Getting your school ready for Parent Engagement

Planning Parent Engagement Toolkit (external link)

    “Hospitality and invitation remain empty gestures until they are made with the genuine intention to open up the school space and agenda, to co-create it with parents and other caregivers as well as with students” - from Parent Engagement: Creating a Shared World (external PDF) by Debbie Pushor, PhD

Parent engagement increases student achievement and fosters positive learning outcomes. To increase parent engagement in your school, follow these simple steps to get started:

  1. Assess:
    Parent engagement checklist
  2. Getting started:
    How to make parent engagement “come alive”
  3. Increasing involvement:
    Barriers and strategies for success

Assess: What is your school's curent level of engagement?

Take a minute to reflect on your school’s current level of parent engagement. How many of the following does your school offer?

    Parents are welcomed, respected, and valued by the school community as partners in their children’s learning and development.
    Parents have a full range of choices about how to support student success.
    Parents have opportunities to be involved.
    Parents are engaged through ongoing communication and dialogue with other educational partners to support a positive learning environment at home and at school.
    Parents are provided with the information and tools necessary to participate in school life.

Getting started: How to make parent engagement “come alive”

For parent engagement to thrive at your school, there are several things you can do. The Planning Parent Engagement Toolkit (external link) is a practical resource that can provide useful exercises and proven techniques to begin this process. To embed parent engagement in whole school planning you need to:

  • Provide training and resources for all school staff
  • Build positive relationships with families
  • Involve community partners
  • Use multiple communication techniques
  • Enhance school policies for parent engagement
  • Develop a recruitment strategy and offer incentives such as job references or paid positions

It is important to create an inviting school environment where parents feel safe and welcome. To help facilitate this:

  • Invite staff/students to greet parents as they enter the school.
  • Offer parents a cup of coffee/tea and a place to sit when they arrive.
  • Talk with parents. Ask them to share their stories and actively listen.
  • Offer Asset Building training to all school staff
  • Use signage that is welcoming and culturally representative to visitors, for example:
      Instead of... Try a more welcoming message:
      Staff parking only Parents parking here
      No food or drinks in the auditorium Welcome to our lounge
      Visitors please report to the office Welcome guests. Please sign in at office.

Increasing parent engagement: barriers and strategies for success

It is important to identify and remove barriers to parent engagement. Below are ideas to help overcome those barriers and increase parent engagement, which in turn increases the success of your students.

  • Lack of time for school staff and parents
    • Be flexible with meeting times and locations by offering times during the day and in the evening and close to where parents live (not always at the school)
  • Parent voice
    • Ask parents for their feedback and use it to plan
    • Ask parents to participate in ways that are meaningful for them
    • Build collaborative relationships and provide opportunities for parents to gain knowledge, skills and tools to support student learning
    • Survey parents via written forms, with in-person meetings and focus groups to determine their needs
    • Inform families of opportunities to get involved
  • Effective communications
    • Ask parents about the best ways to communicate with them
    • Personalize communication tools and methods based on groups of parents (for example, grade-specific)
    • Encourage teachers to initiate contact with parents early in the school year and frequently throughout the year
    • Share information about the benefits of parent involvement in schools and at home
    • Create a web page for parents that highlights the importance of their involvement
    • Reach out to families to identify unique barriers and problem solve together to find ways to address them
  • Multicultural/diversity
    • Reach out to ethnically diverse families and ask them about the best ways to communicate with them
    • Partner with Halton Multicultural Centre or other organizations that are already working with ethnically diverse groups of parents
    • Invite families to bring a traditional dish or wear traditional clothing
    • Recognize and celebrate all cultures at your school
    • Provide language translation on your web pages or communications home
  • Need for child care to attend school events
    • Arrange for grade 7 and 8 students to provide child care at school events
    • Hold events that include entire families so that no child care is needed
    • Connect with YMCA or local community groups to identify available child-care services
  • Recognition
    • Acknowledge contributions and volunteers by providing positive feedback, such as a personalized ‘Thank You’ card, reference letter, or an annual celebration.

For more information or consultation: