Are you confident that parents understand the academic performance of their child? While parents may have felt they had a good understanding of their child’s progress, the changes to primary education over the last few years may have left them a little confused.
With the new freedoms to how schools can teach the curriculum and the removal of national curriculum levels, parents and teachers have had to get to grips with new systems and terminology in a short space of time. The result is that many primary schools are facing a radical re-think about how they communicate a pupil’s progress to parents.
To explore how schools are communicating pupil progress to parents and how this is evolving, we undertook research with parents and primary school teachers. We surveyed 1,014 parents of primary school children and 850 state primary school teachers in England, at the end of the summer term 2016. The survey made for some interesting findings around the types of information parents would like to receive and how they would like to receive it.
What do parents want to know?
The vast majority of parents think schools do a fantastic job, but the research suggests that many want more nuanced information about their child. For example, over half of parents (57%) feel that primary school reports are either too generic or do not contain enough information about how their child is doing. More than a third of primary school teachers (35%) agreed with this sentiment.
Whether it’s written reports, parents’ evenings or an email sent home, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ways in which schools can communicate with parents. With primary schools now recording more information than ever before about the children in their care, there is a wealth of information that schools could be sharing with parents.
Surveying teachers and parents in parallel revealed some interesting differences in perspective on this. Most teachers (79%) think that their schools provide the right amount of information to parents on their child’s progress and yet there is still a third of parents (34%) that say they do not receive enough. Parents vary in how much information they expect from their school.
Child’s happiness is key
The research also provided an interesting insight into the type of information parents of younger children would like to receive from their child’s school. Three-quarters of parents (74%) stated that it was very important to have information on happiness and confidence. However, less than half (46%) of parents reported actually receiving this type of information. Teachers too felt information on a child’s happiness was crucial, with 75% stating it was very important for parents to have this information.
Teachers can just as easily record information on whether a child helped a friend in class or is working hard on a particular project – details that are often just as important to parents as assessment results. By asking parents what they want, schools can actually stop collecting unnecessary data and just focus on the bit of information that really help teachers in class and those that give parents a more rounded picture of their child’s progress.
The impact on workload
Headteachers we have spoken to, however, are mindful that improving reporting and other forms of parental communications should not increase teachers’ workload. The technology is available to primary schools today to help achieve this and this is something that teachers are aware of. Our research shows that 85% of teachers agreed that progress-tracking technology positively impacts on their workload when it comes to monitoring pupil progress.
With the latest technology, schools can record a wider range of information than ever before, including information on softer skills such as effort, behaviour and participation in class. With a tablet device, teachers can easily record grades, comments, strengths and next steps for pupils as it happens, in class.
Technology can also provide an easy and cost-effective way to send information home to parents. According to our survey, over half of parents (63%) said that their child’s school does not offer pupil progress information via text but over a third (33%) would like their school to offer this. Similarly, only a third of parents (33%) surveyed receive their child’s pupil progress information via a mobile app or portal and 36% would like to see this offered.
Communication that works both ways
It’s clear that parents want a more personalised approach to reporting and communication and it seems that simply providing marks, levels or grades is not enough. Above all, parents want to know whether their child is happy and confident in class.
While reporting and parental communication is a time-consuming task, there are ways that schools can use technology to help them speed up their reporting without losing the personal touch. Recording ‘good news’ moments on tablets, and exploring data for evidence of personal and social development are examples of this.
Good communication is the basis for effective home-school collaboration, and when parents and schools work together, children receive the support they need to thrive and grow at school.
To read the full survey report, click here