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Parental Engagement in a Primary Setting – building a parent council

Your school may have a Student Council or PTFA/ PTA but have you considered a Parent Council? Jenny Ross shares her experience of chairing her school’s Parent Council.

Engaging parents can sometimes prove a challenging task. Often, parents mainly engage to raise funds for the school through a PTFA, or as helpers within the school – such as class readers. However this engagement takes place, it is evident to see that voluntary action within schools is fast becoming normal practice and the co-production of a parent council is no exception.

So how do you engage parents to work alongside the teaching and leadership team to focus on the aspects within a school that really affect families and most importantly, the children? How can this be made possible within an area of high deprivation and with high pupil premium numbers?

One way to achieve this is through a parent council. This voluntary action group enables parents to work on a deeper level, understanding school structure and policies, the running of a school and enable change to take place, influenced through effective collaborative working.

This panel of parents represent all parents within the school and enables everyone to have their voices heard. The aim of the council is to improve the learning environment for the children. However, this inevitably has a knock-on effect to the teaching staff and parents. The effectiveness of the council can be seen through our success stories, including our Parentkind interview and within Dr Pooky Kinghtsmiths publication, “The Mentally Healthy Schools Workbook”.

By welcoming parents into the school, it shows that they are trusted, valued and appreciated. As Chair of the council, it is my role to establish relationships, develop the council and the projects that we represent and continue to make improvements within the school.
Achievements to date include:

  • Attending 2 school dinners with the children
  • Working in partnership with other schools to help them develop their own council
  • Setting-up an emergency breakfast scheme to feed children that go without breakfast
  • Assisting with school policies – Behaviour and Homework
  • Assisting with the schools SIAMS visit
  • Partnership working with charity – The Rainbow Centre
  • Collaborating with teaching and leadership staff
  • Assisting with the development of our new PoPA group (formally PTFA)
  • Our work is being presented at Sheffield and Canterbury University
  • Working with the head of maths to develop a ‘working with parents’ maths scheme.
  • Personally, I continue to upload information and advice to my own blog and twitter accounts.

Through times of adversity we have proven that even in the most difficult of situations, there are very dedicated parents willing to collaborate and care, even after having the door previously closed on them.

However, as much as this concept may make some schools feel nervous, the proof of its success is clear to see. By working together and focusing on the issues most important to the families within the community, we have been able to improve learning outcomes, parental engagement, support for teachers and leadership staff and school performance.

Parents should be viewed as an extremely positive source of support. The generosity and skill set available by parents should be utilized as much as possible. Getting to know the parents; their interests, jobs, skills, talents, interests and hobbies, provides you with a full and enriched skill based to work with. Our council members include teachers, head designers, talented crafts people and savvy sales people. As a result, we have professional branding and status within the school, a successful and proactive team and a new PoPA team, that has raised over £1000 in one term alone – not bad for a school within a deprived area.

One thing has become evident to see, that a group of committed parents can make such a difference to their children’s education and school experience. By welcoming a team of parents into your school and ensuring a whole school approach – results can be achieved and learning outcomes improved.

Written by Jenny Ross (Chair of Parent Council)

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The author

Jenny Ross teaches years 1 & 2 within a small rural forest school in Kent. She has a BA Degree in Early Childhood studies, is currently completing an MA in Educational Leadership and has worked with children and families for 10 years. Jenny is passionate about parental engagement in education and has previously held the position of Chair person for a parent council within a ‘requires improvement’ school. Due to the successful recognition of the council, our story has featured within various publications including; ’The Mentally Healthy Schools Workbook’ by Dr Pooky Knightsmith and ’The Four Pillars of Parental Engagement’ by Justine Robbins and Karen Dempster.

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