Working Together: What does true partnership between parents and school staff really look like?

Parental Engagement Primary Schools Secondary Schools Teachers
20 February 2024
Bea Stevenson Head of Education at The Centre of Emotional Education, working to to promote an approach to life and relationships that equips and supports families and communities to be emotionally healthy. 
What do parents really care about for themselves, and for their children, as part of a school community? Our guest blog from The Centre for Emotional Health delves into this, in celebration of Emotional Health Week.

Parentkind’s own National Parent Survey revealed that support with wellbeing, coupled with a safe environment without bullying, is a number one priority. Similarly, research by Big Change and the Relationships Foundation showed that what matters most to young people, and what they really felt was missing, or lost’ during the pandemic, was the role of school as a centre of their social and relational worlds.

Our approach

At The Centre for Emotional Health, we provide a whole school approach to emotional health for the whole community, based on the principles of the Nurturing Programme: building skills of Empathy, Self Awareness, Positive Discipline and Appropriate Expectations. Through the facilitation of the Nurturing Programme for staff, as well as training for staff to deliver the programme to parents, schools are empowered to take a relational approach to supporting everyone to thrive.

I think the culture’s changed massively, staff seem a lot more confident to approach any behaviours they were unsure about how to manage before, and I think that they do feel more confident as well to support the children’s own wellbeing.

School staff, NJ Research Evaluation 2023

I think it really brings together staff in schools and families, and seeing it used consistently with the children in school and at home, I think it has such wonderful impacts. …and progress within children’s own mental wellbeing.

School staff, NJ Research Evaluation 2023

The role of the Home School Link Worker

Although it is the role of every member of staff in schools to build partnerships with parents, many schools also prioritise a lead position within the community, often called the Home School Link Worker (HSLW). In partnership with The Reach Foundation, The Centre for Emotional Health has been carrying out research in the last year to build a better understanding of this role.

Despite its importance, it is not a statutory requirement to have a member of staff in this position, and where it does exist, there needs to be clearer understanding about either the skills needed or the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) necessary to do the job well. When this work is prioritised, there are a whole range of beneficial outcomes not least that it supports a child to feel safe, valued and understood1.

There are other outcomes including increased attendance, enhanced home learning environments and academic outcomes2.

School is much calmer, children seem much more focused and much more settled.

School staff, NJ Research Evaluation 2023

Three principles of partnership between parents and school staff

From our own experience working with school communities, coupled with feedback from the research we have carried out into the role of the HSLW, what then are some key principles of partnership between parents and school staff? 

1. Building trust, through providing opportunities to greet, communicate with and talk to one another on a daily basis. This is important not only between parents and staff, but also staff members with one another, and parents with one another. Adults can share in children’s celebrations each day, as well as to support one another with any challenges that might arise. 

2. Responding with empathy and flexibility to those challenges that arise and working together to find solutions. Parents and staff both have the child’s best interests at heart. By recognising difficult feelings, maintaining a sense of openness, and responding with curiosity and empathy to the complexity of each situation, adults around the child can work together to solve problems as they arise.

3. Developing and sustaining healthy relationships with the staff of other services, including the Local Authority and external support systems and processes, keeping the child always at the centre of conversations, and where possible, including them in those conversations. 

With a focus on the importance of daily, habitual interactions — between all adults (including parents), children and young people — a whole school approach to emotional health and wellbeing supports everyone in the community to flourish. We must enable schools to create cultures, coupled with the resource for school-home partnerships, where relationships and space for reflection are prioritised, where adults and children alike are supported to consider and discuss these questions about who they are, their learning and their education.

Further links