With parents now turning their living rooms into class rooms, it's vital that schools support parents throughout school closures. It's not possible to deliver school in its normal way. No classroom question and answers, no playground games, no students talking at the back of the class. This has all landed on the shoulders of the parents. Having to be the teacher, care giver, playground friend but also parent.
We've gathered ideas from around the education community on how to support parents during the school closures.
“Parents are not being asked to home school children but to support learning at home.”
A recent survey from Parentkind showed that less than 1 in 5 parents feel very confident supporting their child’s learning at home. Unsurprising really! Can you blame them? Instilling confidence in parents and recognising what’s achievable in these unusual times is key.
Some parents are facing more challenges than others
Almost a third of children in the UK live in poverty. So in a class of 30, 10 students may not have enough to eat, stable accommodation, warm clothes, a laptop, stable Wi-Fi or a place to work.
It’s important to remember that whilst parents are struggling to meet some of these very basic needs, supporting their child with school work, may understandably take a back seat.
This also changes the role of teachers, from imparting the curriculum onto students, to having to play a more pastoral role. It's important to know how you can support vulnerable young people.
Practical strategies for supporting parents
It has never been more important for parents and schools to work together. I’m pleased to share below some ideas that schools within our networks have been using:
Make learning expectations flexible and manageable
At Reach Academy Feltham, they are providing three lessons a day for each student. These are 20 minute pre-recorded YouTube clips which can be accessed on a phone or other device. This gives teachers flexibility over when they record them, and limits the expectation of what children are expected to complete within a day. This might not seem like a lot, but you can also share other opportunities for learning such as online celebrity masterclasses to support learning at home in different ways with enough for a full day!
Regularly touch base with vulnerable families
It’s important to establish clear communication channels that work for the families within your community. Touch base, particularly with your vulnerable families, on a regular basis via phone call, text message or email.
Share fun ideas for families
Although challenging in many ways, this is a unique opportunity for families to come together. Use text email and social media to share other options for what parents could be doing at home with their children. Encourage them to exercise, sing, bake and read together! There are plenty of activities and fun ideas on developing character skills that young people could do for free.
Distribute books to your disadvantaged students
10% of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t own a single book. Some supermarkets and book shops are donating books so it’s worth contacting any local to you. Try and make use of agencies that are already distributing goods to families and see if you can include books, If you’re providing food packages to FSM students, you could include them within those, or team up with a local food bank. If this isn’t possible, there are lots of audio book platforms currently offering free children’s books, encourage families to try Audible or Storynory.
Send text messages which remind parents of the importance of reading
A simple text message encouraging parents to set themselves a goal, for example reading 1 book with their child, can go a long way. This can help parents to stick to their good intentions! This can be particularly impactful if you’ve managed to distribute books to some of your disadvantaged students.
It's time to work together. We regularly send details and resources for our network of teachers, parents and schools of ideas they could use from around the education community. Sign up here to get yours.
Much of the content in this blog post is taken from an excellent webinar hosted by Learning with Parents. Many thanks to the following individuals for their valuable contributions: Ariel Kalil (Director of Behavioural Insights and Parenting Lab at University of Chicago), Kerry-Jane Packman (Executive Director at Parentkind), Ian Mearns MP (Member of Education Select Committee), Jonathan Douglas (CEO National Literacy Trust), Janet Goodall (Associate Professor at Swansea University) and Tilly Brown (Primary School Headteacher, Reach Academy Feltham).