31 Mar 2022By Kate Bibby
It goes without saying that a good whole-school literacy strategy requires support from staff across the school.
But successful implementations also engage another key stakeholder: parents. The Education Endowment Fund recommends schools position parents “as equal partners who can make a difference”.
It’s not always easy to engage parents. There are many reasons why parents may struggle to support their child’s literacy strategy – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it!
Keep reading to find out how you can engage parents to support your school’s literacy strategy.
Why engage parents?
The link between learners’ performance at school and at home is well established; to develop this for your learners, you need to develop a culture of communication and support between parents and teachers.
Of course, the approach that works best for your school will be unique to the needs of your parent and student community. For example, if you teach in a primary school, the culture of engagement you develop will be different from a secondary school.
1. Develop your whole-school literacy strategy
Before you even begin to think about engaging parents, you need a strong, cross-curricular literacy strategy. Ensure teachers from all subjects are involved in this strategy – this will help build a strong internal culture of improving literacy.
You can’t ask parents for support if you haven’t already established the curriculum-wide impact of improving literacy and begun to develop a whole-school literacy strategy.
2. 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!
Ask for their preferred channels – for example, face-to-face in school, video link, email, text, print newsletter, school website or social media channels.
3. 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 is essential to success in all subjects
- A school event for parents and learners with support from teachers across a range of subjects
- A video posted on your school’s website/social channels
- Examples of excellent work from various subjects shared on your school website
Helping parents understand how to support their child’s literacy in general
- Emphasise that parents don’t need a high degree of literacy or lots of time to support their child
- Include links to more information regularly in newsletters
- Share Bedrock blogs on literacy support
Giving parents tangible information about their child’s cross-curricular learning
- Share curriculum maps each half term, showing parents what their child is learning in which subject and when
- Link to videos that support learning, such as from BBC Bitesize
- Include suggested reading lists to learn more about particular topics
- Explore EdTech tools with built-in parent involvement
4. Plan your communications to individual parents
Despite the efficiency of cohort communications, one-to-one contact is a critical strand of partnering with parents.
Tailored to the needs of the specific child, one-to-one meetings can enable parents to praise, motivate and intervene their children as necessary.
Praise excellent performance in a subject and reward it
- Ensure the learner’s family knows about their child’s achievement so they can celebrate at home!
- These could also be shared on social media and at parents’ evenings to motivate other families and enhance your culture of literacy
Encourage mid-performing learners
- The effort of mid-range learners should also be recognised, such as at parents’ evenings
Intervene when learners' attainment is poor
- Invite parents for a meeting and explain the impact of strong literacy across the curriculum
- Avoid (in the EEF’s words) “stigmatising, blaming or discouraging”
- Direct them to our Bedrock parent blogs
To push your encouragement of parents to engage with literacy strategy even further, find the EEF guidance on working with parents to support children’s learning, or contact us at the button below - we would be happy to discuss ways to help.