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Redefining the Home-School relationship

Posted on: 04 Sep 2020 by Group Education Director

When we first discussed the schools closure back in February, we gave ourselves a goal - to bring the classroom into the living room; to create an online offer that ensured that children continued to be engaged in their learning and to make progress throughout a period of significant disruption, and to maintain not only the opportunities we provide schools academically but also the high levels of pastoral care for individual children and a sense of community for families throughout the period of lockdown. I think it’s fair to say the success of schools in achieving this went beyond anyone’s expectations; within the context of this blog we’ll be considering the transformative impact this has had on the home-school connection, in particular the recognition and appreciation with which teachers are viewed, the reasons underlying this and how we might sustain this relationship moving forward.

The esteem with which the work of staff is held by parents has never been higher; online questionnaires in regard to the online offer, interviews with parents and spontaneous emails from were overwhelmingly positive tone of the feedback - in particular the name checking of staff was a universal feature alongside the knowledge and understanding parental feedback showed of how staff were working with their children. 

In essence parents had seen the learning process in action and realised the skill and hard work that goes into moving a child’s learning forward, they had seen the trust and relationships a child needs to take a risk in their learning, they’d seen the positive atmosphere in the virtual classroom. In short the process of learning has been properly visible to parents in a manner that can’t be achieved through any number of parents workshops or evenings. Clearly there is an appetite for a home-school relationship extending to a strong interest amongst parents in regard to the deeper aspects of learning. This opens up many opportunities and possibilities for schools in building a meaningful home-school partnership, one in which the family is engaged and heard and where teachers will be valued and trusted as an approachable expert. 

On a technical level this means continuing to use the skills and tools that have been in place to support the level of visibility and engagement parents have with the educational experience. This isn’t a proposal for live streaming of lessons in school - nor has anyone suggested that is desirable. Rather, it’s an opportunity to consider which aspects of the learning process can be made visible. Through the summer staff have built significant expertise in the use of GSuite and remote conferencing and continuing to use these tools to communicate, plan and share resources will continue to give a high level of visibility. The aim we could set ourselves in this respect might be to ensure the following conversation is a thing of the past; parent ‘what did you do at school today?’ child ‘nothing’ - in this conversation changing the answer means changing the question, can we get parents to ask ‘I can see you did x in y today. That sounds interesting, can you tell what you learned?’. From staff questionnaire feedback it’s clear that many colleagues feel maintaining the momentum in our use of GSuite and the visible learning it allows is a significant priority. In order to support this we will be providing online and in school training through the Autumn Term as well as online resources to support staff. 

One of the great strengths of the last few months has been a commitment by all staff to use new methods of planning, presenting and communicating. Alongside training we’ll also be investing over £200,000 in hardware across the group to ensure staff have access to the technology they need. By blending this new skills base with their traditional commitment to fostering a close community, schools have a unique opportunity to permanently redefine the nature of the home-school partnership, to the benefit of staff, pupils and parents.

Steve Wade

Group Education Director

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