Better Parental Engagement: How to activate parents as co-scaffolders of ongoing learning

Better Parental Engagement

For remote learning to be effective schools need to upskill parents remotely, at scale, on-demand, so they know exactly HOW to help at home.

And with primary aged children they absolutely have to support learning tasks, not just supervise them.

This article builds upon a webinar delivered to COBIS members. Enjoy a copy of the recording below (about 30 mins, so settle in with a cuppa!).


A summary of the most useful, frequently referenced works below:

For longer reads I recommend any of the 4 books below as useful starting points.  Janet Goodall (University of Bath) is one of the best researchers in this space and well worth following.  Additionally, the work by Professor Deborah Eyre on HPL also aligns well with the Learning Ladders approach.

Cat Scutt from the Chartered College of Teaching recently produced an extremely comprehensive  summary of research, articles and blogs relating to Parental Engagement (Dec, 2019).  This is reproduced in part below.  If you’re a teacher and not yet a member of CCoT, I would recommend membership, their journal ‘Impact’ is excellent.

What is parental engagement and why does it matter?

The Sutton Trust’s 2018 report Parent Power, a wide-ranging look at how social class can influence parents’ ability to support their children in their schooling. They published an earlier report on this topic in 2014.

An older (2007) but extensive research report by Alma Harris and Janet Goodall looking at engaging parents to raise achievement.  This includes useful discussion of the difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’.

2014 article by Janet Goodall and Caroline Montgomery looking at the difference between parental engagement and parental involvement (authors’ pre-publication version).

Joseph Rowntree Foundation report looking at whether changing parents’ and pupils’ attitudes and aspirations can improve attainment.

An article by Daniel Willingham for the AfT’s ‘Ask The Cognitive Scientist’ feature, looking at why family wealth affects learning.

piece of research by Francesco Avvisati and colleagues, carried out in France, that found parental engagement activities could improve pupils’ behaviour and attitudes to learning.

Approaches to parental engagement

The Education Endowment Foundation’s recent Guidance Report on parental engagement; providing key findings and recommendations, as well as an accompanying poster. Additionally this blog from Chris Woodcock at Durrington Research School also gives a helpful overview of the report.

10 tips for engaging parents from Janet Goodall, based on research.

2013 guide from NFER looking at how to engage parents to reduce the attainment gap.

2011 review of best practice in parental engagement by Janet Goodall and colleagues, commissioned by the Department for Education. Whilst some of the research is outdated, the report is very extensive!

FutureLab publication, supported by BECTA, looking at ways digital technologies might be used to support home-school relationships. This is from 2010, so technologies have changed substantially but some of the principles are still relevant.

An older report for the National College for School Leadership looking at how to involve ‘hard-to-reach’ parents.

Improving attendance through parental engagement

research project by Todd Rogers and colleagues looking at whether sending home postcards encouraging improved attendance was effective.

Stephen Tierney’s blog post about how his school tried an approach to improving attendance by sending parents short letters highlighting the impact of absence on learning.

An article by Adam Boddison on The Conversation, reflecting on the impact of fines on truancy and how these might vary.

Helping parents to support pupils’ learning and study habits

series of blog posts from the Learning Scientists, exploring a range of topics related to cognitive science; these are designed for parents as well as teachers. In addition they have also produced podcast episodes for parents, including Part 1 and Part 2.

An Impact article looking at how one school emailed daily revision questions to parents to help them support their children.

blog post by Alex Quigley reflecting on findings from an EEF project looking at an approach to texting parents to support literacy.

SchoolsWeek article by Rachael Hunter at the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre, looking at parents’ and schools’ interest and role in developing pupils’ character, as well as their attainment.

Communicating with parents

study by Kraft and Rogers in the US, looking at the impact of sending regular messages to parents. The study tested both purely positive messages and messages containing advice on how to improve.

Research from Chile, published by the Department for International Development, looking at the impact of texting parents with pupil data on attainment.

journal article by Janet Goodall looking at the use of technology for home-school communications.

Three articles by ACER’s Dr Hilary Hollingsworth and Jonathan Heard, looking at school reports. Although based on the Australian system, the research referenced in these articles often has wider application. The articles cover; the history of the school report in Australia, trends around ‘continuous reporting’, and the effectiveness of different approaches to teacher comments in reports.

An Impact article from Kristy Turner and colleagues about a piece of practitioner research looking at school reports in an independent school.

research project by Asadul Islam looking at the impact of parent-teacher meetings in schools in Bangladesh; this Tes article summarises its findings.

An article by Karen Wespieser that looks at this from the other direction – how parents can communicate effectively with schools.

Case studies, toolkits and examples of approaches

Scotland’s action plan on parental involvement, engagement and learning at home.

Sutton Trust report on trials of several approaches to parental engagement.

The Best Evidence in Brief service includes a range of summaries of research projects looking at parental involvement.

blog by Janet Goodall exploring some of what we know about parental engagement and reviewing a pilot project in Wiltshire.

The Welsh Government’s toolkit for schools to support family and community engagement.

selection of research and reading around parental engagement, collected by Janet Goodall.

Tes article by Leanne Forde-Nassey, headteacher of a PRU, outlining some approaches her school took to engaging parents.

Parental engagement and home learning in the early years

An older review looking at the impact early years providers can have on home learning environments, funded by the Department for Education.

An Australian article in The Conversation looking at the need to continue and adapt parental engagement as children move into primary school from early years settings.

Tes article by Kevan Collins looking at the importance of early years education and parental engagement in narrowing the attainment gap.

Do get in touch if I missed any!

Matt Koster-Marcon Matt is a former teacher and Founding CEO of Learning Ladders. He’s also Chair of EdTech at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), Co-Founder of the EdTech Evidence Group, a member of the DfE Covid Curriculum (Resources) panel, and guest speaker at Roehampton University in London.

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