Many schools have already benefited from developing a parent council as a way to encourage parent voice, or from adopting other parental engagement initiatives to improve their relationship with parents.
The RSA Academy, Tipton
The RSA Academy, a secondary school with a pupil roll of over 1,100, set up its parent council as soon as the school opened in 2008. The goal was to give parents a voice and create a vehicle to enable them to contribute to decision making.
Over the years, issues tackled have included:
- Home school communication
- Behaviour policy
- Safety on the way to and from school
- School reports
- PSHE curriculum
- Sexual health policy
- Home Academy Agreement
In 2017 the council is still going strong, and meeting regularly. Both governors and senior staff believe that the work to engage parents has made a significant contribution to raising achievement and gaining the support of the community.
Dartington Primary School, Devon
As a school of around 350 pupils, Dartington’s parent council emerged from a meeting in 2003 with the then head teacher and a group of parents who met to discuss their vision for a new school philosophy. Part of their thinking was a desire to promote a collaborative educational atmosphere between children's home and school life by developing a strong partnership between parents/carers and the school.
By the Council's third year, its role had started to evolve from problem solving to taking the initiative. It took proactive action on raising funds to tackle issues around travel to and from school, sourcing local foods for school catering and building a bank of parental skills for the school to draw on.
In 2017 the re-named parent forum is going strong with a meeting every half term that is also attended by the head teacher and some governors. It is a place of partnership between parents and school staff with recent initiatives focusing on greater understanding of how maths is taught in the school, and also developing a dynamic approach to working with children to support their emotional and social wellbeing.
Glenbrook Primary School, Nottingham
Having attended a parent council training session, Glenbrook set up a Parent Forum and has already had four meetings. Around 10 people attended the first open meeting and at the second meeting a number of issues were discussed. Following problems the school had with a closed facebook group, the forum invited some of the parents to attend the next meeting and share their concerns which they did. The forum members felt able to address some of the concerns at that meeting and two of these parents attended the subsequent Forum session.
Staff member Joy Smith says of the forum: “Having a parent forum is vital because it helps the school to involve our parents and improve our communication with them in a positive way. Parents can see that we are listening.” We now have a good group of parents working alongside the school.”
Coombe Hill Junior School, Kingston
Coombe Hill’s parent council has been in existence at the school for three years and was set up for parents to have a voice within the school. Each class has one or more representatives that sits on the council that meets termly. The head teacher or a member of the senior leadership team attends every meeting.
The feeling at the school is that the parent council has helped generate more effective dialogue between the school and the parents. Both have benefitted from this partnership. The school has received many great ideas from parents and parents feel (and are) more involved in the school’s decision making. The topics the Parent Council discusses are under constant review.
The school has found how valuable the parent council has been to give the head a fantastic steer on various issues. Given the large number of parents who speak English as a second language, a local charity now comes in once a week to run English classes following a discussion on inclusion at the parent council.
Parent Council and staff member Jill Evans says:
“Our Parent Council has developed an extremely effective means of parent/school conversation. Parents feel they are kept fully informed of developments and appreciate the opportunity to present their thoughts and often compliments to the senior leadership team.
"It is a fantastic way to disseminate information back to parents of each class. It drip feeds social cohesion. With 25 languages spoken at our school and a large percentage of the school’s parents speaking English as a second language that is hugely important.”
Gosforth Central Middle School, Newcastle
As Paula Wright, Chair of the parent council for four years says:
“Our parent council was set up to strengthen communication between parents and the school. It has given parents a voice through which suggestions, and concerns can be raised and has also provided the school with a sounding board for new developments. Importantly it has facilitated networking between parents, easing transitions into and out of the school, with a reduction in the demands which would otherwise fall to school administrators.”