Thursday, 21 May 2015

Parents are our greatest collaborators!

I am a firm believer in obtaining frequent parent feedback and input into our school.

Yes, I have tried everything over the years to get parents to turn up to information meetings and education evenings from offering food and wine to ensuring their child is taking part in the evenings activities, meaning they almost have to be there!

Obviously it is hard to name a particular day and time, as it will never suit everyone. However, alternating events from daytime to evening, offering child minding facilities and tempting them with refreshments always helps.

We hold at least 3 parent forums each year and offer them in the following ways:
  • ·      A finger food dinner session tightly facilitated using the World CafĂ© model;
  • ·      Random selection of parents across all classes, personally invited and the topic specified in        advance meeting at an agreed time;
  • ·      Pecha Kucha style evenings, that is, multiple topics offered in a fast paced informative style.

We held a pecha kucha style evening last week and over 80 parents attended. I admit the year 8 students were the presenters but the ability to inform and share our programmes with parents was extremely valuable.

We also held a parent forum, parents randomly selected across the school, focused on giving us feedback about our written reports and home learning. We envisaged one-hour max with half an hour on each topic. What we got was one hour of critical feedback on our written reports! I wish I had videoed the session as their passion and articulation was extremely compelling.

It was the most vibrant, honest, respectful and highly valuable session I have ever had with a group of parents. They challenged us, provoked us and clearly told us what they wanted in a written report. Instead of feeling defensive and argumentative we strangely felt exhilarated and came away truly understanding their needs and wants.

We presented their feedback to teachers and after debating the possible changes and hanging on to our philosophical beliefs we produced a new version of our written report that was highly acceptable to both parties.

The new version was shared with the same group of parents this week for further feedback and review. However, they seemed astounded that we produced a version that was so closely aligned to their needs and thanked us for listening and acting in such a timely manner.

Again, we felt exhilarated coming out of this meeting as very real collaboration had been reached and the positivity that has resulted is palpable.

We know that the way of the future is based on “communities of learners” and collaboration between the school and parents is a key part. If we are to achieve a shift in our way of doing things we need to bring stakeholders with us. They need to be relevant contributors in the process so that it does not become something that is done to them. So with regard to our reports, we are hopeful parents will come with us as we move towards a streamlined digital reporting system.

We also know when the links between home and school are strong student achievement is high. Parent collaboration is not just about sharing how we do things or gathering feedback on issues, it is about aligning views and taking joint action. The collaboration is empowering for both parties and produces a very positive effect on school culture.

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