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Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Published: Tuesday, 03 December 2013

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Why does it matter?

Ofsted places emphasis on taking into account the views of parents, who can request an inspection if they have concerns about a school’s performance.

Quite apart from this, there is plenty of existing research to demonstrate just how significant parental engagement can be in raising children’s aspirations and levels of achievement. Parents — just because they are parents — often have a much greater influence over their children than any school can achieve. Most are filled with pride when they see their own children achieving well at school, whatever their own experience was like. Consequently, many schools that have developed closer links with parents have reaped the benefits, such as improved standards of attendance, punctuality, behaviour and achievement.

Which schools need to engage with their parents?

The answer is simple — all schools stand to gain from high quality parental engagement. There will obviously be differences in the approach required for each school to suit its pupil and parent population.

The role of school leaders

Parental engagement works best when it is led from the top. Headteachers need to ensure that parental engagement becomes embedded in all aspects of school life. It should be included in all the school’s strategic planning tools, for instance, in the school improvement plan.

School leaders can readily identify groups of children who are underachieving within their school, for example, white male pupils living on a nearby deprived housing estate and/or pupils from a specific ethnic minority group. Engaging with the parents of these pupils in a positive way can make a real difference in terms of improving the life chances of these young people.

Removing the barriers to parental engagement

Effective communication is always the key to successful parental engagement. Schools can begin by considering how welcoming their schools are for parents and other visitors. Does the school have clear signage (either words and/or symbols) and designated parking spaces (if applicable) reserved for visiting parents? Does the school provide a welcoming space at the reception area that includes a variety of seating to suit all parents, including those with disabilities or walking problems, or younger children? To check this, you could ask parents how well (or otherwise) they are welcomed when they visit the school.

Do parents know what the guidelines and procedures are about how they can communicate with the school, for example: what they can do if they are worried about something; how long they expect to wait before receiving a response to their telephone calls or emails; are they encouraged to participate in local opportunities for adult and/or family learning so that they can value their own learning and feel more confident about supporting their children’s learning?

Use of modern technology

Having an active parent teacher association or small parents' voice group will provide the school with some useful feedback from a limited number of parents. However this feedback will not necessarily be representative of the whole parent body because many parents lead very busy lives in which different roles compete for their attention.

In the search for new, effective ways of engaging with parents, some schools have harnessed technology creatively, using automated email and texting systems in addition to the now popular learning platforms. School websites have been expanded to enable parents to view detailed curriculum information, parent handbooks, user-friendly versions of relevant school policies and other information. There are headteachers who successfully use social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, or a blog, to communicate with a wider group of parents than can be reached via more traditional forms of communication, for instance, school newsletters.

Good ideas and good practice

Numerous examples of good practice abound in schools in which priority has been given to improving the way parents are involved in the day-to-day life of their schools. A few examples are listed here.

Home-school link workers have been appointed to make visits to the home of each child before they start at the school. In the longer term, these workers play an invaluable role in helping the school gain a fuller understanding of all the children who join a school, with on-going support available where needed. Where English may not be a first language, or where parents have poor literacy skills, interventions can be put into place at an early stage to support both the parents and their children. There are many ways in which schools now involve parents in their children’s learning. Inviting parents to come in on specific days to see lessons in progress has become more meaningful than the ‘window dressing’ events that are often held for new parents at induction. In some schools, staff and children have led sessions and lessons for parents on a wide range of topics, quite often focusing on basic skills so that parents will become more enthusiastic about their own learning and gain the confidence to become involved in their children’s learning.

There are schools that encourage parents to become volunteers in the school — with adequate safeguarding procedures in place, of course. Schools that have been most successful have ensured that these volunteers are fully supported by a member of staff, who takes on the role of a volunteer mentor. Significantly, some parent volunteers have later progressed to paid jobs in schools, resulting in the pride and admiration of their children.

Some schools, having identified the need to raise pupils' aspirations, routinely include parents — as well as pupils — in outings to universities when students are in their last year of secondary school. Such visits give parents a taste of what their offspring will face once they commence study at a higher level institution and, in some cases, a better understanding of the pressures that could arise from living away from home.

Local football clubs around the country have developed a strong community focus. Some schools have taken advantage of this. In the most successful partnerships, groups of pupils and their parents are able to take part in after-school fitness and training sessions. These are run by the footballers themselves in a kind of informal family learning atmosphere. Once again, it is all about helping the parents to value and enjoy learning.

Ways of gaining meaningful feedback

Schools need to measure the impact of any parental engagement initiatives that are introduced. As a baseline, schools should meticulously record all parental attendance and participation across all aspects of school life in which they want to involve parents. The next stage is to follow up on all those parents who have chosen to opt out and explore new ways of encouraging their involvement in the future.

Schools are experienced at carrying out both written surveys and interviews with parents, but there can be a danger that surveys feel like just another meaningless piece of bureaucracy. There are schools that have developed more informal ways of gathering feedback, for example, by inviting parents to rate their satisfaction levels with various initiatives by selecting coloured Post-it notes (available in the three traffic-light colours) and placing these on a wall. Be creative!

Acting on the feedback

All feedback, whether it is good, bad or indifferent, is invaluable because it helps the school to improve its parental engagement. It is vital that the school actively follows up the comments and views expressed by parents, and acts positively to resolve any matters of concern. Put more simply, it is a case of, "We asked, you said, we did".

Results of improved parental engagement

Long-term benefits for schools resulting from improved parental engagement can include schools that were previously regarded as unpopular choices becoming oversubscribed, or elections being required for school governor positions where previously it had been a challenge to recruit and retain parent governors. Closer links with parents have led to greater participation by parent governors in the life of the school.

For some schools the benefits of parental engagement go well beyond the life of the school itself. As a result of parents being encouraged to go on school visits to local areas of interest and learning, some parents subsequently have the confidence to take their children on educational outings during the school holidays. So the desire and motivation to further their own, and their children’s, learning has led to them making the first step into their own lifelong learning.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you to put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Jenny Townsend is a freelance Education Adviser to schools across the UK supporting various aspects of school improvement. She has extensive experience of supporting schools in the following areas: continuing professional development; community engagement; inclusion; adult and family learning; and parental engagement. Jenny, a Director of Townsend Consultancy Ltd can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on the mobile phone number 07990 570 439. The company's website address is: www.townsendconsult.co.uk

This article was first published in the February 2012 issue of School Inspection + Improvement Magazine.

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