Last Updated: Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Barriers to parental engagement - Equitable support for children at New Cumnock Primary School

What is this?

This practice exemplar demonstrates how staff at New Cumnock Primary School, East Ayrshire, implemented a strategic change initiative (SCI) to address the complex issues surrounding parental engagement. The SCI was based on developing engagement strategies and building relationships with a variety of stakeholders to provide bespoke support to parents and families.

Who is this for?

Primary school practitioners, community learning and development, third sector, family learning professionals and family learning support workers.

Explore this resource

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

This exemplar will support practitioners to consider the approaches used to address barriers to parental engagement. The following reflective questions can be used individually or collectively to help aid improvement:

  • How well do you enable parents, carers, families and the local community to contribute to the life of the school and be involved in improvement planning?
  • How effectively do you support parents, carers and families to participate in, contribute to and understand their child’s learning?
  • How well do you seek out and respond positively to potential partnerships which will lead to better outcomes for the children and young people you work with?
  • How confident are you that your approach to parental involvement and engagement is having a positive impact on children’s learning? In what ways could parental engagement be improved further in your setting/school?
  • What strategies do you use to identify potential barriers to parental participation? How do you address these?

What was done?

The Principal Teacher began with a consultation exercise on partnership working with the wider educational community. She liaised with various educational practitioners throughout the consultation process to help improve New Cumnock Primary School’s parental engagement strategy.

One of the initial catalysts was attending Education Scotland’s Learning Conversation Day which provided an opportunity to consult with a wide range of professionals on examples of good practice in parental involvement and engagement. Discussions also took place on the idea of developing a Support Directory that would help address barriers to parental involvement and engagement.

Engaging with parents initially proved to be challenging. New Cumnock Primary School’s Parent Council were key in providing suggestions on ways to improve approaches to engaging parents.

A Parental Involvement Calendar was developed in response to the results of an extensive consultation exercise. This helped ensure that the school was making themselves accessible to all parents.

In addition to this, a data tracking and monitoring system was developed to collate and record academic and other relevant information. This process made it easier to identify parents who were not engaging in their child’s learning at school.

A Support Directory was then collated by the nurture teacher and Early Years (Community) practitioner. The Support Directory is currently being used by the school’s Early Years (Community) practitioner, community and senior management team to support targeted families to address barriers to parental engagement.

PDF file: Plan of action (128 KB)



Within New Cumnock Primary School, the data tracking and monitoring system helped identify that the lack of parental engagement with the school was resulting in inequitable results for children. One example of this was within early learning and childcare. Teachers were able to identify through transition meetings with the Early Childhood Centre, that children achieving low ELLAT (Early Level Literacy Assessment) results were often those whose parents were not engaging in their children’s learning at school.

Barriers such as parents’ own negative experiences of school was one reason suggested for the lack of engagement. With the support of external agencies, the school has begun to address some of the barriers to parental engagement in a bid to improve educational outcomes for children.


What was the impact?

  • The Parental Involvement Calendar allows greater opportunity for all parents to be engaged with the school;
  • The revamped Parent Council takes a more involved role in school improvement planning;
  • All staff are more aware of the importance of parental engagement. As a result, they now actively create opportunities to engage parents in the life of the school;
  • Tracking and monitoring procedures are used to identify families that need support to engage with the school and their child’s learning;
  • The newly appointed Early Years Practitioner (Community) is able to use the Support Directory to access appropriate support for families in an attempt to address barriers to engagement.