Involving Parents in the School: Tips for School Councils
The key to building parent involvement lies in genuinely understanding the needs and interests of parents before planning programs and activities. These tips will help you identify, and respond to, what parents in your school community truly need and want.
Tip #1: The Parent Survey
Use a survey to determine what would help parents become more involved in their child's education, and in the life of the school. Keep these guidelines in mind:
- The survey should be distributed to all parents.
- Survey questions should address all of the ways parents may become involved in the school, rather than focusing solely on involvement in school council.
- It is often desirable to translate the survey into a variety of languages.
- In developing the survey, consider including:
- a list of the types of specific activities – from accompanying classes on field trips to helping in the homework room – for which parent involvement is needed and welcomed;
- an opportunity for parents to identify the special skills, talents or experience they would be interested in sharing;
- a list of information topics about the school with an opportunity for parents to indicate which areas they would like to learn more about;
- an invitation for parents to participate in career days, with space for the parent to indicate his or her occupation;
- a suggestions area in which parents can indicate how they feel communication with the school could be improved;
- an opportunity for parents to identify any barriers which prevent them from becoming involved, or attending school events; and
- contact information, including email, telephone and mailing address, where parents would like to receive information, keeping in mind appropriate Freedom of Information protocols that your school principal can help you with.
Tip #2: The Action Plan
Develop a simple parent engagement action plan using parent survey responses as a basis for decision-making.
- Consider first the obvious 'gaps' that need to be addressed, in reviewing parents' responses.
- Catalogue the areas in which parents have indicated they are available to assist in the school, and the special skills and experience they have offered to share.
- Where parents have shown a willingness to become involved, respond immediately.
- Consider carefully the kinds of information parents need and want, and their suggestions for improving communication, as a basis for planning newsletters, information nights and other information-sharing programs.
- Discuss the possibility of addressing barriers to parent involvement which may be suggested by the survey results.
- Consider how application for a Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grant could help you address barriers and increase parent involvement.
- Create a parent contact list based on the survey information provided.
- Working with the school principal, develop a simple plan that identifies the activities to be undertaken, the individual who will assume responsibility, and when and where the activity is to take place.