An article on the BBC this morning talks about a survey conducted by the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) into how parents feel about their children’s school (there is also a PDF of the survey results available on the site).While the survey covered a lot of things, the BBC article concentrates on parents’ feelings of involvement with their children’s school, and the results that showed parents felt more involved with the school than their parents had been and the vast majority felt welcome in the school.
The sample (only 1010 ‘valid’ responses) was conducted over a wide geographical range, however, there’s no indication of socio-economic range or ethnic range (or anything else). My feeling is that it’s fairly likely that the respondents were likely to be those who were already involved in their schools: parents who do not involve themselves in their school are unlikely to fill in questionnaires (or agree to answer questions); those parents who don’t speak English are unlikely to respond to the survey, unless it were provided in multiple languages. If the results are truly indicative of the feeling of parents around the country, then that would be fantastic, but I have a feeling that it’s unlikely.
In schools like ours, a small community school with a predominantly white, middle-class intake, parental involvement is fairly good, but even then I know there are parents who feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. There are parents who work full-time and aren’t able to do many pick-ups or drop-offs and certainly can’t get to PTA meetings, which are held in the middle of the day. In RoRo’s first year I was very uninvolved with school and did feel a little unwelcome. I think, for the most part, I’ve got past that by making an effort myself to get involved, getting over my own issues with institutions somewhat: I’ve been running an after-school Spanish club this year; I’ve made an effort to attend PTA meetings when I can, even though they’re during my working hours (we try to only work in school hours, though do sometimes have to work in evenings as well); and I feel more comfortable talking to other parents now, than I did at first. But I think this involvement has been mostly down to me (and others’ similar involvement) pushing myself forward, rather than something everyone would automatically feel inclined to do. Whether that’s down to the school or not, I’m not sure. I think they do a lot to encourage parental involvement, and not everyone is going to be interested in getting involved, or able to do so.
I would certainly say we have very good parental involvement compared to other schools. I’ve heard of inner-city schools where parental involvement is close to zero, where the majority of parents don’t speak English and yet notices are all in English, where there are no extra-curricular clubs or activities, and no PTA. I’ve also heard of some fantastic inner-city schools, where the staff make a phenomenal effort to include all parents, putting out notices in all the languages represented, holding meetings at varying times to ensure everyone has the opportunity to come and providing a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Just because a school is in an ‘inner-city area’, doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to be bad at parental involvement, of course.
I just find it hard to believe that the positive results of this survey are truly indicative of parents’ feelings throughout the country. Surely 93% of parents can’t feel welcomed in their children’s schools?
So, what about you? How involved are you with your children’s school? Do you think all the parents in the school are as involved? Do you think all the parents feel welcomed and comfortable at school? What barriers are there to parental involvement (e.g. meetings held in school hours, rather than evenings; communication sent out in English only)? And do you think parental involvement matters?