer to it. When you communicate effectively with parents, it’s easier for them to get involved. A culture of strong parental involvement and support is easy to develop, with parents and teachers working together to support the best outcomes for children.
Of course, the approach that works best for your school will be unique to the needs of your parent and student community. Engagement with parents of primary school children will also differ from those in secondary school.
First, we recommend you develop a whole-school literacy strategy that engages staff from across the curriculum. You can’t ask parents for support if you haven’t already established an internal culture recognising the curriculum-wide impact of improving literacy and begun to develop a whole-school literacy strategy.
For inspiration on how to best enable your school’s parent community to support literacy across all subjects, review our suggestions here and select the ones that work best for your needs. You can then incorporate them into your whole-school literacy strategy.
1. Survey parents to find out what they need
As the EEF observes, parents should be seen as “equal partners who can make a difference”. Communication with them is key! You could start by surveying parents to ask how they’d like to be communicated with – something the EEF reports that less than 10% of schools have done.
You should ask questions about what school-wide and cohort (year group or subject/need specific, such as EAL or SEN) communication parents would find helpful in addition to one-to-one communication. Ask for their preferred channels – for example, face-to-face in school when restrictions allow, video link, email, text, print newsletter, school website or social media channels.
2. Plan your parental communications for cohorts
Cohort communications enable you to efficiently communicate with a large group and generate a culture of partnership with parents.
Different communications objectives can be met in different ways – here are some suggestions.
|Building a culture where parents understand that literacy covers reading, writing and oracy (speaking/listening) and is essential to success in all subjects – not just English||
✓ A school event (when restrictions allow) for parents and students led by the headteacher or literacy coordinator, with support from teachers across a range of subjects
|Helping parents understand how to support their child’s literacy in general, apart from the curriculum||
✓ Emphasise how parents don’t need a high degree of literacy or lots of time to support their child
|Giving parents tangible information about their child’s cross-curricular learning, and practical tips on using this knowledge to have quality conversations||✓ Share curriculum maps each half term, so parents know what their child is learning in which subject and when. You could link to videos that support learning (such as science demonstrations), whether made by your school or from other trusted sites, such as BBC Bitesize
✓ Include suggested reading lists for students (and parents!) to learn more about particular topics
✓ Incorporate key Tier 2 and Tier 3 terms that will be taught, and their definitions. Add subject-specific prompts – these could be open-ended questions parents can ask their child, or research or experiments they can do to help them practise these terms, consolidate their learning and boost their confidence
✓ Edtech tools such as Bedrock include a free parent account for each student. Parents get weekly emails on their child’s usage and progress, even down to the precise words their child is learning – making it incredibly easy for parents to keep up to date.
|Getting parents involved in school literacy beyond their own child’s needs, to foster a culture where parents’ involvement is welcomed and recognised.||✓ At primary school, parents could listen to children reading, or at secondary school, visit to offer specialist support and counsel on specific topics
✓ Regularly promote these opportunities (alongside thanks to named parents, ideally with supporting photography) in updates from the school.
3. Plan your communications to individual parents
Despite the efficiency of cohort communications, direct one-to-one contact is a critical strand of partnering with parents.
Tailored to the needs of the specific child, these can enable parents to praise, motivate and intervene as necessary.
One-to-one communications about literacy can come from subject teachers, or from a pastoral perspective.
|Praise excellent performance in a subject – whether effort or progress – and reward it||✓ Ensure the student’s family knows about their child’s achievement so they can celebrate at home!
✓ You could make an ad-hoc call or message home, or give the student a certificate or other reward
✓ These could also be shared on your school’s social media channels to motivate other families and enhance your culture of literacy (see above)
✓ Successes can also be mentioned at parents’ evening.
|Encourage mid-performing students||The effort of students in the mid range should also be recognised at parents’ evenings. Try offering practical tips for engaging their child with specific subjects, like suggesting reading lists and learning Tier 3 terminology – see the table above for more.|
|Intervene when students have poor attainment||Invite parents for a meeting and explain the impact of strong literacy across the curriculum. Focus on collaboration and avoid (in the EEF’s words) “stigmatising, blaming or discouraging”. Direct them to our Bedrock parent blogs on why literacy is important and how to support it – provide print copies in case of home internet access issues. Have regular meetings with tailored support until performance improves.
For tangible tips, you might find it useful to share some of these Bedrock blogs for parents:
Read more tips in the EEF guidance on working with parents to support children’s learning.