One of the main purposes of the Parental Engagement project was to support schools to experiment with their parental engagement activities in schools. A National Numeracy consultant was on hand to support the project schools to devise with innovative ways to better engage the parents. The following activities are from schools who felt these really made a difference for their parents, school and children.
1. Supporting parents with English as an additional language (EAL)
Does the school offer a warm welcome to EAL families as members of the school community?
Helpful tips to consider:
- Learn a few words of greeting in a range of languages.
- Use facial expression and gesture to communicate welcome non-verbally.
- Use Google Translate for letters home
- Ensure displays in entrance areas show parents from a range of backgrounds and cultures involved in school activities.
- Translate important information and invitations on noticeboards
- Extend personal invitations to events for parents.
- Bi-lingual Teaching Assistants
- ‘Buddying’ initiatives for new EAL parents
- Are EAL parents given opportunities to be parent governors?
- Are views of EAL parents sought and acted upon?
- Use a range of communication – emails, letters, telephone, meetings in an accessible form for EAL families
- Provide positive feedback regularly to EAL parents
- Invite some older pupils to act as interpreters at parents’ evenings
- Some basic common messages (positive and negative!) could be translated for teachers so that they have easily available templates for communicating to parents
- Be aware of subject specific vocabulary – such as maths – and have translations available
- Making ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes available to families to help parents’ language development and social integration
South Grove Primary School – ESOL Classes
One of our project schools, South Grove, Walthamstow, is committed to supporting EAL parents. The school feels it is extremely important to support parents skills, “The Head and the Governors are committed to supporting all parents to develop confidence and skills which will have a positive outcome on their children’s learning.” (Head teacher, South Grove). They have strong links with the adult education facilities in their local community, including Workers Education Association (WEA) and Waltham Family Learning Service. Working with these providers, the school has set up ESOL and ‘Maths functional skills’ classes for parents. The classes are funded by the adult education providers but the school provides the facilities and a crèche. The classes are run during school so only those with young children need to use the crèche. The classes are promoted within the school and are well attended. Parents who attend the classes usually continue for some time and will sit an exam at the end of the year. Some parents have recently expressed an interest in gaining support from the adult learning centres to complete their A-Levels.
There are adult learning providers in every borough and working with them will really boost the parent’s confidence and open up lines of communication.
Target particular groups:
The British Council found that where parents are missing out on lots of opportunities to engage with the school it is worth considering targeting their needs specifically. Talk to the parents (using interpreters if needed) and find out if any of the following may appeal.
- Women-only events may be successful in reaching Muslim mothers.
- Offer crèche facilities to enable parents with young children to attend.
- Don’t forget about involving fathers.
- Think about work and shift patterns and try to schedule activities flexibly
“Strengthening the links between school and parents and encouraging links between parents is essential for the purpose of encouraging social integration in the local community and between EAL and non-EAL young people. EAL students’ parents need to be given the opportunity and support to play an active role in the education of their children. This requires effort on the part of the school to help them integrate into the school community. Knowledge about EAL students’ backgrounds, and adequate communication structures between the school and EAL families are important factors in the triangular relationship between language development, social integration and education achievement” School approaches to the integration of EAL students University of Cambridge, 2014
When completing your school audit, also use the National Numeracy Parental Engagement additional audit tool ‘Supporting equal opportunities and diversity’
2. Why is engaging dads and other male role models important?
Positive father involvement in their children’s learning is associated with better educational, social and emotional outcomes for children, including:
- better examination results
- better school attendance and behaviour
- less criminality
- higher quality of later relationships
- better mental health.
Engaging fathers: engaging parents, raising achievement. DFE 2004
It is also thought that children benefit from the different qualities that mums and dads bring. This is particularly true for boys: a lack of involved male carers can lead to bad behaviour among teenage boys. ‘Every Parent Matters’ DfE, 2007
This is compelling evidence to motivate schools to develop strategies to engage dads more. Schools should consider a policy which clearly sets out why it is important for fathers (including non-residential fathers) to be involved in the education of their child. There should be a clear purpose and aims and ‘why is this important to my child’ communicated in ways that convince the father his time would be well spent.
Why do fathers get involved in their children’s learning?
- In response to their children’s interest, encouragement and direct invitations to get involved.
- A desire to build stronger relationships with their children.
- A belief that helping their children to learn is important for their children’s success (even when their own school experience was poor) and a strong desire for their children to do better than they did.
However, it can be a challenge to involve dads in school; also many fathers see this as the mothers’ domain. This is especially true of minority ethnic, young and non-resident fathers who may not receive all relevant communication from school or do not feel connected. It is also true with professional working fathers who may simply not be at home during the child’s ‘awake’ time. Irrespective of the degree of involvement they have in the care of their children, fathers should routinely be offered opportunities to engage with their learning. They may appreciate activities which are designed specifically for them (see list of ideas below) but may also include opportunities to meet and talk with other dads. Many fathers do not feel they are expert parents and traditional male interests can help them feel more confident.
It is important to involve and consult dads about what opportunities or support they would like. There are some examples of case studies of good practice shared by the Oxford Owl Parental Engagement: www.oxfordprimary.co.uk (page 10)
The Challenge Dad project in Aberdeen engaged men in learning opportunities that valued their existing skills and experience as a parent. ‘Dad friendly’ activities can provide a hook for them to feel confident in supporting the school in a wider range of events. Drawing on dads’ interests – such as sport related, family learning activities like building a go-kart, rockets or dens – can be powerful in motivating engagement. For example, one dad was invited to bring his motorbike in to schools to talk about with the children – there are obvious maths links to speed, cost, petrol, etc.
Often dads simply need to be asked – for example, helping with swimming, day or residential trip. Once confident of their contribution, dads will often then be willing to support curriculum activities. The NN open-ended scrapbook maths activities are engaging for all family members.
Here is a list (not exhaustive!) of some ideas which have been successfully implemented in schools:
- Open house events
- Invitation in to maths lessons
- Dads’ breakfasts/lunches
- Celebrate Father’s Day evenings
- Father specific skills in the classroom
- Father networks
- Adult learning programmes
- 5 –a-side football – maths related
- Talk about maths in their jobs assembly
- Saturday clubs involving/run by dads
- Engaging father: engaging parents, raising achievement. DFE 2004
- DfE ‘Every Parent Matters’ 2007
- Oxford Owl Parental Engagement – How to make a real difference
3. Supporting parents own skills
One of the main barriers to engaging parents in maths is their own lack of confidence in the subject. Parents feel that they lack knowledge or do not understand the ‘new methods’ used in school these days. This can cause them to feel insecure about their own ability and may worry that they will confuse their child if they try to help them.
It is important to recognise that the fear of being judged can discourage parents from getting involved with their child’s maths. Supporting parents to improve their own skills can help them to become more confident to engage with their child’s learning and also to improve their own life chances.
Through analysis of the pre-project surveys, two schools identified a need to support their parents to improve their own skills. They took different approaches to doing this.
South Grove Primary School, in the borough of Waltham, already had a really strong foundation to build upon. This school is situated in North London and is in an area of high deprivation. They have a large number of pupil premium pupils and 96% minority ethnic groups. They have strong links with the community via an Extended School Leader who has been at the school for 9 years. The school have linked up with the local Adult Learning provision, Workers Education Association (WAS) and the Family learning service; with whom they have run ESOL courses for parents previously. At the beginning of the project, they had good engagement with a majority of the parents but engagement with maths was low.
In the pre-project survey, a number of parents reported wanting support with their own skills in maths. The school recognise the value of supporting parents skills and using their contact with the adult learning providers they put on foundation maths classes for the parents. These were held at the school during the school day. As they already had good links with many of the families, the Extended School Leader used these links to build interest from the parents. As groups of parents were able to attend together, they were more comfortable to come. These classes are well attended. To ensure that parents were able to attend, they run a crèche alongside this.
The second school, also located in north London, in an area of high deprivation and with large number of parents with EAL. They decided to use the National Numeracy Challenge to support the parents own skills. The Challenge is a confidential, informal, interactive website which helps parents assess their own numeracy, learn everyday maths online and gain confidence. It is personalised to what they need to improve. The school reached out to parents via the children. They asked classes to make personal invitations to parents to come along. The children were involved in the first couple of workshops so that child care or IT didn’t become a barrier. The school supported the parents to set up their profile on the NN Challenge and provided a place for them to complete the NN Challenge weekly. This was especially useful for those families who don’t have computers at home. At the end of each half term the parents were invited in for a special assembly where they celebrated their achievements. It was not easy to encourage parents in; the project leader in the school worked very hard to do so and had to sustain the effort throughout the project, offering incentives and sending out reminders. It is important not to under-estimate the amount of time and effort this will take. However, completing the Challenge helped parents gain more confidence in understanding information and in helping their children.
Both these approaches are equally effective and support the DfE’s recommendations that schools should be
- Supporting parents to help their children learn by equipping parents with the necessary knowledge and skills
- Personalising provision for parents as learners, building on evidence that parents’ own level of achievement and experience of the education system, is a key determinant of their expectations for their children’s experience of learning.
Engaging parents in raising achievement – do parents know they matter? DfE, 2007
4. Fun and engaging activities which opened doors
Family Puzzle club
Jubilee Primary School is located in Bexley. The school has above average number of pupils with SEND and those supported by Pupil Premium. It also has a wide range of ethnic minority groups. One of their most successful initiatives has been organising a Family Puzzle Club after school. Parents were invited to come along and had to bring a child so they worked together. Siblings were also encouraged to attend. The clubs were organised to cover two year groups – 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6. The club involved board games, puzzles (add photo), tangrams so that problem solving skills were raised. Some puzzles ended up with parents versus parents which increased the fun and enjoyment. The average attendance was between 20 and 30 family units. The uptake was higher in the lower age groups. Parents have requested that the club runs again this year.
Staff know the families well so there is a lot of friendly ‘reminding’ to ensure attendance. Many parents expressed their own fear of learning and their lack of confidence in how to best help their children. However, the positive impact has been clear – playground talk now involves discussions around learning. Parents are talking about maths and the activities. It has also had a cross-curricular impact – for example, the Scrapbook Roman numerals activity prompted talk about the Romans. If you would like to find out more about Jubilee Primary School’s activities, the full case study can be accessed here.
Harris Primary Academy Kent house is situated in Bromley. The school has higher than average pupil premium funding and high numbers of children with EAL. The school’s priority, for the past two years, has been engaging parents in maths as they felt the new curriculum raised expectations for children and that parents are essential to supporting this expectation. They began a scheme in 2015 providing parents with maths resources that they can use at home. These were extremely successful at bringing parents into the classroom. Parents were invited to attend a workshop session where they engaged in activities from the new curriculum. Their children joined them in the workshop and they were given a pack of resources. The children and parents were then given time to explore their packs. Teachers were on hand to demonstrate some different ways they could use their resources. These tips were also handed out for them to take home. The school were very strict that only those who turned up to the workshops were given the resources. The class teachers worked extremely hard to encourage the parents to attend. Amongst other things, the children created personal invites; teachers spoke to parents in the playground.
Inter-school Maths challenge
Laurel Lane Primary School is situated near Heathrow. They have a very mobile population and are in an area of high deprivation. The school is part of the Fray Academy Trust. The trust held a Primary Maths Challenge in preparation for the Mayor’s Fund’s Primary Challenge [link]. They practiced the 24® game and other mathematical challenges. Children were selected from each class and pitted against each other in an after school competition. Parents were invited to join in and have a taste of challenges the children faced; families were asked to complete the same activities. The school also set up maths activities for the parents to have a go at. There was very high attendance with over 40 family units attending from across the schools. The school tapped into the fun and excitement and took the opportunity to engage the parents in maths. Access the full case study here.
Maths using household objects
Peareswood Primary School is located in Bexley. As with all the schools in the project, they have an above average percentage of children on Pupil Premium. The school had issues with parental engagement at the beginning of the project and aimed to increase parental engagement in maths. The school recognised that parents didn’t have a lot of typical maths resources at home e.g. puzzles, board games etc. They decided to run workshops to encourage parents to use everyday objects they have at home. The parents who attended were surprised about how many ways we do maths in everyday life. Using activities like going shopping or cooking, the teacher pointed out how parents could initiate conversations about the maths with their children. Also using household objects like the TV times, or food, the teacher highlighted how they could use these with their children. These types of activities are similar to those in the National Numeracy Scrapbooks, which parents really enjoyed using.
Family fun day and maths trail
South Grove Primary School in Walthamstow, held a family fun day on a Saturday morning. They invited parents to come and join in for short sessions completing a maths trail. The school had worked with As Creative to make their maths trail, see the example here. Holding this family fun day on a Saturday meant that the school was able to engage more working parents. The school advertised this a lot throughout the weeks before, encouraging the children to motivate the parents to attend. 22 family units attended over the course of the day.
It is also really easy to create your own maths trail, you just need to take some pictures from around the school and think of some maths questions which suit that area. You can think outside of the box with this activity! Asking older pupils to develop a maths trail for younger pupils really helps develop their own skills and understanding too.
5. Whole school initiatives
Have a look at the list of suggestions to help you to complete your Parental Engagement action plan. These are a list of ideas and examples to guide you along the way.
6. Engaging parents in maths club
The Mayor’s Fund for London runs another maths project, Count on Us Maths Club. This project focuses on engaging children who are falling behind in maths or who lack enthusiasm or confidence with the subject. They attend an extra-curricular club where they engage in exciting and fun maths activities, including cookery, enterprise and games. Some of the schools have decided to take the opportunity to engage parents in their maths clubs. If you wish to set up your own maths club visit our website where you will find resource packages which include sets of lesson plans and supporting resources along 3 themes.
Providing parents activities to try at home:
Cardwell Primary School in Greenwich invited the parents in at the end of the sessions, before they collected the children. This was successful as they had a captive audience. The teacher explained and demonstrated the games or activities that the children had done in the session. They gave examples of how these activities could be used in the home with minimal resources and the types of things they have readily available in the home. The parents then had time to ask questions. The games were fun and the resources were easy and cheap to get hold of which encouraged the parents to come back each session.
Enthusing the children to engage the parents:
Rush Green Primary School, in Barking and Dagenham, decided to engage parents in their maths club by sending challenges home from the sessions. This club was run before school, where they provided breakfast for the children as an incentive. The teachers felt that they were able to build a good relationship with the parents as they were able to have an informal chat at drop off time. The tasks were started with the children during the session and were taken home to finish. These were always exciting and interesting activities. There are some excellent examples on the NRICH website. The parents were keen to find out the answers, which was good to start conversations about maths during the drop off for maths club. It started off slowly with only a few parents but built up over the course of the club as parents and teachers forged stronger relationships. The children were also keen to have their parents help and were a powerful tool for engagement.
Celebrating and forging relationships:
One primary school in Southwark, realised that parents were more willing to come into maths club project sessions when it was to celebrate their children’s work. During the penultimate session, the children would create an invitation for the parents to attend the final session to celebrate their achievements. The children were told that they would receive the certificate from a special guest (which, in this case was the headteacher, but this could be anyone!). A number of the parents were willing to attend and the teacher used this as an opportunity to engage them with the maths the children had been learning. During the session, the children demonstrated some of the activities and the teacher explained how these activities could be completed at home. Siblings were welcome to come along and join in.
The Mayors Fund for London has created maths club packages to support schools who wish to set up their own. We have incorporated the idea of celebrating into the final session of the Maths Kitchen. Parents have the opportunity to become Great Maths Club Bake Off judges and children have time to explain what they have been doing in the club.
7. National Numeracy's Family Maths Toolkit and scrapbook activities
Helping children improve their everyday maths
The Family Maths Toolkit from National Numeracy is full of ideas to help parents, families and children aged 13 and under enjoy everyday maths activities together.
The site also offers resources to help teachers support family engagement with children’s maths learning.
The weekly activities, best suited to reception and years 1-6, allow families and children to explore everyday maths problems together and are designed to help children make a connection between what they are learning at school with situations in everyday life.
The activities support the development of maths-based conversations between children and their families, which boosts confidence in mathematical reasoning and problem solving.
- Family Maths Activities are available for reception and school years 1-6 (ages 5-11)
- Activities are designed to support national expectations for the age group and aligned to England’s 2014 National Curriculum.
- Each set includes a weekly maths challenge for children to complete outside of school with their family.
- Activities are linked to things at home, the school calendar and cultural events to give purpose and link to real life, They aim to stimulate mathematical conversations, reasoning and problem solving.
- Activities are designed to support national expectations for the age group and aligned to England’s 2014 National Curriculum.
- Scrapbooks are used to record the activity and findings. These can include pictures, photos, diagrams, charts, graphs or any other form of recording.
- The completed scrapbooks can be displayed at school to encourage more families to participate and encourage children to learn from each other