I have always believed that the best resource for our children’s learning is parental support. Enforcing what the children have been learning at school at home is an incredible asset that we just can’t get in school time alone. I have performed a number of parent workshops where I show the parents what is being taught in school, from phonics to year six SATs maths. I have further led SPAG classes for the parents who were unaware of the usage and definition of homophones to ensure that learning can continue at home.
These classes have always been a tremendous help to their children and naturally improves their understanding dramatically; however the problem persists in struggling to reach every parent. And it was this thought this got me researching – how can we get those hard to reach parents?
I stumbled across an idea that one school was using in their highly deprived area, which seemed to be working very well.
This deprived school was simply offering raffle tickets for every workshop they attended. At the end of the half term, they will then be entered into a raffle for a variety of prizes, such as hampers, wines and vouchers, there was no cost to the school as the prizes were donated. This proved to be a wildly popular way to encourage parents to come and participate in workshops. As an extension, the school then offer further tickets for more involved sessions, such as coffee mornings or parent meetings.
However, this does not address working parents or those with no childcare available, who would physically be unable to attend. What can we do here?
Whilst after-school workshops with a set area for the children are a simple and straightforward arrangement, schools can also tap into the ready prevalence of technology in the home.
For example, a webinar could be the perfect way to address parents, as well as allow for direct interaction. These can be accessed on their devices at home and with enough prior warning on timings, can even be streamed from home.
These have been a great hit for most working parents or those that have issues with childcare and even more so for the teachers. They can do it at a convenient time for all parties, from the comfort of their home and parents can type questions that they want to ask. Ultimately, it’s not just about expecting parents to be present, but also addressing the unique situations and arrangements of our pupils’ families.
What do you think? How do/would you implement practices to encourage parents to interact? Please let us know in the comments below or in our Facebook groups.
Popular topics this week (lots! Thanks to our group members!)
One school that I visited before Christmas was a community primary school in a pocket of relative affluence in an otherwise deprived area. They, as most schools, were doing their cooking and nutrition subject in a block before Christmas.
Their Year Four children were making sandwiches, planning, creating and evaluating; nothing unusual there but what I found out was truly inspirational… The school had purposefully made this unit just before Christmas, asking children to work with the title of ‘Christmas sandwiches’, with a clear understanding to include very nutritious food with a high protein count.
Why? Because they were making them to donate to the homeless shelter in the centre of Morecambe! This selfless act alongside other very small adjustments (often just through pre-planning tasks and themes) can help leaders to rethink the way we deliver the curriculum. Undeniably, a fantastic way to encourage our children to think of others and support our community.
Another school, I am happy to share, is my own school where I am a LA Governor. This is a single form entry in a very deprived area, but just before Christmas they ran a drive where they asked parents to bring in new toys, games and puzzles. They then sent out an invitation to all parents who they knew were going to need extra support this Christmas and asked them to come and do their ‘Christmas shopping’ at school, where they were supplied with presents for all of their children.
They were so inundated with gifts from other families that they even had left over to send birthday packages home to the families that need them the most. Rather than strengthening the consumerist side of Christmas that the media pushes, this ‘gift of giving’ attitude was a fantastic way to support our families and spread the community spirit!
What do you think? How would you implement practices to encourage community in schools? Please let us know in the comments below or in our Facebook groups.
Louise Nichols, Headteacher of Gayhurst Primary tells us how she promotes health across her schools…
If you want to get involved with the campaign, you can tweet UK Secretary of State for Education, @DamianHinds with the hashtag #healthyschools
Where are we now?
I’ve been a headteacher of 3 schools in London for a number of years. When I first started, I saw that the health of kids in the schools in the deprived areas was worse than the schools where most kids were from more affluent backgrounds. It’s not a coincidence that child obesity levels are twice as high in deprived areas. I felt really strongly that school food, food education and exercise should not just be the privilege of kids in schools with money and time.
How do we promote health in our schools?
When I made the decision to focus on the health of the kids, I started from the position that health should be across the whole of the school. It’s not about a token gesture… a few more carrots on the side of a plate is a great start, but if they don’t know why carrots are good for them and they don’t have the cooking confidence, they probably won’t eat them anyway.
So that’s why we’ve tried to look at everything we do from a health perspective. We’ve been lucky enough to get on board with the Chefs in Schools program. This means that the food quality has gone up while the cost has gone down. The chefs also visit science classes to talk about nutrition and healthy eating, and even providing vegetables for kids to draw in art class. It’s truly a whole school approach!
There’s also a big outdoor space where kids can play after lunch, plus pupils are encouraged to walk a ‘Daily Mile’ on their way to school. The whole school environment has been designed to promote better kids’ health.
What results have we seen?
Teachers report that children are more on the ball than ever. They’re more enthusiastic about healthy food. And they concentrate better in class.
Several studies have shown that healthy lifestyles, including eating habits and physical activity, are associated with improved academic achievement, while increased fast food consumption leads to lower levels of achievement in reading, maths and science. But I’ve seen this in practice.
With so many competing priorities, how can we create space for school leaders to look at improving health too?
We’ve got a really big opportunity. Ofsted are reviewing their inspection framework and we could finally broaden their focus from exam results. A Healthy Schools Rating Scheme would give other school leaders the mandate to focus on food, food education and PE & Sports. Why don’t we support school leaders, by using funds raised from the sugary drinks levy to promote health in their schools?
The scheme could apply to all schools, no matter what their status, so it raises standards across the whole country. Good health should not be the privilege of schools that can afford to create that environment.
If you saw the show and want to get involved, tweet UK Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds: “.@DamianHinds, our schools want a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme to celebrate what they’re doing to keep kids healthy #healthyschools”
Christmas parties are tense occasions. There’s a constant worry that at least one staff member will get way too drunk. There’s a much bigger worry that the drunk staff member will be you. No one wants to wake up the morning after with their final memory of the night being that look your line manager gave you while they gently suggested, “maybe have a water for your next drink?”.
Staff parties in schools are harder still. Everyone is so shattered and relieved that the first term is over that there’s a genuine chance someone might pass out from exhaustion half way through their first pint.
When I worked in a school, our Christmas party was mid-day drinks at a pub in Blackburn town centre. To clarify, the school was in Blackburn – we didn’t travel up from London for this.
So what does make a good school Christmas party? We’ve put together some criteria to help you judge your own…
This week I have been looking at safeguarding children by directly safeguarding parents.
As we all know, children can be subjected to true terrors in their home, as through no fault of their own they can be witness to something that we have no control over. So, how can we spread our safeguarding awareness to the home?
I was watching a programme recently which was based in a hospital – on the wall was a poster that offered support to those who are domestically abused, and on the corner was a pack of blank yellow dots. These discreet dots were to be taken by someone who needs help to get away from domestic abuse. The victims then wear this dot and speak to any member of staff about anything e.g. what time is lunch today, just so they can see the dot. They then asked them in to talk about ‘lunch’ and then take it from there.
Whilst this is admittedly an imperfect method, as you could say that every parent would need to know what the yellow dots are, this idea does open the doors to creating opportunity for parents to ask for help in a discreet manner.
What about a ‘leave a comment box’ or ‘handing a slip in to the office’. There are a wealth of ideas that we could adopt to maintain the wellbeing of parents and, in turn, the children.
What do you think? Do you use any of the methods above, or have you got your own? Please let us know in the comments below or in our Facebook groups.