Action plan to bring parents and schools closer

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It’s no secret that one of the best ways to improve children’s results at school is to get their parents involved.

Study after study has shown that where a parent takes on a supportive role in their child’s learning, that pupil will do better at school.

That’s the reason that a new national action plan, which has been promised £350,000 of funding over two years, has been launched by deputy first minister John Swinney.

With over 50 recommendations supported by the Scottish Government cash, it is aimed at encouraging and supporting all parents to be fully involved in their child’s education.

Launching the action plan Mr Swinney said: “We want every parent and family to have the right support in place so that they can be involved in every stage of their children’s learning and development.

“We know there is a strong link between parental engagement and academic achievement and this plan will play a key role in helping to reduce the attainment gap.”

The new action plan continues ongoing work that the Parental Involvement act passed in 2006.

Margaret Wilson, who is the Falkirk representative on the National Parent Forum Scotland (NFPS) has welcomed the new intiative but says she hopes it will make a real difference.

She said: “Everyone in NPFS would like to see schools making an effort to involve every parent in their child’s education.

“It’s not enough to say that parents aren’t engaging, schools and local authorities need to look for the reasons why and seriously address them.”

And as well as schools tackling the issue, Margaret also hopes communication will improve between the council and the organisation that represents parents locally.

She is also chair of Falkirk Area Parent Forum and believes more could be done to help it play a role.

She said: “I hope this means Falkirk Council will be more proactive.

“I always have to ask for meeting dates to be set and communications to go out and sometimes it takes several attempts!

“The minutes are never produced and circulated despite other parents asking directly for them – it’s just a bit frustrating.

“I want to make sure that information and ideas are shared.”

But Margaret does acknowledge that some things are changing in a positive direction for parents.

She said: “As a parent, I like to be involved in my children’s education and things have definitely improved since 2006.

“We get a lot of information on Twitter, because you know when you ask your child what they were doing at school they can never remember.

“So, if I see on Twitter that he’s been reading George’s Marvellous Medicine, for example, it allows you to start a conversation.

“I know all schools are different but most of them now have more events such as Meet the Teacher and they invite parents in too see their work and that’s really useful.”

One of the report’s recommendations is setting up a working party to look at how to explore parental volunteer opportunities.

The guidance and training materials for parent councils will also be improved.

Margaret, who is on Victoria Primary’s Parent Council and also volunteers in the school, recommends both as a way of becoming involved.

“When you’re on the Parent Council you get a lot of information about what’s happening and the same is true when you volunteer,” she said.

“Actually, it’s an eye opener when you go in to the school and see what they’re up against.

“But it also means you can give your opinion from a parent’s point of view – it’s absolutely about partnership.”

The plan also looks at how to engage specific groups, such as ethnic minority parents, parents of children with additional support needs as well as those of disabled children and children with learning disabilities.

The £350,000 that has been promised will come from the newly created equalities fund, with £175,000 in 2029/20 and the rest the following year.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “We have a good relationship with the Parent Forum and we’re keen to develop this further and encourage more parents and carers to work with us to support our schools and children.”