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I am a trainee head teacher and would like to know what makes a school good or bad at communicating with parents and getting parents involved in the wider school community

(103 Posts)
HastingsJo Thu 18-Aug-11 09:16:45

HI I'm an experienced Primary teacher and am undertaking the NPQH - head teacher qualification. As part of my learning I'm looking at what, for parents, makes schools good or bad and communicating and building a relationship with parents. I want to make my school, when I become a head have the best relationship with parents as possible to enable to maximise their child's learning. If you have any experiences or thoughts you'd like to share I'd really appreciate it - I've also put together a 5 minute survey which I'd be really grateful if you have time to complete. Many Thanks
Jo
www.surveymonkey.com/s/parentschoolcommssurvey

twentypoundsover Thu 18-Aug-11 09:34:03

what I like from school (in order, best first):

1. sentence from teacher as DS waved out the door ("bit tired today", "great painting this afternoon", "really interested in today's topic" etc)
2. school weekly newsletter
3. termly parents evenings

what I don't like

school reports - so anodyne and impersonal as to be useless.

Itsjustafleshwound Thu 18-Aug-11 09:41:23

For the love of all that is holy, please do not think that children (esp Primary school children) are old enough to pass on messages and keep the parent informed as to what is happening.

There is really NOTHING wrong with a brief e-mail or newsletter giving salient dates and expectations.

Petesmum Thu 18-Aug-11 09:46:39

what I like from DS's school
1 - headmaster in play ground talking to parents morning & afternoon
2 - teachers always have time for a chat
3 - DS offers non sylabus "university" courses eahc term eg salsa dancing, gardening, dodge ball
4 - school reports detailed and personal, with a handwritten message from head, hate to think how long this process takes the school

what I dislike
1 - getting 7 A4 peices of paper in DS bag in a week with different messages...please consolidate them onto 1 peice of paper or better yet, email me
2- the lack of notice we get of parents evenings
2 - headmaster talks to me like I'm also 8 years old, please don't patronise me

IndigoBell Thu 18-Aug-11 09:49:24

Bad experiences of communication:

* My school never told me they put my DS and my DD on the SEN register *for different problems at different times).

What they should have done was called me in to a meeting with the SENCO and the class teacher, then told me their concerns, then told me they wanted to put my child on the SEN register, then explained what that meant and what additional support they would get.

* They never told me I was signing an IEP at parent teacher meetings (because obv they hadn't told me they were on the SEN register)

IEP review meetings should not be part of the regular parent teacher meetings, they are a sep meeting just to discuss your child's problems and what the school and home are doing to help them.

* Told absolute blatant lies when asked DDs predicted grades

They kept on insisting DD would make a L2 at KS1. When she didn't, and I knew she wouldn't. Why on earth they did this I have no idea.

* Good examples (Different school)
School reports that have NC levels on them.

* Teachers being available almost every afternoon after school in the playground for a quick word.

* Soft start
Parents being welcome into the classroom means that they get more ideas of what their child can do and is doing without talking to the teacher.

* SENCOs that listen to parents and work with them to try and find the right interventions. There is no reason to assume the SENCO knows more than the parent.

senua Thu 18-Aug-11 09:52:01

What fleshwound said. Why do teachers insist on communicating via the medium of children. Children lose things or be off sick that day or just forget (and I'm not just talking primary here!).
Send information directly to parents, using that wonderfully cheap invention called the internet. Think of the saving on paper and ink.

Also, communication is a two way process. Will you build in a parent-to-school option in your comunication and relationship model?

Sorry, I haven't even looked at your survey. Surveys are always biased towards what the questionner wants to hear instead of what the respondant what to say.

senua Thu 18-Aug-11 10:01:08

Good point about notice, too. Trawl MN: there are numerous threads ranting about schools wanting dressing-up costumes or outings-money at short notice.
Our school prints a calendar every term so we know what is coming up and can put it in the diary. I find it very impressive (having previously had the DC at schools that didn't do such things) because it looks so organised and professional, as if the school actually knows what it is doing.

IShallWearMidnight Thu 18-Aug-11 10:07:09

put stuff on the website - our secondary school updates their calendar daily if needed, puts newsflashes on the front page, and certain year group heads send out weekly email updates.

By contrast the primary school has a "design over content" website which is fiendishly difficult to navigate, and spent a year after launch not being updated. However, they have a regualr day for letters home, and you cna opt to have them emailed - so much easier to know that on a Thursday you need to check the bookbag.

Best advice for trainee headteachers is to think how you woudl want to be spoken to, and do the same to parents. We're not 8 years old.

exexpat Thu 18-Aug-11 10:09:14

My biggest problem in terms of communication with the head at my DC's former (outstanding-rated) primary was that she took any comment or suggestion (let alone a complaint) as some kind of personal criticism and reacted extremely defensively. There was no feeling that she was willing to actually listen to what people said, good or bad.

Being genuinely approachable, able to sit and listen, and then think before responding (preferably not defensively or dismissively) are reall skills to cultivate, I think.

activate Thu 18-Aug-11 10:12:17

planning
advance notice - what's coming up next term newsletter
- reminder 2 weeks before big dates
- available teachers (for primary)
clarity
grammar and punctuation
direct email addresses

Tortington Thu 18-Aug-11 10:13:41

If you wouldn't mind not asking the 'children' to dress up in expensive/timeconsuming costumes that you know damn well the parents have to make after working 40 hours a week

yeah that would be good

CMOTdibbler Thu 18-Aug-11 10:17:07

I like as much notice of any event as possible - I get a year calendar with term dates and big things, plus a very detailed term calendar with concerts/assemblies etc. This lets me sort out my work around important school stuff, and lets me plan to support school events.

Information should never be made available by a notice on classroom doors/notice boards - working parents won't see it.

Making newsletters and letters available on the school website is fantastic - I check daily, and know everything will be there

crazygracieuk Thu 18-Aug-11 10:24:45

I find it shocking how short notice we got for important events. You'd think that important ones like Inset days and parent's evening are pencilled on early on.

Our deputy head is at the school gate welcoming the children every morning. This means that children feel important when they are greeted by name and they know who she is (most kids only see her at some assembles/plays)

Our school has started to use text message for reminders like forms. I'd like to see all school letters online- including homework as there have been times when my children didn't get the work.

chimchar Thu 18-Aug-11 10:27:57

our school has a text service which is great...

it acts as a reminder for events ie the afternoon before a trip i might have a text saying "don't forget trip to farm tomorrow. bring packed lunch and wellies"

or "school bus will be at least 20 minutes late leaving school today"

"class 2 parents...headlice in class..please check your childrens hair" grin

plus a weekly emailed newsletter.

out HT is just brilliant. he is always available before and after school for a quick word (rather than needing to make an appt just to follow up something iykwim) this makes all the difference in feeling secure.

he watches at the end of day and will always ask if all is ok if your child is looking downtrodden or upset.....small things matter hugely to kids as you know....to know the school is aware and ready to support is good and offers almost immediate reassurance to parents and children

sorry...i have rambled!!

GloriaVanderbilt Thu 18-Aug-11 10:35:43

Don't be afraid to lose face if you get something wrong. Our HT is crap like this. She's got things awfully wrong and we all hate her for it, but she says 'I don't care what people think of me' and carries on regardless.

No one respects her for that, it's damaging a great school.

OTOH she is very sweet with the children. But nearly all the parents have lost respect for her.

GloriaVanderbilt Thu 18-Aug-11 10:36:54

exexpat she sounds familiar!

Itsjustafleshwound Thu 18-Aug-11 10:39:17

Have some clear policies in place and have them easily available and enforce them esp regarding big issues like bullying.

elastamum Thu 18-Aug-11 10:53:32

My childrens school sends out a calendar at the beginning of each term with important dates, match schedule, trips, etc etc.

Each week there is an e newsletter with news, and ANYTHING important is in this.

I have an e mail address for each class teacher and can e mail them on anything I need to. If I need to meet, I e mail and we set a time which works. If they have an issue they call me. Communication with the school is pretty good. Each child has a prep diary which homework set is recorded in and I sign every day. Teachers also write down a comment each week and I sign.

The website is updated with dates, dinner menus, match fixtures. School policies are clearly laid out. Bad weather closing was always posted on the website first thing in the morning.

You could also if you wanted do a txt messaging service set up centrally so parents could register a mobile number and get txts in bad weather, emergencies etc

I get lots of notice for costumes etc and dont get too many requests for stuff.

The school has very high standatrds on behaviour / uniform / bullying and these are enforced. It is very inclusive, with lots of activities for non team players or less academic children. Therre is a school council for the children and a very active PTA. As a result the school is a good environment and my boys are both looking forward to the start of term next sept

HastingsJo Thu 18-Aug-11 10:55:05

Thank you - these are brilliant!! Please keep them coming - you could just be making me into the best new head teacher in the world if I pass the interview panel in Sept smile

SybilBeddows Thu 18-Aug-11 10:58:32

My school tries really hard at communicating but they get it wrong in 2 respects:

1. there are so many channels of communication (paper newsletters, emailed newsletters, texts, emails, website) that you never know where to look and end up missing vital info because info will be in one place and not the other

2. they are very good at giving you enormous amount of detail about your child's progress without you actually getting any useful info out of it, eg the report that says 'child can correctly describe two-dimensional shapes' but you don't know if that means she is behind because all the other children are describing three-dimensional shapes, or average, or ahead. (And of course I only found out from MN that it related to the EYFS levels of achievement and actually you can get a very clear idea what it means, if you know that.)

cazzybabs Thu 18-Aug-11 10:58:52

HastingsJo - look forward to hear you have time to implement these things when you are head smile

frasersmummy Thu 18-Aug-11 11:04:17

simple things like

a note of which days are gym days and what the lunch options are at the beginning of term

and perhaps a comment say once a week in homework diary saying x is really good at this .. or maybe you could help them understand that

If the basics are not communicated the parents cant support with learning or even by providing shorts on the right day

LynetteScavo Thu 18-Aug-11 11:10:18

I want to know what topics are going to be covered in the comming term.

I want all newletters to be on the school web site. (DS2 is utterly hopeless with paper newsletter, so telling me"it was it the newsletter" is no good, if it's not on line because I never bloody got it).

I want the school to realise that, shockingly some parents work and don't drop of/collect their DC themselves. We won't see notices on school gates, and cannot rustle up an unwanted pillow case by tomorrow morning.

crazymum53 Thu 18-Aug-11 11:41:12

My dds school send texts to parents which are usually helpful but often need more information and are frequently short notice e.g xxx is happening tomorrow (a date and more notice would be helpful especially as I don't switch on my mobile phone every day so I often miss things ). Seem to remember there were problems for parents with more than one child when different year groups had to bring different items/wear different colour T shirts etc. so please state year group or class this applies to.
Weekly newsletters are great but please check these for spelling and other areas.
Please check all letters for consistency. For my dds Y6 prom there was a notice on the newsletter and a formal invitation which had different start and finish times printed on them. The school couldn't understand why so many parents were collecting their children late!

lingle Thu 18-Aug-11 11:47:23

I think the "headmistress on the playground" thing is a bit like bobbies on the beat. We parents absolutely love it. How you are supposed to get your more detailed work done is an issue though.

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