Edgar Stammers Primary Academy was placed into special measures in 2016. A new executive head teacher and head of school were appointed in May 2018 and, following many improvements, a recent Ofsted inspection has taken the school out of special measures, recognising its renewed sense of purpose, strong vision for pupils and improved staff morale.
One of the school’s major challenges has been weak parental engagement – but thanks to the work of teacher, Lisa Littlewood, this has totally transformed. We spoke to Lisa to find out how she successfully broke down the barriers and built a bridge between the school and the parents
How it all began
“I began supply teaching at Edgar Stammers in 2018 and quickly realised that parental engagement was poor – it felt like there was an invisible wall between the parents and the school and one that prevented parents from crossing over the doorstep. It’s widely recognised that pupils are happier, and perform better, when their parents and carers are involved in school life, so it was really important that we broke down those barriers.”
One of the first initiatives that Lisa got off the ground was a school fete – something that hadn’t happened for some years. Lisa tells us that the idea was initially met with scepticism and negativity from parents but despite this, she was able to get the event off the ground and raised £1600.00 for the school in just two hours’ of fundraising: - “The fete’s success really inspired me and I spoke to the leadership team about reinstating the school PTA as a means to engage with the wider parental community.”
Time for a PTA and community hub
It was while researching how to set up a PTA that Lisa came across the Parentkind website. “I was reading information about how to get a PTA off the ground when I noticed that Parentkind also runs various courses. What really caught my eye was the course on parental engagement. With the headteacher’s blessing, I attended the course and came away full of ideas and inspiration.”
Alongside her teaching post, Lisa was asked to become lead on parental engagement for the school. She quickly put into action many of the initiatives she’d learned on the Parentkind course, including setting up a Community Hub.
“The rationale behind the Community Hub is to provide parents with a safe place to seek support, guidance, and friendship - and an opportunity to develop themselves in any way possible. We spoke to Walsall Housing Group about partnering with the school to run a series of workshops that would give parents the opportunity to engage with other parents - to obtain qualifications, life coaching, opportunities for volunteering and employment.
“I’m really proud to say that many parents have positively engaged with the project – some are studying for their theory driving test whilst others have joined the ‘Waist Away’ weight management programme and collectively have lost three stone in weight. We’re seeing more parents getting involved in the Community Hub all the time and it’s been a fantastic way of bridging that gap between the school and the parents.”
The search for new ways to engage parents
Spurred on by the success of the Community Hub, Lisa attended another Parentkind course to help her understand the processes involved in setting up a Parent Council, which would run alongside the newly established PTA.
Lisa says that whilst it’s early days for the Parent Council, the difference between the level of parental engagement now, compared to six months ago, is staggering.
“We’ve gone from having almost no links with our parental community, to many parents now taking an active role and involvement in school life - so much so that one of our parent Governors leads on the Parent Council and has been key to influencing changes within school.
“The impact for the children – and the school as a whole – has been hugely positive. Research clearly shows that the more involved a parent is with their child’s education the better the outcomes for that child.
“Whilst our evidence for improved outcomes is currently anecdotal, what we do know is that, with the help of Parentkind’s training courses, we’ve gone from parents not crossing the school threshold, to parents who are now engaging with the school regularly and positively is so many ways, which we believe is hugely beneficial for the children.”