This week is Empowering Parents and Carers Week!
It is important to give Parents and Carers a voice when it comes to their child’s Education. When parents are involved in their children’s learning, it benefits children, families and schools: children do better.
We asked one of our NPFS Parent Reps to describe what Empowerment means to them, including highlighting some examples which exemplify Empowerment.
Have a read below!
What does empowerment look like in your context?
As a parent, I’m encouraged by our primary school to be involved in what our children are learning: we are invited to the usual round of school trips, parents’ evenings and celebration days and, in addition, our Head asks us for our opinions all the time.
As the Parent Council (PC) Chair some years ago, my big push was on parental engagement, and turning it into something deeper and more meaningful, and not just tokenistic things or using parents as classroom assistants. The expectations from Scottish Government are high and with good reason, and all schools respond to this call in different ways. I felt that our setting could do more to get new and different families engaged in new and different ways, and whilst I am not PC chair any more I am a full and active member of the PC. Yesterday, for instance, I led the first of several workshops on the work of respectme, with the intention of empowering parents to get involved and help develop our positive behaviour policy.
Many parents don’t know what they don’t know until someone tells them, and I feel that we all have some responsibility as members of the school community to do our bit and support the school and its efforts to communicate in a meaningful way: ultimately, we all want the same thing – that our children thrive in a safe school where they can grow and be respected and nurtured. I have always encouraged all our families to come along to the PC meetings, or if that isn’t their thing, I’ve had coffee with them in their houses to chat and get their opinions and concerns heard and aired in the right forums.
To what extent are each of the contributors empowered in your context?
It’s much easier to ‘see’ this in the primary context; things are much less visible at secondary. I think contributors who can keep their eyes on their end goal do all right. Raising attainment and improving the educational experience for our children is ultimately what matters, and every parent and family has a valuable voice – we just have to learn how to listen to that and encourage them to communicate.
There’s no point saying that you “offer opportunities” for engagement and empowerment, or learning and sharing on curriculum matters, if those opportunities don’t come with accessible features – like childcare, or disabled toilet facilities – or if they are being delivered in an inaccessible way. I think it is the job of the Parent Council to challenge the school when these things don’t hit the mark and don’t reach the people they are supposed to be talking to.
What might you need to do differently to support empowerment?
I’d like to see less defensiveness from one of the schools I work with, which is possibly a universal cry. I’m pretty sure a significant part of the problems for parents comes from lack of information about procedure, framework, ethos…. Most families want to hear more, understand better and communicate with the school so they can keep track of what’s going on and how they can support their children.
What examples of practice from your context could you share to exemplify empowerment?
-A parent-led uniform bank has been established at one local school.
-One school revamped how the Parent Council was doing things and in one session trebled attendance at meetings.
-One secondary school has multiple external agencies working within the school to support children and their carers, many of which link with home, which empowers families that are harder to reach and gives them a voice
-Children and young people are encouraged in our cluster to do things for themselves, as independently as possible, so they are learning from a very young age how to make things happen and how to collaborate effectively. One nursery class came up with the idea they’d like to stage The Gruffalo…. and the wonderful early years staff helped it to happen some weeks later. The children did everything – literally. It was an incredible thing to see and the project actually won an education award.
Look out for our Tweets (@parentforumscot) each day this week to follow our social media campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the Empowerment Agenda and what that means for Parents and Carers.