The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Keeping parent and carer confidence high on our agendas

Engaging with parents and carers is a vital component of the SEND Code of Practice 2015. Gareth D Morewood examines what strategies work well to ensure that it is still a key priority.

The Lamb Inquiry

Ever since the Lamb Inquiry into special educational needs and parental confidence there has been a renewed focus on engagement with parents and carers. However, despite this being an important part of the SEND Code of Practice and the Children’s & Families Act (2014), there are considerable ongoing tensions with the current SEND system and the engagement with parents/carers. In the Lamb Inquiry, Brian and his team reported on the following important aims for a good school and parent relationship:

  • a clearer focus on outcomes for the pupil
  • a stronger voice for parents
  • a more strategic local approach to SEN provision
  • a more accountable system.

One may argue these key points were the cornerstone of the recent SEND reforms. However, reports like the Driver Youth Trust Report, ‘Joining the Dots’, demonstrate that the reality is currently far from that aspiration. I think the stand-out quote for me was that the Joining the Dots report found that there ‘was a “systems level” issue involving “a lack of transparency and openness” about the services offered by local councils’. Not something to instil parent/carer confidence at a time of significant change in systems, let alone all the associated pressures.

Developing a confidence measure

A few years ago Dr Caroline Bond and I developed a parent and carer confidence measure and wrote about it in the Support for Learning Journal. Often I refer to this work during training and suggest that, in light of the earlier commentary, this is more important than ever. Maintaining a consistent and positive focus through all aspects of work within the school is central to creating and supporting a positive ethos, and helps to challenge stereotypes and raise expectations (Humphrey and Lewis, 2008). Some examples from our study include:

  • postcards home
  • text messages to parents/carers
  • letters and telephone calls to parents/carers that support and reward positive aspects of each student’s day
  • positive reward charts and target sheets linked directly into areas of challenge, with immediate short-term rewards
  • positive focus in training and development activities.

All of which should be key parts of a positive, inclusive school environment. Other key points from our work include:

  • keep parents/carers informed
  • make sure parents/carers know who to contact and how
  • provide honest communication (there is no long-term benefit in providing anything but the truth)
  • listen to parents/carers – give decent time to discuss things
  • try to avoid uncertainty or misinterpretation – be as clear and explicit as possible.

As I am often asked for the confidence measure you can now download it for free from my website; all we ask is that it is suitable referenced and cited when used in your schools/settings.

What to do next

Ask your parents/carers what they think and how they feel about provision. Then act upon the feedback and make improvements. Finding positive solutions can be hard in the current climate but I think we can make a massive different to some families with an open, honest and transparent approach. However difficult things may seem, the key for me is the importance of knowing your rights – this useful blog post from @ERA_tweet provides a helpful summary, along with previous SENCology posts regarding the law.

Positive engagement

Do you have the support and guidance you need to develop a long-term and positive relationship with your parents and help support progress across your school?

Register for our 'Positive Parental Engagement to Support Pupil Outcomes' conference on 21st March 2017 to engage with leading schools and practitioners, providing you with the knowledge and strategies you need to successfully involve parents in your school community.

References

Humphrey, N. and Lewis, S. (2008) ‘Make me normal’: the views and experiences of pupils on the autistic spectrum in mainstream secondary schools. Autism, 12, 1, 23–46.

Lamb, B. (2009) Lamb Inquiry: Special Educational Needs and Parental Confidence. 01143-2009DOM-EN. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

Morewood, G. D., & Bond, C. (2012) Understanding parental confidence in an inclusive high school: a pilot survey. Support for Learning, Vol. 27 No.2, p53-58 Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

 

Categories: 

Subscribe to Optimus Education's Blog

Join other educators and get the latest Optimus blogs direct to your inbox.
Your data is safe with us: Privacy Policy

Similar Posts

Gareth D Morewood

SEND is everyone's business

The best provision for SEND is only possible if the SENCO empowers all staff to take responsibility. Who knows when they'll have to steady the ship? Over the last five weeks I've suffered through an unprecedented period of ill health, the longest I’ve had in my 20-year career to date. Not only has...
Read more...
Gareth D Morewood

'On the back foot': a parent's view on choosing the right school for SEND

I spoke to one parent about their struggle to find the right primary school for their child on the autism spectrum. As a secondary SENCO, I am always very humbled by when talking to primary colleagues - especially parents and carers. I try to gather as much information as I can during conversations...
Read more...
Gareth D Morewood

How can we improve outcomes in a broken system?

The initial promise of the SEND reforms has been replaced with confusion, frustration and delays. The system works well for no one, least of all our children and young people. Back in September 2014, there was a lot of hope that the introduction of the SEND reforms would bring better outcomes for...
Read more...