Parental engagement

Moderate impact for moderate cost, based on moderate evidence.

What is it?

Parental Involvement covers the active engagement of parents in supporting their children’s learning at school. This includes programmes focused on parents and their skills (such as improving literacy or IT skills), general approaches to encourage parents to support their children to read or do mathematics, and more intensive programmes for families in crisis.

How effective is it?

Although parental engagement is consistently associated with pupils’ success at school, the evidence about how to improve attainment by increasing parental engagement is mixed and much less conclusive, particularly for disadvantaged families. 

Two recent meta-analyses from the USA suggested that increasing parental engagement in primary and secondary schools had on average two to three months’ positive impact. There is some evidence that supporting parents with their first child will have benefits for siblings. However, there are also examples where combining parental engagement strategies with other interventions, such as extended early years provision, has not been associated with any additional educational benefit. This suggests that developing effective parental engagement to improve their children’s attainment is challenging and needs careful monitoring and evaluation. 

How secure is the evidence?

The association between parental engagement and a child’s academic success is well established and there is a long history of research into parental engagement programmes. However, there is surprisingly little robust evidence about the impact of approaches designed to improve learning through increased parental engagement.

The evidence is predominantly from primary level and the early years, though there are studies which have looked at secondary schools. Impact studies tend to focus on reading and mathematics attainment.

What are the costs?

The costs of different approaches vary enormously, from running parent workshops (about £80 per session) and improving communications, which are cheap, to intensive family support programmes with specially trained staff. The cost of a specialist community or home/school liaison teacher is about £35,000, or about 29 secondary-level PEF allocations. Costs per pupil are therefore estimated as moderate.

What should I consider?

Engagement is often easier to achieve with parents of very young children. How will you maintain it as children get older?

Have you provided a flexible approach to allow parental engagement to fit around parents’ schedules? Parents of older children may appreciate short sessions at flexible times.

How will you make your school welcoming for parents, especially those whose own experience of school may not have been positive?

What practical support, advice and guidance can you give to parents who are not confident in their ability to support their children’s learning, such as simple strategies to help early readers? 

How will you make your school welcoming for parents whose own experience of school may not have been positive?

Have you provided some simple, practical ways that parents can support their children in ways that do not require a high level of ability (e.g. by ensuring that students have an environment where they can work at home)?

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