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Ways of getting involved

Engaging in your child's learning

As a parent or carer, you can make an enormous difference to your child's chances of success. This can happen in an early learning and childcare setting (ELC), at school, at home and throughout their life. Getting involved and working in partnership with your child's ELC, school or community group can help them succeed. The greatest impact comes from your child learning from your actions, reactions, attitude towards and engagement in your own and their learning.

You may have heard your child's early learning and childcare setting or school referring to 'parental involvement' or 'parental engagement'. These terms can often be confused and in fact some educators use them interchangeably.

In Scottish education today the term 'parental involvement' most often focuses on parents getting involved in the life and work of the establishment. Early learning and childcare settings and schools involve parents by encouraging on-going, two-way communication between home and the establishment. They make sure parents have opportunities to contribute to leading improvements and making decisions that affect the establishment, and they use parents' skills to enrich the curriculum.

'Parental engagement' most often refers to parents' engagement in their child's learning at home, at school, and in the wider community. Parental engagement is supported by discussion between parents/practitioners and focuses on how families can build on what they already do to help their children's learning and how they can provide a supportive home learning environment.

It is recognised that there is a continuum between parental involvement and parental engagement. It is not always easy to say whether something is 'parental involvement' or 'parental engagement'. Whether you are involved in your child's education or engaged in their learning you will be making a positive difference in their lives!

You might also have heard of family learning. Family learning encourages family members to learn together as and within a family, with a focus on intergenerational learning. Family learning activities can also be specifically designed to enable parents to learn how to support their children's learning. Examples of fun family learning activities can be found in the 'I am a Scientist' and 'I am a Mathematician' resources on Parentzone Scotland.

There are many different ways that parents can be involved and engaged in their child's education and learning. Below are some suggestions for how parents can use their skills to contribute to their child's early learning and childcare setting or school.

When can I help?

Parent Councils offer parents the opportunity to get involved in their child's school on a more formal basis. Further information on Parent Councils can be found here.

There are also many informal ways of getting involved. You may be able to help on a regular basis or occasionally, either during the day or after school. It is important to recognise the skills, knowledge and experience that you have which can benefit your child's school and all the pupils.Schools may look for help during the day with:

  • art, drama and other art-related activities
  • careers information sessions
  • the school library
  • working with computers
  • breakfast clubs
  • after-school clubs
  • school trips
  • general help in the classroom
  • school discos
  • plays and concerts
  • school fairs
  • Saturday sports clubs, for example football or netball.

Some schools have committees and advisory groups that meet during the day or just after school to discuss specific topics. The purpose of these groups will change from school to school but common issues may include:

  • visions, values and aims of the school and community
  • enterprise and business links
  • healthy eating initiatives
  • school safety policies, for example safe routes to school.

Short-term parent advisory or focus groups are also arranged by schools to gather the views of parents on new initiatives or school policy developments/review. This means you can contribute to the school by sharing your views without having to make a long-term commitment. These are often at flexible times throughout the day and/or early evening.

What can I do?

There are many different skills that you can share. Here are some suggestions for how parents can contribute to their child's school.

Sharing skills

  • Gardening - in the school grounds or helping children grow bulbs and other plants in the classroom. Some parents' groups have developed vegetable gardens to help promote healthy eating.
  • Painting - helping with school play areas or marking out the ground for games; preparing scenery for school plays.
  • Artistic talents - making a frieze on a school wall or helping with sculpture. 
  • Story-telling - either to a whole group or on a one-to-one basis. At some schools, grandparents have become involved, helping with 'paired-reading', which helps young people improve their reading skills.
  • Costume-making - for drama in the classroom and also for school plays.
  • Sports - helping with the school sports teams
  • Organisational skills - parents can help in the library. In one nursery, parents help prepare and keep 'science boxes' up to date; parents can take these to use at home and learn along with their children
  • Language - parents who speak minority languages can help by translating and interpreting for parents who need support.

Sharing experiences of life and work

Sharing knowledge and experiences from your own life can give children a first-hand account of topics they are learning:

  • My World of Work (a week of activities run by schools to promote careers) is a good way for you and other family members, and members of the community, to share knowledge and experience from your own lives. It gives children a first-hand account of topics they are learning about.
  • Grandparents and older members of the community can talk about their experiences of things young people learn as history. For example, living through WWII or talking about the games you used to play. Children are encouraged to undertake research and may want to interview you for a project.
  • Parents who come from, or who have lived in, other countries can talk about their experiences. In one school, parents ran workshops on South American culture, Arabic writing, French cookery and Native American folktales.
  • You can talk about your work or even arrange a visit. Learning about the world of work and what people do in their jobs is an important part of Enterprise in Education.

Just being there

For school trips and special events, schools welcome the presence of extra adults to help supervise and make sure the children are safe. You may require a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) certificate. Your Parent Council Chair or head teacher will be able to give you more details.

Some schools have welcoming committees where parents contact the parents of children who have just started at the school, especially if this happens in the middle of the school year. They can reassure the new parents and answer questions they might not want to ask at the school.

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