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.

Spring Into Action

Over the last few months the Opportunity Area Partnership Board have approved a number of new OA projects. Including, awarding the Research School funding to deliver two key programmes in 2018/19; Leading Learning: Develop an Evidence-Informed CPD Approach and Effective Use and Evaluation of the Pupil Premium. The Research School will also be supporting Derby’s schools in 2019/20.
The board discussed an opportunity to secure Arts Council funding for the city over the next three years, which would help to sustain its ‘This is Derby’ activity and approved a proposal to support students transitioning between primary and secondary schools, more details of both programmes are given below.
We’re pleased to announce that the Board also approved the new Derby OA logo. The winning entry in the design competition came from Ravensdale Junior ScFinal logo JPGhool and has been digitised by a student from the University of Derby. For a copy of the logo please email
There’s been a lot of activity on our Emotionally Healthy Schools Project recently and training has now begun for Designated School Leads for Mental Health (DSLMH). 94 schools have signed up to the programme and 44 have already have started their DSLMH training. Thanks to all schools who provided input into the web portal consultation. A service specification has now been drafted in line with the findings of the consultation and will go out to tender in the near future.
The OA transitions working group has developed city-wide transition arrangements for Year 6 pupils moving into Year 7 in 2019, including common transfer days, improved information sharing and support for vulnerable students. With the purpose of beginning the important dialogue between primary and secondary schools, a transitions information exchange event took place on Thursday 4th April. 400+ students so far have completed the Year 7 survey of their transfer experience. Responses are providing a wealth of valuable information and will ensure that the student voice shapes the work.
We’re also working on improving the recruitment and retention of teachers in Derby’s schools. Over 100 interviews took place recently for this year’s Derby NQT Pool, with over 70 trainees now looking to start careers as teachers in Derby. Further interviews will be taking place in March which may add more candidates into the pool. The Board also recently approved funding for a new recruitment and retention project, Teach Derby, which will be starting later in the year.
The Family Engagement (FE) Next Steps Careers Fair in Normanton on 28th February was a resounding success. There was a great turnout of over 100 young people and their families. Employers ranged from the Police and Fire Service, to Rolls Royce and Bombardier, all providing information on career pathways and apprenticeships. Primary FE activity continues with a full day event held on 2nd April, for all primary school FE leads participating in this OA project. This networking event provided an opportunity to share good practice with the aim of creating a shared vision across the city that will lead to increased engagement between schools, families and local communities.
Through the Essential Life Skills programme, we allocated £1m of funding to schools across Derby, based on a pupil premium formula, to delivery activity to support the development of skills such as confidence, resilience and teamwork. Schools have told us about the fantastic range of Essential Life Skills work underway across the city, So far over 860 sessions have been delivered to 4,023 students. 1565 (39%) of these were eligible for pupil premium.
In addition to schools funding, the ELS programme awarded £1m of funding to Derby County Community Trust to lead a consortium of sport, art and culture organisations to deliver ELS activity to young people across Derby, focusing in nine specific wards, with an additional hub targeted at children and young people who attend special schools. Over 1,600 children and young people have engaged and activities over the last month and activity will continue for the remainder of this academic year. For information on activities happening in your area please email

Summer is here

It feels like we have made a number of big steps forward since the spring. During 2017/18, we delivered a number of small-scale primary programmes, covering phonics, maths, reading and comprehension, and a programme on EAL leadership. Encouraging progress has been made in many of the participating schools. We will be running similar programmes in year 2 and targeted at similar numbers of schools.

At secondary, we have also delivered programmes in maths and English and are working closely with Chellaston Academy, helping to plan Chellaston’s strategic school improvement fund activity that will support secondary schools with maths and English throughout 2018/19.

The Board has approved three significant activities, which will start from the autumn term:

  • Targeted Student Support, aiming to reduce the number of school moves made by secondary students in years 10 & 11;
  • Family Engagement programme to support families who find it hard to engage with their child’s education, starting with secondary schools; and
  • Emotionally Health Schools, a proposal aligned to the mental health green paper to support school leaders to develop policies and supportive environments conducive to positive emotional well-being.

We have allocated our Essential Life Skills funding, including a large grant to a consortium led by Derby County Community Trust, a number of small grants to providers working with Derby’s schools and schools, academies and Derby College have been notified of their Essential Life Skills allocations.

We have also awarded a number of collaborative science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) grants, which will deliver a range of activities that help schools and learning providers to improve outcomes for STEAM.

Our SEND peer review pilots have been succesful and we will be rolling out the peer review programme from the autumn term.

The OA Board has seen some changes and we are delighted to welcome three new appointments, Angela O’Brien, Debbie Gerring and Simon Carnall.

We would like to wish everyone across the city, especially those working with Derby’s children and young people, a relaxing and enjoyable summer break!

Derby OA Board activity

The Opportunity Area Partnership Board met on 7 June to discuss a number of proposals for new activity in the city.

The Board approved funding for a new 2-year scheme of Targeted Student Support, aiming to reduce the number of school moves made by secondary students in KS4. Students who change schools during these critical years have some of the worst outcomes in our school system, and we want to help them either to “stay put” or to make the transition successfully. The programme will include mentoring, support for transition and induction, and stronger protocols between schools so that the best solution can be found for each student. Landau Forte College will be co-ordinating the development and delivery of this programme for secondary schools.

Funding was also agreed for a 2-year Family Engagement programme. Parents and families are a vital support for pupils and we want to support families who find it hard to engage with their child’s education, starting with secondary schools. Building on the success of recent pilots, the heart of the programme will be community-based education events which will take place in local community venues with translation and other support on offer. At the same time we will launch a local media campaign to provide information about education in Derby in a number of languages, encouraging parents to get more involved. Bemrose School will be co-ordinating the development and delivery of this programme for secondary schools. The OA Board is keen to develop a similar approach for families with children in primary school and a working group is now developing ideas.

The Board discussed a proposal to help schools provide greater support for pupils’ mental health. The Board recognised the growing, significant need in this area, and liked the ambition of the proposals, but felt it was important to see the Government’s response to the recent Green Paper consultation on mental health before taking a decision. The response is due very soon and the Board wants to ensure that OA activity is aligned to any national policy announcements.

Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths (STEAM) Innovation Fund

In the delivery plan for Derby Opportunity Area, our Chair, Kath Mitchell, set out her vision for Derby as a centre of excellence for education and employment in Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) subjects. As part of that the Board has approved a fund offering grants up to a maximum of £25k for a range of activities that help schools and learning providers to improve outcomes for STEAM including:

  • Providing a positive image for children and young people in STEAM subjects.
  • Improving academic outcomes in STEAM subjects and especially improving outcomes for disadvantaged young people in STEAM.
  • Striving for a better gender balance in children and young people following STEAM subjects.
  • Engagement in additional curricular experiences in STEAM.
  • Improving school and college based teaching and learning in STEAM via CPD and links with industry.
  • Creating positive pathways in STEAM, for example, through STEAM information, advice and guidance for young people.

Further information about the grant fund can be found at