Friday, 20 February 2009

Online Parental Engagement

This is a specific DCSF target for schools. Secondary schools are required to report the following information online: attendance, behaviour, progress, attainment and special needs. This needs to be in place by September 2010 (2012 for primaries). It is easy when responding to a national dictat like this to focus on meeting the requirement, without thinking more broadly about what it is intended to achieve. The goal of this process is to create an effective and helpful conversation with parents about their child's learning. The conversation shouldn't be one-sided and it should help both sides tailor what they do to support the development of the child as a learner.

With the schools I work with it seemed that we needed to take a couple of steps backwards and look at the whole communication strategy the school employs. In fact it turned out that the schools had never considered communication with parents in this wider sense before. I've just been supporting this by creating a survey that they have used to ask their parents about how and what they want communicated.

The answers the parents gave were in the end not very clear cut. One said "The preferred method of communication would differ in different circumstances. For general purposes I would prefer letter format, but for emergencies, such as illness I would prefer a telephone call." Letter was still (marginally) the preferred method of communication. But I think the point made by this parent probably means another survey of views with a little more sophisticated questioning needs to happen.

The preference for letters might also mean that parents were thinking about messages and not communication in general.

Once a better picture has emerged I think the schools should then be thinking about how the web based communication fits into that bigger landscape. I'll post further developments with this as they arise.

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