Hello, I’m James Clements. For ten years, I worked as a teacher and deputy head at a successful primary school in West London. As well as making sure the children I taught achieved their very best, a big part of my job was working with parents so they could help their children. I also have two small children of my own.
Being engaged with school
As parents, we want our children to be happy and successful at school. While it’s tempting to think that the school itself is the most significant factor in a child’s success, a parent being involved with their child’s education can make a huge difference. We know from research[i] that the children of parents who take an active interest in their education make greater progress than their peers and that the effect of parents being involved at primary school lasts throughout a child’s school years and can still be seen at the age of 15.
To be honest, we probably don’t need research to tell us that spending time with our children and showing an interest in their education will help to give them a head start. The trouble is that modern life is busy and there never seems enough time to do all the things we’d like to do. So, how can we best support our children at school with the limited time that we’ve got? What are the things that will make a difference? And how can we support our children to do well at school without turning home into an educational boot camp?
Here are some tried and tested ideas that help our children to do well at school:
Learn about what they’re learning about
The school curriculum has changed a great deal since many of us were at school. Knowing what children are learning about in different year groups and getting to grips with how different subjects are taught. You can find out more about the content of the curriculum on Oxford Owl, including expert support with grammar, punctuation and spelling from Charlotte Raby and mathematics from Kate Robinson. The Department for Education has a page that explains the national curriculum for parents.
Find out their strengths and areas for improvement
All children have subjects and areas of the curriculum that they find easier than others. It’s human nature to want to spend time doing the things that you enjoy or find easier than others. It’s important to get a balance: if a child enjoys writing stories, then they should be encouraged to spend as much time as they want doing this, but they might also benefit from focusing on the areas of the curriculum where they’re not feeling so confident.
The first step is to talk to them about where they feel their strengths lie and where they might need to develop. If you haven’t already, you might also want to talk to their teacher about where they think your child could do with some extra work. It makes sense for the child, parent and school to be working together.
Be an active parent
Both you and your child’s teacher want the same thing – a happy, confident child who enjoys going to school and loves learning. By building an effective home/school partnership, both you and your child’s teacher can achieve this aim together. The best way you can support your child’s school is by being an active parent:
- Attending meetings for parents about the curriculum or other aspects of school life
- Helping your child with their homework
- Listening to them read
- Making sure they’re at school on time every day
- Being available for meetings and parents’ evenings
- Responding to messages from the school
- Communicating with the school if there are any problems
If you can manage to do all of these things consistently, then schools will value your contribution immensely. For parents who have a bit more time, schools are always keen for parents to be involved as volunteers or with the parent-teacher association.
[i] Goodall, J. et al. (2011) Review of best practice in parental engagement. London: DfE Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2012) PISA – Let’s Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education. PISA, OECD.