This week children, staff and parents at Burry Port Primary School made an important step towards improving the democratic culture of the school.
The children already use VocalEyes for Pupil Voice and these priorities now set the agenda for Student Council. Now it was a chance for the pupils to teach what they had learnt using Pupil Voice and show the parents how to log in and participate in Parent Voice.
Schools today know that the key to pupils’ engagement lies in involving parents and carers in their children’s learning. It is well known that the key to success is establishing a partnership between the child’s family, the child and the adults in the school.
Schools are always looking for opportunities to build positive relationships with the home and Burry Port is no exception. Like most schools different strategies to engage parents have been initiated by the school with much success. However, the path less often travelled is that initiatives are driven by parents.
And that’s where Parent Voice comes in.
Burry Port is the first primary school in the UK to introduce Parent Voice in this way. One of the strengths of the VocalEyes platform is that it creates opportunities for parents to learn new skills alongside their child in an informal way. The school invited the parents to come in over two afternoons to meet the children and find out how they could make their voices heard in the school. As they arrived the Year 6 children led the way and invited the parents to come and log in to Parent Voice and start using it.
The simplicity of the VocalEyes platform means that everyone, even if they are not digitally savvy, can quickly learn how to use it.
Many schools are nervous of technology because of the power of social media to generate negativity as many schools have found to their dismay. VocalEyes is different – the simple engagement strategies make smart use of technology and require minimal effort from school and parent.
Quite simply, parents are asked to add, rate and debate ideas for school improvement. Once they have logged in to the platform with their email address they can access it wherever they are. This is a real plus for busy parents as they can choose when and where to engage and not have to be in a particular place at a particular time. It is great for the majority of parents whose working lives and caring commitments make it difficult for them to come to school. Now from the comfort of their homes they can feel involved and listened to.
The next plan is for VocalEyes to develop a native mobile app so parents can be notified through their phones as soon as other parents have suggested new ideas for the school or commented on existing ideas – they won’t even have to remember to log in!
Tracey Handley from Parentkind attended the launch of Parent Voice. Parentkind are working with VocalEyes to help fulfil their mission of truly engaging parents in an effective partnership with schools. Like us they want ideas for school improvement to come from the parents, not just one-way from the school.
We think establishing Parent Voice in all schools is a really important way of engaging parents in their child’s education.
Over the last two days the parents who came had a great time, they were pleased to be asked what they want or need from the school. For many parents a call to the school only happens when there is a problem, the aim of these two days was to make parental involvement a positive experience so they can spread the word to others. But of course the greatest ambassadors will be the children who are now being encouraged to show their parents how to use the platform at home.
This week Burry Port has kick-started an opportunity to find out parents’ interests and strengths. As school and parents work out what ideas they wish to take forward to action they can pledge to form working groups without leaving the platform. That’s when the talking will really take off as the voluntary groups consider how their top-rated ideas can be made a reality.
All good schools want to improve cooperation and communication with their parents as equal partners in their children’s education. That means being able to relate to each other, to listen, to feel listened to and to care for the interests of everyone. VocalEyes ensures a democratic space is available for the emergence of ideas that can take into account the diversity of the school population where everyone, not just the articulate and available, can be heard.
Piloting Parent Voice at Your School
To launch Parent Voice at your school you will need:
- Commitment from the head teacher to engage with parents utilising a variety of different engagement strategies
- To be able start your pilot and maintain it for a minimum of 3 months
- To have a minimum of one member of staff who can be trained on how to administer the group. Approx 1hr / week.
- Commitment to review, feedback and support the development of parent priorities emerging from the platform.
- To ideally have VocalEyes embedded into the culture of the Student Council and Pupil Voice. The pupils can then help to train and engage the parents.
If you are interested in running a pilot project for Parent Voice at your school please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org