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Together is better: teachers, students and parents

Professor Trevor Cairney has conducted much research into the importance and value of parental involvement in a child’s education.

In his recent blog:

and his previous work ‘Involving parents in the literacy activities of secondary school children: An evaluation of the Effective Partners in Secondary Literacy Learning program.’ Cairney suggests that ‘the cumulative effect of a range of home related factors, probably accounts for the greatest proportion of variability in student literacy performance.’

It would not be an unreasonable assertion that both parents and schools expect parental involvement to diminish and take a step back as students enter secondary education; to let students stand on their own two feet; let the experts in subject fields take over and for students to become embarrassed about their parents involvement at school. In addition to these cultural and social expectations, the gap between school and home has never been wider. The ‘them and us’ situation is not helpful to any party, least of all the students. It could be a generalisation, but without doubt we have all heard of parents who say, ‘It’s your job.’ (or similar) in response to a phone call home and likewise we have all heard teachers complain about the lack of support they receive from parents when they have tried reaching out.

Cairney puts forward a range of reasons as to why this gap has appeared and is growing:

  • Schools only offer token ‘tick-box’ parental involvement opportunities

  • These opportunities are not understood by parents/teachers

  • Teachers have negative attitudes about parents and parental involvement

  • Failure to attract parental interest may be due to their own fears and insecurities about the education system

The project that Cairney created was designed to support and raise parent participation with children’s literacy, learning and study skills in Years 7 to 10. Indeed, his research and findings were so well received that the Australian Government have now invested to help schools set up meaningful and positive parental involvement schemes.

Using Cairney’s project as a model and my position as Learning Centre manager at Saffron Walden County High School, I have begun exploring the ways in which I can develop a programme to bring students, parents and the school together. Initially, my research will be based around how parental involvement can contribute to students’ literacy skills (as I am based within the Library and the English Department).

The aims of my research are to:

  • Encourage the school, parents and students to work together

  • Develop student and parent self-esteem and confidence within a literacy setting

  • Improve communication between school and home

  • Allow parents to take an active involvement in their child’s literacy activities

Should my programme have elements of success, I could then liaise and share with other departments within the school, to see where else parents could be positively involved with students’ education.

So far, I have invited parents and students to attend some informal style ‘drop-in’ sessions that will take place in the Library. These sessions will be run in the form of a ‘Book Group’ with a range of literacy activities on offer for students and parents to work on together.

Look out for my next blog to see how things are going.

Together is better: teachers, students and parents

Any comments, wisdom or ideas would be grateful received.

Justine Lister

Librarian/Learning Centre Manager

Saffron Walden County High School

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