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Research School Network: The experiments of lockdown learning have paused. What can the results tell us about parental engagement? Do parents now understand fronted adverbials and new maths? Should we expect a golden age of parental engagement in learning?

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The experiments of lockdown learning have paused. What can the results tell us about parental engagement?

Do parents now understand fronted adverbials and new maths? Should we expect a golden age of parental engagement in learning?

Do parents now understand fronted adverbials and new maths? Should we expect a golden age of parental engagement in learning? Sustained engagement is challenging. But we have new systems, techniques and data. We should use them wisely, argues Dr Polly Crowther, one of our Evidence Leads in Education at East London Research School. 

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Children and parents alike developed new technical and learning skills

A new type of parental engagement

In October I invited all the parents in Early Years and Key Stage 1 in my school to a session on reading with children. It is one of the most powerful home learning activities to encourage. Five families came. In January, more than thirty parents were sitting in on my virtual phonics lessons every day. After lessons, they supported with the daunting technicalities of graphemes, phonemes, decoding and digraphs.

Parents of older children also worked to learn new vocabulary and methods, from fronted adverbials to new maths’. The discourse made clear that parents were learning to teach in a way we had never envisaged.

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From Twitter: parents grappled with new terminology to support home learning.
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The Observer, 20th February 2021

Parental engagement in education: the evidence

Parental engagement has long been a Holy Grail of educational inequality. We know of its power, that most parents want to support their child’s education and what parents can do to help. We know that some households lack resources – physical equipment, time and knowledge. We do not, however, have robust, replicable evidence for what schools and early years settings should do about it. This is because of flaws in research methods and as few interventions demonstrate real impact.

Educators at classroom, school and system level think deeply about engaging with families. Lockdown pushed schools to engage with parents in new ways, the impact of which we do not yet know for sure. Identifying what we leverage moving forward may not be easy. Despite headline-grabbing announcements, this is not the time to revolutionise all things education. Just because we can do things differently doesn’t mean we should. Major reviews into the impact of lockdown on learning will come.

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Parent-teacher collaboration has long been an ambition for many schools and families.

What now?

In the meantime, we can use existing evidence to support discussion. The EEF Guidance Report: Working with Parents to Support Children’s Learning provides an evidence-based framework for asking critical questions:

Critically review
how you work with parents. What story does remote learning tell about what works for your community? What led to the biggest successes and failures that you can use to inform you planning?

Provide practical strategies to support learning at home. What have we learned about modelling and explaining activities to parents? Can we combine physical resources with online practical support?

Tailor school communications to encourage positive dialogue about learning. How can we celebrate the contributions parents have made to education over the last year? Do we now have better systems in place for ongoing dialogue? Have parents developed new ways to reach out to teachers?

Offer more sustained and intensive support where needed. Do we have better evidence for the parents who face the most barriers to supporting learning? What did we do that worked to support them and what did not? What have we put in place that could continue to support these families?

The answers are likely to vary between schools and settings. Taking time to reflect and evaluate our impact could be a valuable foundation for identifying improvements. The EEF Guide to Implementation is a perfect starting place for more guidance.

Further reading

EEF Guidance Reports:

Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation

Parental engagement toolkit

Parental Engagement Guidance Report

Preparing for Literacy Guidance Report

Sources

Goodall et al 2010: Review of Best Practice in Parental Engagement

Grayson & Aston 2013: Teacher Guide: Parental Engagement and Narrowing the Gap in Attainment for Disadvantaged Children

McGrane et al 2017: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

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