PTA UK calls for greater consideration of working parents in school life

15/04/16

Leading parent voice champion, PTA UK, is calling for schools and parents to take some simple steps to increase the opportunities for working parents to get involved in their child’s education and school life.

Working Families is the UK’s leading work life balance charity. Their Modern Families Index, sponsored by Bright Horizons, provides a snapshot of family life in the UK. Now in its third year, the survey found that more parents are working full-time than ever before. Of the 5.9 million two parent families in the UK, some 95% have one or both parents working and 49% where both parents work full-time.

PTA UK Policy and Communications Director, Michelle Doyle Wildman says: “There is overwhelming evidence of the importance of parental participation in education. It’s therefore vital, as the number of working parents grow, that our schools are able to move with the times to ensure working families are both fully involved in school life and engaged in learning.

She adds: “Sadly, there appears to be very little practical support or advice available for working parents or schools to improve how they collaborate. So, undaunted, we at PTA UK HQ have come up with some of our own! We hope schools and parents find this a useful and inspiring checklist for 2016 for the benefit of all our children.”

Julia Waltham, Head of Campaigns and Policy at Working Families, said: “As well as schools and parents finding ways to work together better to support working parents involvement at school, employers have a very important role to play. Many working parents have told us that flexible working arrangements are not available in their job. But there is evidence that there are very few roles that can’t accommodate some kind of flexible working. Employers can help their employees get a better work-life balance - and improve their own employee engagement, motivation and retention - by ensuring opportunities to work flexibly are made available to all”.

PTA UK's top tips for schools and teachers:

1. Know your parents

Know your parents, ask them what would help and think about it from their perspective. Many teachers have a valuable insight into this as they are parents too!

2. Plan your communications

Plan your Communications and engage with technology including social media so that you can have dialogue with a broad range of parents as well as providing information. Do remember to allow parents to help you get to know their child better.

3. Assign a champion

Assign a ‘Working Parent’ Governor or champion on the senior leadership team to ensure your school is friendly to all parents.

4. Embrace 21st Century communications

Encourage a 21st Century PTA or parent council in your school that is inclusive and embraces digital communications to reach as wide a variety of parents as possible.

5. Be flexible and creative

Is there scope for more flexibility and creativity? Are opportunities to meet with parents on a Saturday or later on in the evening completely out of the question?

6. Offer valuable and reliable clubs

Do take steps to make any ‘wraparound’ clubs that you offer as reliable and valuable as possible – perhaps through the use of suppliers, partnerships with other schools and consider how they can support your curriculum or improvement goals rather than act as childcare.

PTA UK's top tips for working parents:

1. Consider flexible working

Have you considered and explored flexible working with your employer? What about working from home one day a week or working a nine day fortnight?

2. Get involved

Pledge to get involved in school life however small or large your contribution may be. Could you spare a couple of hours a year volunteering in school or would your professional skills make you a great school governor or trustee?

3. Be active online

Get to know your school – online. Read and respond to emails, school website, consultations and surveys.

4. Speak up

Speak up and encourage change to help working parents. Could you and a group of like-minded parents come up with some suggestions and engage the school team or governors on the matter?

5. Connect with the school

Getting involved with a PTA, parent body or other parent body may help you get feel more connected to school life and has other rewards.

6. Book an appointment

Do not hesitate to book an appointment with your child’s teacher as you need. Teachers or other staff may be able to talk over the phone if getting into school is difficult.

7. Stay positive

Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep positive – get into the routine of helping your child with key bits of homework or reading on your days off or weekend, don’t worry about doing everything perfectly and keep up a confident front.

Please take a look at our latest blog about working parents and leave a comment with your views:
The elephant in the classroom - how can we ensure working parents are included in education?

Working Families has some useful resources for parents that want to make a flexible working request:
www.workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/flexible-working-after-30th-july-2014-a-guide-for-employees/
www.workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/sample-letter-to-request-flexible-working-after-30th-june-2014/

The charity also offers a helpline for parents and carers 0300 012 0312 advice@workingfamilies.org.uk

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