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Engaging parents: Selected reading

Written By: Cat Scutt
7 min read
A collection of articles, blogs, tools and resources to help you think about how you engage parents

We know that home learning environment has a key influence on pupil outcomes, but we know less about how to actually engage parents effectively to improve attainment. This page includes links to a wide range of useful articles, blogs, research reports and resources from different sources (all freely available or available through Chartered College membership) that explore ideas relating to parental engagement. These resources may be a potential starting point to help you reflect on this area, assess what you are already doing well and what you could consider doing differently.

Critically, the resources collated here will not provide an ‘answer’ to what is a very complex challenge. Some of the articles will also present opposing viewpoints, and ones which may contradict your own viewpoint or experience. They should provoke thought, debate and discussion. Evidence-informed practice requires teachers and school leaders to make expert decisions based on their local context, professional experience and available research evidence, and the resources here are provided to provoke thought and discussion. The views within do not necessarily represent those of the Chartered College.

It is also important to remember that the resources here are exploring issues at a ‘macro’ level, rather than considering individual pupils, parents or families; Dylan Wiliam’s reminder that nothing works everywhere and everything works somewhere is key – you need to select suitable approaches for your own setting, pupils and context. It’s important to remember the role that implementation plays, too; the Education Endowment Foundation’s implementation guidance is a useful starting point for this.

What is parental engagement and why does it matter?

The Sutton Trust’s 2018 report Parent Power, a wide-ranging look at how social class can influence parents’ ability to support their children in their schooling. They published an earlier report on this topic in 2014.

Stephen Gorard and Beng Huat See’s briefing paper for the Nuffield Foundation looking at whether parental engagement interventions actually improve attainment (and whether we know if they do); there is an accompanying full research review.

An older (2007) but extensive research report by Alma Harris and Janet Goodall looking at engaging parents to raise achievement; this includes useful discussion of the difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’.

A 2014 article by Janet Goodall and Caroline Montgomery looking at the difference between parental engagement and parental involvement (authors’ pre-publication version).

A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report looking at whether changing parents’ and pupils’ attitudes and aspirations can improve attainment.

A CFEY (formerly LKMCo) report into parental engagement and access to higher education.

A New York Times article by Keith Robinson and Angel L Harris, based on their research, challenging the notion that parental involvement is always useful; a longer journal article outlines some of their ideas in more detail.

An article by Daniel Willingham for the AfT’s ‘Ask The Cognitive Scientist’ feature, looking at why family wealth affects learning.

A piece of research by Francesco Avvisati and colleagues, carried out in France, that found parental engagement activities could improve pupils’ behaviour and attitudes to learning.



Approaches to parental engagement

The Education Endowment Foundation’s recent Guidance Report on parental engagement, providing key findings and recommendations, as well as an accompanying poster. This blog from Chris Woodcock at Durrington Research School also gives a helpful overview of the report.

10 tips for engaging parents from Janet Goodall, based on research.

A 2013 guide from NFER looking at how to engage parents to reduce the attainment gap.

A 2011 review of best practice in parental engagement by Janet Goodall and colleagues, commissioned by the Department for Education; whilst some of the research is outdated, the report is very extensive!

A FutureLab publication, supported by BECTA, looking at ways digital technologies might be used to support home-school relationships; this is from 2010, so technologies have changed substantially, but some of the principles are still relevant.

An older report for the National College for School Leadership looking at how to involve ‘hard-to-reach’ parents.

A blog post by Janet Goodall for Optimus Education challenging the idea of describing parents as ‘hard-to-reach’.

A Tes article by Alex Quigley reflecting on research around parental engagement.


Improving attendance through parental engagement

A research project by Todd Rogers and colleagues looking at whether sending home postcards encouraging improved attendance was effective.

Stephen Tierney’s blog post about how his school tried an approach to improving attendance by sending parents short letters highlighting the impact of absence on learning.

A 4-part blog series by principal Kim Stamio about the approaches used to improve attendance in her school, including links to lots of interesting research. Individual posts can be found at Part 1, Part 2, Part 3  and Part 4.

An article by Adam Boddison on The Conversation, reflecting on the impact of fines on truancy and how these might vary.


Helping parents to support pupils’ learning and study habits

A series of blog posts from the Learning Scientists, exploring a range of topics related to cognitive science; these are designed for parents as well as teachers. They have also produced podcast episodes for parents, including Part 1 and Part 2.

An Impact article looking at how one school emailed daily revision questions to parents to help them support their children.

A blog post by Alex Quigley reflecting on findings from an EEF project looking at an approach to texting parents to support literacy.

A SchoolsWeek article by Rachael Hunter at the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre, looking at parents’ and schools’ interest and role in developing pupils’ character, as well as their attainment.


Communicating with parents

A study by Kraft and Rogers in the US, looking at the impact of sending regular messages to parents; the study tested both purely positive messages and messages containing advice on how to improve.

Research from Chile, published by the Department for International Development, looking at the impact of texting parents with pupil data on attainment.

A journal article by Janet Goodall looking at the use of technology for home-school communications.

Three articles by ACER’s Dr Hilary Hollingsworth and Jonathan Heard, looking at school reports; although based on the Australian system, the research referenced in these articles often has wider application. The articles cover the history of the school report in Australia, trends around ‘continuous reporting’, and the effectiveness of different approaches to teacher comments in reports.

An Impact article from Kristy Turner and colleagues about a piece of practitioner research looking at school reports in an independent school.

An article by Professor Sonia Blandford about the Achievement for All ‘Structured Conversation’ approach to communicating with parents; this training handbook also goes into lots more detail.

A research project by Asadul Islam looking at the impact of parent-teacher meetings in schools in Bangladesh; this Tes article summarises its findings.

A reflection for Tes by teacher Emma Kell on her experiences of communicating with parents.

A blog post by Head of English Miss R, who introduced simple forms for communicating with parents, including a template.

An article by Karen Wespieser that looks at this from the other direction – how parents can communicate effectively with schools.


Case studies, toolkits and examples of approaches

Scotland’s action plan on parental involvement, engagement and learning at home.

A Sutton Trust report on trials of several approaches to parental engagement.

The Best Evidence in Brief service includes a range of summaries of research projects looking at parental involvement.

A blog by Janet Goodall exploring some of what we know about parental engagement and reviewing a pilot project in Wiltshire.

A handbook on parental engagement from the school trust United Learning.

The Welsh Government’s toolkit for schools to support family and community engagement.

A selection of research and reading around parental engagement, collected by Janet Goodall.

A Tes article by Leanne Forde-Nassey, headteacher of a PRU, outlining some approaches her school took to engaging parents.

A Tes article by teacher Tom Rogers reflecting on an innovative approach to behaviour sanctions trialled in the US, where parents are invited to join their children in class as an alternative to a suspension.


Parental engagement and home learning in the early years

A 2015 DfE-funded report looking at the relationship between early home learning environment and A Level attainment.

An older review looking at the impact early years providers can have on home learning environments, funded by the Department for Education.

An Australian article in The Conversation looking at the need to continue and adapt parental engagement as children move into primary school from early years settings.

A Tes article by Kevan Collins looking at the importance of early years education and parental engagement in narrowing the attainment gap.

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Emma Harris

Engaging parents in the school community takes time and relies on there being a trusting professional relationship with teachers and staff. Where it is successful the possibilities are endless and it breaks down barriers provides a way through which teachers can support parents.

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