Parental Involvement Be Promoted Effectively In Primary Schools Education Essay

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This review aims to contemplate some of the fundamental issues that need to be addressed in order for schools to promote PI effectively. It starts by placing PI within a political and historical setting. It then discusses the difficulty in defining PI and how differing perceptions might actually pose as a barrier to promoting it effectively in schools. The review goes on to explore two theories/models of PI (Epstein, Hoover-Dempsey& Sandler) which are thought to merit particular consideration in terms of schools developing a framework conducive to the effective promotion of PI. Communication is also discussed in order to highlight some of the basic issues in schools surrounding this area and some of the strategies that might enhance it.

The review concludes that some of the language associated with PI can be ambiguous and therefore problematic due to the differing perceptions of meaning. It is important for schools, parents and pupils to all agree on a definition of terms and this is likely to be unique to every school. It is also suggested that in order for schools to promote participation effectively, it is best to have a framework in place which takes account of sociological and psychological factors regarding the agencies involved. The theories/models of Epstein and Hoover-Dempsey provide useful tools for schools in developing an individualised framework designed to accommodate the various dimensions associated with PI, including those advocated by the Scottish Government. However, care has to be taken so that frameworks do not become too pre-occupied with the goals of the school at the expense of the needs of pupils and parents.

Successful PI depends largely on the level and type of communication between schools and homes. If schools do not seek to utilise strategies which enable deeper 'two way' communication with parents then it is unlikely that any attempts to promote it will be effective in the long term.

Rationale:

"The division between home and school was a very clear one, marked symbolically by the white line in the playground which parents were not expected to cross" (Edwards & Redfern, 1988, p.11).

The 'white line' symbolising a division between home and school is no longer visible in playgrounds, but does this legacy live on through what could be interpreted as a lack of commitment in schools towards building solid working relationships with all parents?

The benefits of Parental Involvement(PI) in education are widely recognised and there is now consensus regarding a link between the above and positive student achievement (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003), with home involvement in particular thought to have the greatest impact (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003, Harris & Goodall, 2007). Nevertheless, accounting for this knowledge, it could be said that many schools still struggle when it comes to creating and sustaining an environment which make parents feel part of the school community.

Having experienced some time in schools as both parent and teacher, I have observed the difficulties a school faces when trying to promote the involvement of parents in school life, as well as the difficulties parents can face when trying to become accepted as part of the school community. I was a member of a parent - school partnership for two years within my children's primary school. Six was the highest number of parent members at any one time out of a school that had a roll of 350 children. I am also now a member of the Parent Council in my children's secondary school and there are currently only seven parent members out of a school with a roll of 750 children. Although it is acknowledged that being involved in ones child's education does not have to include a presence in the classroom or being a member of a formal body, the above observations might make some question how effective schools are at promoting PI and if there is, in general, a lack of real commitment or understanding at a basic level, towards promoting and embedding it in whole school practice.

My personal experiences in schools as both parent and student teacher have served to fuel my interest within this area of education. Indeed my involvement in my own children's education has played a major factor in helping me find the confidence to return to higher education and embark on a teaching career. I have experienced firsthand how involving parents can be mutually beneficial for all concerned. I hope that my research into this area will further my own professional development by providing me with insight and knowledge for maintaining positive relationships with all parents as well as insight into how involvement can be promoted most effectively in primary schools.

Introduction and Methodology

Research, Government legislation and accountability are certainly some of the reasons why PI can no longer be regarded as 'token gesture' and it could be said that schools are well versed on appropriate strategies for promoting it. Despite this, many still appear to struggle when it comes to developing and sustaining meaningful PI in practice as well as policy. Consequently, this raises the question: How can Parental Involvement be promoted effectively in primary schools?

Within contemporary education there is an understanding that the word 'parent' is taken to mean any person who has primary responsibility regarding the care of a child - not necessarily the 'natural' parents. (Education Act 1996).The above definition will therefore accommodate the word 'parent' where used in this paper.

The Scottish Government indicates a distinction between PI at school and PI at home and gives recognition to the fact that successful involvement is dependent on effective relationships between homes and schools (Scottish Executive 2006; SEED, 2006). For the purpose of this paper, the effective promotion of PI will therefore be taken to mean that schools maintain a degree of success in building meaningful relationships with parents whilst encouraging them to become involved in their children's education both at school and at home.

Accounting for demographics, socio-economic factors, cultural differences and individuality, what might be considered effective for one school promoting the involvement of parents might not be for another. Indeed it could be said that to apply a 'one size fits all' approach is tantamount to denying children the right to be treated as individuals. Individual children have individual parents after all (Crozier, 2001). However, this review is based on the premise that there are basic matters relating to PI which are common to all schools and it is only by initially addressing such foundational matters that schools can begin to promote it effectively.

The following review endeavours to give an insight into the above by highlighting various definitions and dimensions of PI, examining two influential theories and models, as well as exploring some of the issues surrounding communication. Some contemplation will also be given to addressing these issues in practice. Any literature that did not indicate relative information on the above was duly disregarded.

The paper is informed by the review of selected national and international literature including: books, government documents, government policies, research papers and reports, previous literature reviews, and academic journal articles accessed via 'Athens'. The literature has been sourced from libraries, internet searches, and searching databases such as ERIC, Informaworld and Emerald. Key words or phrases used were:

Parental involvement

Parental engagement

Parent - school partnerships

Perceptions

Home - school communication

Reference lists from relevant articles and books were also used to help refine searches and identify key experts and theorists within this field. Two experts whose names were recurring features in almost every search and reference list were the Americans, Epstein and Hoover-Dempsey. Their work was therefore probed further for this paper and it was decided it was applicable and indeed appeared to have been influential within the current Scottish PI context. Crozier was also identified as a notable British influence.

Apart from outlining a history of PI, it was the intention to keep any literature as current as possible. However, one must account for the fact that there appears to have been a surge in the amount of interest and theories on PI during the late 1980s - 1990s and as a consequence, this is the era where some of the important work regarding this area lies. Some of the theories and work put forward during this time still hold strong. Specifically, Epstein and Hoover-Dempsey appear to be continually referred to in even the most recent of literature. It has therefore been considered justifiable to include relevant literature, where appropriate, that may exceed the recommended 10 year threshold.

Parental Involvement: A Historical Context

Parental involvement within education has been emerging since the early twentieth century. Margaret McMillan, a Christian socialist, born in America to Scottish parents, was one of the first to highlight the importance of parental influence within education, especially in the early years (Fitzgerald, 2004).

In the United Kingdom, PI was first given emphasis as a possible factor in the improvement of primary education by Lady Plowden (Fitzgerald, 2004). Her report was written on the basis of a review commissioned by the Central Advisory Council for Education in the 1960s, relating to children and their primary schools. In it, she set out numerous recommendations for enhancing education in England. For instance, she advocated that the individual child should be at the heart of an education system that promotes 'creativity' and 'spontaneity'. She also suggested that improving the relationship between parents and schools was a key element for progression (Central Advisory Council for Education, 1967). Although criticised by many at the time (Gillard, 2004), Browne suggests that this report was behind many of the aspects of PI which are still evident today. For example, school reports, choice regarding the schools that parents send their children to, parents evenings, PTA's (now replaced by parent forums and councils in some countries) and school open days are all still common place (Browne & Haylock, 2004). It could be said that many elements of her report appear to be evident today; guidance on the new Scottish 'Curriculum for Excellence' also emphasises 'creativity', the importance of educating the individual child as a whole and the need for parents to be part of this process (Scottish Government, 2008).

On a social level, the 1980s saw a shift within Western culture between professionals and everyday people. This resulted in the emergence of parents as consumers in education and schools were therefore destined to become accountable to parents as well as governments and local authorities. (Merttens et al., 1996).This is certain to have contributed towards the rising status of PI in Britain during the 1980s. However, on an educational level, Brown & Haylock (2004) cite several research reports, within the area of reading specifically, as having a significant impact on attitudes towards PI at this time. Some of these reports include the Haringey Project (Tizard et al., 1982 cited in Brown & Haylock, 2004)) and the Belfield Reading Project (Hannon& Jackson 1987 cited in Brown & Haylock, 2004). Both these reports (and similar studies) found that children's reading achievement and motivation in school were likely to be higher when parents were involved in reading to their children as well as helping with reading at home. Research such as this has ensured that the PI movement has been gaining momentum over the past few decades, helped by the agreement of Governments regarding the benefits associated with it. Parents in Scotland can also expect to be consulted as part of HMIE school inspections.

International and National Policy

Recent government strategies aimed at improving education in many countries are a reflection of how important PI is now perceived to be internationally. For example, America's 'No Child Left Behind Act' [ NCLB] highlights 'strengthening partnerships between schools and parents' as a key component in its strategic plan to improve education ( US department of Education, 2001) as does 'The Schooling Strategy' in New Zealand (Ministry of Education, 2005). The same year also saw the UK government release the white paper 'Higher Standards, Better Schools for All'. It too emphasised the importance of schools communicating with parents (Her Majesty's Government, 2005). Focusing on the Scottish context, this was just ahead of Scotland's 'Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006' which made it a legal responsibility of every education authority in Scotland to promote the involvement of parents in the education of their children (Scottish Executive, 2006).This act links to and builds on many other Scottish legislative policies. For example: 'The standards in Scotland's Schools Act' (SEED 2000) and Education, (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (Seed 2004) also give recognition to the important role parents can play in their children's education.

What is Parental Involvement?

'Parental involvement' is a phrase that is generally used when referring to the role parents play in their children's education. There appears to be no universal definition. It can mean different things to different people and this in itself may prove problematic for research and implementation. The current Scottish Government guidelines intonate that PI should include 3 specific dimensions: 'Learning at home', 'Home/school partnership', and 'Parental representation' (Scottish Executive, 2006). 'Learning at home' covers strategies to help parents to support their children's learning and development at home. 'Home/school partnership is about promoting the idea of education being a shared responsibility and encouraging parents to engage with their child's school and education, and 'Parental representation' is about ensuring that the views of parents are put forward and considered i.e. parent forums and councils (Scottish Executive, 2006).

Harris & Goodall (2007) argue that the phrase 'Parental Involvement' constitutes little value in terms of helping improve education and raise achievement. They use the phrase Parental Engagement (PE) and see this as being distinct from involvement. They make the point that: "Parental involvement can encompass a whole range of activities with or within the school, but if they are not directly connected to learning then they will have little impact on pupil achievement" (Harris & Goodall, 2007, p.6).

If promoting PI effectively in schools were to be defined by the measurement of how successful it can be in improving student achievement alone then this point might be indisputable. However, as pointed out in Crozier (2000), it is a complex concept involving relationships, behaviours, actions and attitudes; therefore promoting it effectively in schools surely must take account of all 4 of the above. Although PI as defined by Harris & Goodall may have little effect on raising student achievement (which is likely to be a desired result in most schools), they do concede that getting parents into the school is an important first step towards building positive relationships between the two parties (Harris & Goodall, 2007). 'PI' will therefore continue to be the general term used in this paper.

Parents as Partners

Much is made of the word 'partnership' when involving parents in education. The Scottish Government, along with many other countries, advocates that schools should embrace parents as partners. However, one also has to be careful about the meaning of this word (Katyal & Evers, 2007; Crozier, 2000; Crozier & Reay, 2005). For some, the word partnership might suggest 'equal' responsibility between parent and teacher regarding the education of children. This could be off- putting for parents; they may feel they lack the confidence and knowledge to assume such a role. For others 'partnership' could suggest more power to parents and this could be off -putting for teachers ; they might feel that their professional status is under threat in some way (Crozier, 2000).Perhaps the definition of partnership suggested by Armstrong (1995) cited in Hodge & Runswick-Cole (2008, p 638) is one for schools to consider within the context of promoting PI. Armstrong suggests that 'partnership' should imply: "Mutual respect, complimentary expertise and a willingness to learn from each other." This seems to capture the essence that teachers are experts in education and parents are experts in their own children.

In summary, the literature examined above appears to highlight ambiguity within some of the language associated with PI. This could perhaps be detrimental to any efforts to promote it effectively. A message common to all schools might be individual establishments need to think carefully about how they define this concept, in terms of what is legally expected of them, in terms of how it might be construed by parents and professionals, and in terms of what goals it is hoped will be achieved by promoting it.

Two Theories

There are many theories regarding PI; two in particular seem to have had major influence, remaining dominant in literature over the years. It is perhaps of no coincidence then that both appear to stand out as imploring specific relevance within the context of schools working effectively with parents. One seeks to explain parental participation mainly from a socio-ecological perspective and the other primarily from a psychological viewpoint.

A Sociological Perspective

Joyce Epstein, founder and now director of 'The National Network of Partnership Schools' and the 'Centre for School, Family and Community Partnerships in America, is a leading figure in the field of PI and has produced a wealth of research- based literature. Epstein appears to focus on a socio-ecological approach which has links to Bronfenbrenner's 'meso-system'; relating to ecological theory and the interrelationships between children, peers, family and school (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, cited in Doherty & Hughes, 2009). She argues that society has "overlapping spheres of influence" connected to education. These 'overlapping spheres of influence' are within schools, families and communities (Epstein et al 2002). She puts forward the term 'school, family and community partnerships' and emphasises the idea of education and socialisation being a 'shared responsibility' between these 3 agencies. (Epstein et al 2002).Epstein sets out a comprehensive, multi-dimensional framework, highlighting six main types of PI: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community. Her book - 'Schools, Family and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action'- gives detailed definitions of each type and the challenges that go with them [see Epstein et al. (2002) P 14-15] She suggests that categorising possible contributions in this way can help to accommodate all social circumstances, therefore allowing all parents to become involved in their children's education (Epstein et al., 2002). On the other hand, it is unrealistic for all parents to want or be able to become involved in all six of these areas and Epstein advises schools of the need to tailor this paradigm in order to meet the individual goals and needs of the parents, pupils and schools.

Epstein intonates that PI is likely to be more successful when promoted as part of a whole school initiative, in correlation with the goals of the school. For instance, if the goal of the school for a particular year is to improve achievement in maths, she recommends that any participation should be conducive to this goal. It could be said that this also helps to convey the message that parents are important and part of the school plan. She talks of an 'Action team' of representatives involved in any partnership and recommends a yearly review of goals. In Scottish schools, it might make sense to try and tie this in with any existing parent councils. There is, however, research (Henderson & Mapp, 2002) which shows formal PI is likely to include middle class parents, with working class parents more inclined to be involved at home. The Henderson & Mapp study focused on a sample of American parents but nonetheless, these results might question the extent of which parent councils in Scotland are representative of the diversity in Scottish society. The Scottish Government has perhaps tried to address this issue by making all parents automatic members of a 'Parent Forum', allowing them to approach the Parent Council at any time to raise concerns regarding school issues. However, there appears to be no studies in Scotland at the moment attempting to find out if all parents are satisfied with the Parent Forum/Council set up. This may be an area for further research within Scottish schools.

This said, Epstein's theory and model appears to be consistent with Scottish Government guidelines on PI. Despite the fact that it is written by an American and therefore more likely to be aimed at American Policy, it does seem to promote the aspects involvement that have been emphasised in the Scottish Parental Involvement Act (Learning at home, Home/school partnership and Parental representation), it does give emphasis to partnerships with parents and community as advocated by CfE (Scottish Government, 2008) and it does seem to be adaptable to the differing goals and interpretations surrounding PI.

A Psychological Perspective

Hoover- Dempsey & Sandler (1997) whilst acknowledging the impact of social interactions, highlight a psychological perspective.They conducted a study into why parents become involved (or not) in their children's education; three psychological 'constructs' are identified. The first is parents' 'role construction': this takes account of what parents actually believe their role should be in their children's education, including activities and time spent with their children learning. The authors suggest that this is likely to have been influenced by parents' own experiences of school and how involved their parents were. The second is parents 'sense of efficacy': this is defined as the extent to which parents believe they can make a difference to the outcome of their child's achievement by being involved in their education. (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997) It could be argued that school-based practice can make a difference to negative attitudes by educating parents about the benefits of contributions. A study, carried out by the Scottish Executive in 2005, found that Scottish parents were happy to maintain a 'supporting role' in their children's education and felt that it was the teachers who should have the 'principal role'. However, it also concluded that many parents were unaware of the potential positive impact their involvement could have on their children's education. They may also often be unaware of schools expectations of them regarding involvement issues such as homework (Deslandes & Rousseau, 2007). Perhaps if parents were more aware of their 'potential impact' and of what schools expect, they might be inclined to want more involvement. Maybe in order to promote PI effectively, schools need to try harder in attempting to get this message across to all parents. This is consistent with be the view of Harris & Goodall (2008) who ask the question "Do parents know they matter?" They concluded the above article by stating that effective parental involvement will not happen unless: "Parents know the difference that they make, and unless schools actively reinforce that 'all' parents matter". (Harris & Goodall, 2008, p.287).

Finally, the third construct identified by Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler is: 'general invitations, demands and opportunities for involvement'.This relates to how parents perceive their involvement to be wanted by the school and the child. (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). Although the attitude of parents towards the school is very important to the successful promotion of PI, schools should not underestimate the influence of the attitude of the school towards parents. They need to attempt to reach out to all parents and provide opportunities for involvement.

This theory/model stresses the need to consider the beliefs and attitudes of individual parents and the roles they construct for themselves .The model was revised in 2005 and identified a need for a distinction to be made between PI at home and PI in school when considering the above. (Green et al., 2007).The Scottish Government also appears to acknowledge this distinction (Scottish Executive, 2006), indicating that schools should promote involvement at home and at school, in an attempt to accommodate the roles that parents feel most comfortable with.

Differing perceptions

The above serves to highlight what might be seen as a criticism of Epstein's framework. It could be said that although her theory provides a very useful model for participation, which promotes a multi-dimensional approach, it could be interpreted as being very 'school focused' and perhaps does not pay enough attention to the needs and perspectives of parents or how they perceive their role within the school and their children's education. Barge & Loges (2003); Lawson, (2003); Poulou & Matsagouras (2007) and Harris & Goodall (2008) all give emphasis to the differences in perceptions of PI between teachers, students and parents. While most studies found that all parties agree it is important that parents are involved in children's education, Lawson (2003) concluded that the ideas of what this involvement should entail were significantly different. Crucially, Barge & Loges warn of the dangers of assuming that all parties are on a par as far as parents and involvement is concerned and point out that: "The differences among these groups' expectations can influence the success of implementing parental involvement programmes," (Barges & Loges, 2003, p.142).Some might say that this points to a need for individual schools to adopt a 'collegiality' approach and engage in discussion and collaboration with parents, teachers, and students where appropriate, about the goals of the school and expectations of any PI policy or activity.

Communication

Experts agree communication is critical to the success of PI (Epstein et al. 2002; Desforges, 2003; Hughes & Greenhough, 2006; Harris & Goodall, 2007; Katyal & Evers 2007) and there are many issues surrounding it. It is beyond the parameters of this paper to even attempt to address them all. However, while maintaining a focus on 'basics', it is thought the following is pertinent to promoting PI effectively in primary schools.

Before going any further, it might be useful to consider the meaning of 'communication'. Katyal & Evers (2007) acknowledge the complexity of this word with regards to interpretation. It can simply mean: "the giving or exchange of information, signals or messages" or on a deeper level it needs to account for: "the effect the message has on the receiver" (Berger 1995 cited in Katyal & Evers, 2007, p.67). It could be said that all schools need to contemplate the latter if PI is to be promoted effectively. Superficial communication is unlikely to instil the trust or mutual respect that is required for building solid relationships.

Hughes & Greenhough (2006) found that schools on the whole are good at giving information to parents regarding activities and events but are less inclined to ask for parental perspectives or opinions. They compare their findings with the views of Hallgarten. He intonated that information in schools was designed to: "Increase the flow of information from school to home" rather than "promote communication between home and school" (Hallgarten 2000 cited in Hughes & Greenhough, 2006 p. 472).This is suggestive of a lack of regular 'two-way' communication; perhaps indicating that strategies enabling information from homes to be communicated to the school are not being considered enough. Katyal & Evers (2007), point out that teachers may gain valuable information, about their pupils, by communicating with parents in informal situations. It could be said that in order for this to happen, teachers need to give parents the impression that they are approachable and available; they have to be visible. Hence, a simple strategy might be for teachers to spend 5 or 10 minutes in the playground before and after school. Once or twice per week could be enough to initiate some valuable 'two-way' communication with parents .Some schools also hold 'parent breakfasts' which the head or deputy attend. This also promotes 2-way communication in a more informal setting which makes the management team visible to parents.

A decade into the 21st century and some might say it is imperative that schools consider the use of technology to promote communication and involve parents. Clay (2005) stresses the importance of teachers moving with the times and finding ways of integrating the use of technology to communicate with parents. She cites school web sites, interactive home-work web pages, phone calls, online learning plans and digital portfolios as ways of keeping parents informed using technology. The Scottish Government also appears to see the potential in using technology to enhance communication with parents and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) identifies this as 'good practice' within the 'glow' ICT initiative starter pack (HMIe, 2010). Glow is a new ICT initiative in Scotland, forming a national intranet that will help with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. The pack notes indicate that the use of 'glow' has: "real potential for improving home-school communication........and, most importantly, allowing greater parental involvement in their children's learning". A future area of research within PI in Scotland could therefore involve determining the scale of impact 'glow' has had on improving PI in schools. Of course an ethical consideration would have to be that not all parents have access to a computer.

As parents develop busier lifestyles, and at a time when teachers also appear to struggle to find the time to do all that needs doing, Graham-Clay (2005, p 123) cites a valid point made by Brewer & Kallick, (1996): "Technology also holds promise to allow teachers communication opportunities not limited by school hours or location."

Perhaps, most noteworthy for the effective promotion of PI, Graham -Clay also warns of the need to: "retain a human touch".

Conclusions

It is hoped that this review has offered a fundamentalist view on how PI can be promoted more effectively in schools.

PI is multi-dimensional in nature and should be guided by the needs of individual schools, parents and pupils, as well as research and government legislation. What is therefore deemed to be effective for one school working with parents may not be for another. It is accepted that this review is perhaps critically limited due to the above, as well as the fact that the criteria surrounding it (set word count) did not make it possible to address the wide array of more sophisticated factors (such as cultural differences, language barriers and socio-economic status) that can impact on efforts to include parents. Whilst recognising the above, the paper took the stance that there are however, basic matters regarding PI which demonstrate commonality in all schools and it is often said that attending to the basics is the key to success.

Agreement between all parties concerned, regarding a definition of PI and the roles within it, could be considered a fundamental issue in promoting it effectively. With regards to defining it, the review indicates that schools need to consider that it consists of various dimensions. There are the dimensions set out by policy, which schools are legally obliged to address, and there are dimensions put forward as a result of research. In Scotland, policy sets out 3 broad dimensions: 'Learning at home', 'Home/school partnerships' and 'Parental representation'. However, research shows that there are many optional dimensions (for example, Epstein's 6 types of involvement) that can be applied under this obligatory umbrella and it is these optional dimensions that can be tailored to suit individual needs and goals within individual schools. This could help promote parental participation to greater effect because a wider variety of dimensions increases the potential to accommodate the diverse circumstantial needs and interests of parents. Epstein's framework might be of interest in Scottish primary schools because it does appear to be consistent with national guidelines and policy on the subject.

PI should be promoted in partnership with schools, parents, pupils and communities. The emphasis Epstein places on partnerships with parents and outside agencies is also a stance adopted by the Scottish Government, as well as many other international Governments. However the word 'partnership' is an example of some of the ambiguous language used surrounding this subject. If not handled carefully, this ideal has the potential to cause tension. The review indicates that perceptions of the concept of 'involvement' amongst parents, teachers and pupils can vary significantly. This could potentially have a detrimental effect on promoting it in schools. For these reasons it is important that each establishment collaborates with parents and pupils to reach a consensus regarding the definition of PI, the roles within it, what goals are hoped to be gained from it, and what partnership status should mean in individual settings.

A 'whole-school' approach should be adopted to promote PI. Literature suggests that it is more likely to be successful when strong commitment and support is evident from local authorities and management, as well as teachers, parents and pupils. All staff in schools have a responsibility to make sure that parents know the benefits of involvement, also that they perceive their contributions to be wanted and valued. Successful relationships are more likely if the views of each party are represented and listened to. The best way to do this may be to set up a committee group that is representative of all the agencies involved. In Scotland, it would perhaps be possible to merge this with the existing parent council, although schools might want to consider if the parent council has the capacity to be representative of the views of the majority. There appears to be no research in Scotland relating to how successful parent councils are at representing the diversity of parents in Scottish schools.

Deeper, two-way communication is crucial to the success of PI. Evidence suggests that many schools interpret communication simply as keeping parents informed and do not seek strategies which encourage parents to communicate with the school. If communication is only ever on a superficial level then it is unlikely that effective levels of trust and respect will develop between teachers and pupils. Informal situations can provide the best opportunities for deeper levels of communication with parents. However, in order for this to happen, parents need to perceive teachers to be approachable and available and teachers need to make themselves visible to parents.

Modern technology such as mobile phones and computers offer creative ways to encourage more 'two-way' communication with parents that does not encroach on class time. On a cautionary note though; schools need to remember to maintain a 'Human touch' with parents.

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