Inspiring Schools is a new series on the Creative Education Blog where innovative and exciting ideas and projects undertaken by schools will be highlighted. If you school has done something to be proud of and you’d like to share it with the world please email Pooky at email@example.com
This post was written by Jodie Collins. Jodie was the winner of the Becta Next Generation Learning Award for London and the South East in the 2010 Teaching Awards. She is currently ICT, Enrichment and G&T Co-ordinator at South Rise Primary School in Plumstead. You can view Jodie’s website here.
South Rise Primary School Parental Engagement Project
Parental engagement was proving a challenge
When the new headteacher, Mrs. Mathison, started at South Rise in September 2007 Parental Engagement levels were low. many parents did not cross the boundary into the school playground and therefore did not interact with other parents or school staff.
A vision of a changed culture
Mrs. Mathison had a vision to improve this and change the culture of the school to include parents more. She devised, alongside the Home School Coordinator, the idea of running a project where children and parents worked in school together in order to blur the boundaries.
So what kind of project to do and how? Mrs. Mathison approached me for help. At the time I was in my first year of teaching and taught Year 3. But I was also Enrichment Coordinator for the school. Enrichment happens every Friday afternoon (another of Mrs. Mathison’s genius projects!) and all children from Key Stages 1 and 2 take part in activities while their teachers have their PPA time together. Activities range from Sewing to Tae Kwon Do and from Football Coaching to Film Club – with everything in between. Some classes are run by the school’s TAs and Specialist Teachers while others involve volunteers and specialists hired in from outside.
What Kind of Project would engage parents?
As I was very keen on exploring my knowledge of film making further and learning to use Windows Movie Maker for a more planned project we decided to invite parents to work with their children on a Friday afternoon to make a video about the Enrichment programme. The finished video could then be shared with other parents and interested parties via the school website and Plasma screen in the foyer.
An 8 week video project
So we started an 8 week project. We collected school digital cameras together every Friday lunchtime and in the afternoon the parents would arrive and have training sessions with me teaching them how to use the cameras – what kinds of shots are effective, how to review photos and change settings. From the basics up!
They then planned as a group and decided on what kind of video they wanted to make and what message they wanted to convey. None of them had really understood what happened on Friday afternoon until their first session of wandering round and they were all impressed and wanted all parents to appreciate the work and enjoyment happening every Friday.
The parents learnt fast and were completely engaged
They went on to take photos and videos of Enrichment every Friday afternoon until they had enough material between them to make their final videos. We then hired an ICT suite at the local CLC in order to use Windows Movie Maker to create their finished product. The parents ICT skills base ranged from little to none but they all caught on fast and the focussed determination with which they worked was inspiring – for me, for each other and for their children working with them. When lunch arrived they ate sandwiches from one hand while wielding a mouse with the other!
At the end of the project, once they had all had a chance to make their own video with their children, we all worked together to create the final piece which you can view by clicking here .
We were so impressed that this is still one of our favourite school videos and all the parents who viewed it in the foyer love it. Children love spotting themselves in the photos and videos!
The project led to long term involvement from some parents
One of the parents involved then asked if she could be more involved in the Enrichment programme and became one of our volunteer helpers. She has since gone on to run her own Enrichment Sewing class single-handedly and since last year has been one of our governors. She comes to school every day and helps with Breakfast Club each morning and makes a fantastic contribution to school life.
We took further initiatives to involve parents
The Home School Coordinator followed the project with even more initiatives and along with the headteacher’s innovations Community Cohesion projects have risen dramatically. The school has a very successful Breakfast Club, Saturday School (where parents and children learn together), Easter school, Parent Toddler groups, Parent ICT lessons, Coffee Mornings and Job Seeking help sessions (to name but a few).
From the success of the video project more and more has been done using video and podcasting to increase literacy and ICT skills – find out more here.
You may also be interested in:
To find out more about Jodie’s involvement and roles at the school click here .
How to engage parents successfully in your school - a one day course from Creative Education
What is your experience of working with parents in school?
Has your school taken any innovative approaches to tackling parental engagement?
Could Jodie’s project work in your school?