All too often it becomes a fall-back position for schools to write home about escalating concerns regarding attendance.
Take a minute to question how this fosters positive engagement between parents and school, or how it empowers a family to break the cycle of persistent absenteeism and establish a good pattern of attendance?
Engage with parents on a personal level
The personal touch is often much more effective than standardised letters and mailouts, which will serve you well as an essential part of a whole school strategy but need to be used only as part of a wider, more pragmatic response to overcoming barriers that may be affecting a pupil.
By challenging the myths around poor attendance, schools can start to consider parents as part of the solution rather than the problem. Research shows that the schools which are most effective in engaging parents, achieve better outcomes.
Key elements of success when engaging parents are:
- Listening to the parents’ perspective
- Starting early, in nursery, reception and year seven
- Communicating clear expectations
- Offering avenues of support
- Taking a strengths-based approach as promoted in early help assessment
Parental engagement should be viewed as an on-going process and not a one-time event. By creating opportunities for parents to have regular dialogue with school staff and other support agencies, enables them to craft the solutions, foster positive relationships and develop mutual trust.
Adopt a whole-school approach to Attendance
Consider the role of your PTA and parent governors in highlighting the benefits of good attendance and punctuality. Establish a parent leadership group which can be actively involved in organising and delivering initiatives such as a walking bus scheme, drop in sessions, coffee mornings or parent and child after school clubs and holiday activities. Consult parents about what they do that works well and use their ideas to inform others of ‘top tips’.
Establish events in school that promote an open and welcoming school environment and use information boards in prominent positions to promote positive messages backed by current and relevant data. Welcome feedback through a dropbox facility and be seen to respond to this. You could use a newsletter or flyer to show what actions have been taken such as ‘You said…. We did……’
Too often there are unseen barriers that prevent schools and parents working together to ensure that all the pupils achieve their full potential. Taking a fresh look at why relationships may have broken down or may not even have got off to a constructive start, can lead to such positive results. It is never too late, and working with parents is far more productive than in opposition
If you would like to find out more about the ideas raised in this article or for advice and support in how to engage with parents to improve attendance contact the One Education Attendance team on 0844 967 1111.
Blog Authored By Frank Dooley - One Education Attendance Advisor