What stops parents from giving even more support to their children’s schools? Perhaps it is the hectic pace in their 21st-century work places. At the end of a long day most parents have little energy left.
There are also parents who feel unsafe travelling to school at night and leaving their children unattended at home. As a result, many schools are now having their meetings in the late afternoons or even on Saturday mornings.
Ten tips to increase parents’ support:
- Welcome new parents with a function: At the start of a new year there are always new parents, especially in grades R, one and eight. Have a ‘Welcome to our school!’ function or braai.
- Write a weekly newsletter: Such a newsletter can help parents become aware of and interested in what is happening at school. Make the newsletter cheerful and invitational in tone. Fill it with good news about what is going on at school.
- Ask: ‘Can you help?’ Every family has expertise or skills to give to the school. Send out a questionnaire indicating areas in which the school would welcome help. But also invite parents to state whether they have skills or areas of expertise that would benefit the school.
- Have an active Parents’ Association or Parents-Teachers’ Association: These give parents the opportunities to meet each other and the staff. Meet regularly and ensure that the meetings end with refreshments and time for social chats.
- Set goals and targets: Make parents’ attendances at PA and PTA meetings worthwhile. Set goals and targets such as building a new classroom or upgrading the grounds, for example. Working together on a project brings parents together.
- Have socials: Parents enjoy meeting each other socially. Have social activities where folk can relax with events such as bingo nights, dances, fish and chips suppers and golf days.
- Celebrate and respect cultural diversity: Families need to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable, whatever their culture. You might like to have events that celebrate different religions and get the respective families involved. Ensure that the food at the tuck shop and at functions caters to all cultures found in the school.
- Make the School Governing Body visible: At the heart of a quality school is good governance. Parents on the SGB are the official voice of the parent community. Let the governors be well known to parents through frequent verbal and written reports.
- Invite involvement in school activities: Encourage parents to help with school activities. Schools benefit hugely from parents who assist at sports events and concerts. There are parents who help every week in places such as the outgrown-uniform shop and tuck shop. They will give generously — and for free — of their talents and time.
- Remember to say ‘thank you’: Parents’ contributions are to be appreciated. Remember to send a thank-you note or letter. Pick up the phone and give a verbal bouquet. Acknowledge them in the newsletter and at the actual events. At the end of the year, you could have a “thanks a million!” night. It is time to tell parents how everyone is grateful for all their valued support.
It is impossible for the staff of a school to provide quality education all by themselves. They need willing hands, heads and hearts to help them. Parents can give that invaluable help. Invite them on board so that, with the staff, they will take the school to new heights of educational excellence.
Richard Hayward is a former principal. He is editor of Quality Education News (QEN) published under the aegis of the South African Quality Institute For free downloads, please go to myschool.co.za Click on ‘Services’. Otherwise, go to saqui.co.za and click on ‘Education’.