We all know what an important role parents play in students’ academic performance. Therefore it’s
fundamental that your School Development Plan and targeted intervention strategies incorporate
parental engagement as a key pillar.
However, one thing I hear on an almost daily basis from Secondary School Deputy Heads is just how
challenging parental engagement and communication can be. Parents often do not have the time to
engage, or work hours that do not facilitate good communication.
More specifically, some parents are particularly hard to engage and it’s necessary to get pretty
creative when it comes to getting their buy-in to being a part of their child’s learning. Trying to
lecture them by offering them ‘parenting classes’ often invokes a defensive and negative response,
while things like coffee mornings can be seen as the realm of the middle classes and therefore
I find that the key here is to bring these parents onboard in a way that makes them feel that they’re
playing a leading role in the process, instead of just being dictated to. For one Head Teacher I spoke
to recently, who had successfully taken his school from Inadequate to Outstanding Ofsted rating, the
answer was simple: Food.
In particular, this Head Teacher told me that whenever there is food involved in parental activity, the
level of attendance and engagement increases dramatically.
He told me that the sharing of dishes from a variety of cultures created by the pupils, cake sales, and
cooking classes had all proved effective. However, there was one food-based targeted intervention
strategy in particular that had shown incredible results.
This particular approach allowed the school to address language skills, confidence, parenting skills
and developing relationships between parents and their children. All really important factors I’m
sure you’ll agree.
Here’s an overview of what they did…
The school set up a programme called ‘Grow to Cook with Parents’ which consisted of weekly
cooking and gardening sessions. For this school, this was on a weekday morning, but it could equally
be after school or at the weekend (it’s just that this particular school had found that hard-to-reach
families were most likely to engage during the school day).
Some sessions were parents only, some sessions began with parents in one group and their children
in another group, with the two groups coming together at the end of the session, and some groups
had both parents and children together from the start.
During these sessions parents and students undertook a range of cooking and gardening activities.
Some things being planted at the start of the programme, which were then able to be harvested in
the final sessions, and cooked with.
At each session, parents and children were able to sit at the end of the session and eat together
what had been created. This gave the opportunity for the adult leading the session to model good
conversation and interaction between parents and children (it should be pointed out here that all
adults leading the sessions were trained in Philosophy for Children – P4C – which helps them to
develop the participants’ thinking, conversational and questioning skills).
What a great targeted intervention strategy! There are so many aspects of this approach that I love,
but in particular I think that the act of being able to plant something, nurture it, and then reap the
rewards at the end reinforces an extremely powerful message that students can carry into their
everyday school lives.
At SAM Learning we too take a 360 degree approach to learning, meaning teachers of all levels,
students, and parents can all access the resource at any time and with any device such as mobile
phone, tablet, pc, ,mac and more….We also provide free-of-charge weekly online webinars,
specifically for parents, which show them step-by-step how SAM Learning works and all the potential
benefits. This enables these parents to support their child and encourage their learning using our
‘proven to improve’ solutions.
That’s it for this week! Keep your eyes peeled for my next blog, where I’ll be sharing another proven
targeted intervention strategy.