Increasing Family Engagement in Derby

Written by Ellen Wilkinson, Deputy Head Teacher at The Bemrose School and Programme Lead for the Family Engagement Project.

The family engagement programme is focussed on increasing and improving communications between target schools and local families, specifically by designing school-led activities that reach out to families in order to make all aspects of a child’s schooling more accessible to their parents/carers. The programme aims to address the issue of low levels of family engagement and strengthen the working partnership between home, school and the child to support a common understanding and approach to education.

A core focus of this work is the co-ordination and promotion of school-led community events which aim to provide basic information, such as transport, timetables and uniform, right through to supporting children with homework and revision and addressing barriers to learning. Each of these events will be held in venues within the local community in an attempt to break down the barriers to attendance by hosting events in familiar surroundings which are easier to access for many families.

The ‘Raising Aspirations Careers Fayre’ in Normanton, on 28th February was a resounding success.  The event was a collaboration between the Family Engagement programme, This is Derby, and Jacqui Kinch, Enterprise Coordinator across Derby City Schools. There was a great turnout of young people and their families, with over 100 people attending the event. There was a real, positive vibe throughout the evening with young people and their families asking sensible, realistic questions regarding their futures.

The aim was to raise awareness of employment pathways and apprenticeships with a variety of different companies from the local area in attendance.  Employers ranged from the Derbyshire Police and Fire and Rescue Services, Rolls Royce, Bombardier, Flowerworld and Joined up Care Derbyshire, amongst others, who provided information on apprenticeships and careers pathways. ‘This is Derby’ and ‘Tarmac’ kindly donated two iPads which were given away to two lucky families in a prize draw.

Three local schools: City of Derby Academy; Merrill College; and The Bemrose School were involved in the planning and coordination of the event along with Derby City Council. The Family Engagement team and the Derby City Council’s New Communities Achievement Team worked hard to encourage the young people and their families to attend. The New Communities Achievement Team also supported the event by providing translators speaking Slovak, Czech, Latvian and Polish. It was the first time we have held an event in the communities we are specifically targeting, and it was really pleasing to see so many people attending. Some students do not realise just how many opportunities are open to them when they leave school and so events like this help them to understand the different directions that they can go in.

Following the success of the Raising Aspirations event, The Bemrose School held its first parents evening in the community at the Apna Madeley Centre, in Normanton, on the 14th March. The decision to take parents evening into the community was made to remove barriers, such as transport and childcare, which can prevent parents attending. Staff from The Bemrose School, were available to the parents of students in years 7 and 10. Translators were also provided by the New Communities Achievement Team.

57% of year 10 families and 56% of year seven families attended – a significant increase on previous parent’s evenings. As a result, the process will now be rolled out to parents of different year groups.

We know that parental engagement is hugely important to the success of our students and understand that there are many reasons some of our parents don’t feel able to participate. Some will have transport or childcare issues, some don’t speak English confidently enough and others will have had a poor experience of education themselves, so don’t have the self-assurance to return to a school. We know that parental engagement in their children’s education is key to improving attainment. By encouraging a demonstration of a parent’s interest in their child’s education we believe our pupils will have a greater chance of success.

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