Parents Involvement in Education - Why it Matters and What You Can Do

by - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Children whose parents are involved in their formal education achieve higher academic success. Various studies have proved this theory, and I'm sure everyone reading this feels it's important to know how well our children fare at school.

While most parents would like to be involved in their child's education, many of us wonder how we may find the time or in what ways we could participate. We may also wonder what real benefits stem from our increased involvement to see whether it seems worth the increased pressure on our time and resources.

In this article, I hope to explain the benefits of parent involvement in school education, and how even busy working parents can contribute so their children can reap the rewards.

How parental involvement produces better students

Studies have shown that the more parents participate in their children's education - at every level - the better for educational achievement. Particular benefits which have been identified include:
  • Higher grades and test scores
  • Better school attendance
  • Long term academic achievement
  • Positive attitudes towards education
  • Positive behaviour and increased social awareness
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
Family participation in education is twice as indicative of achievement than socio-economic status which instantly dispels the myth that children of wealthy families are more likely to be successful than those from less well-off backgrounds. 

When considering all of these positive benefits, we have every reason to increase our involvement, but what are the best ways we can do this?

Foster an effective learning environment at home

Providing a supportive home environment for learning helps reinforce the formal teachings of the classroom and helps education become a more rewarding, enjoyable experience for our children.

A paper published by the Michigan Department of Education suggests six key ways in which parents can establish an effective home environment which supports children's education:

  1. Establish family routines such as quiet place and daily time for homework, rules for bedtime and effective division of household chores. 
  2. Monitor out-of-school activities to ensure children don't indulge in too much screen time and are engaged in productive extra-curricular activities which support learning outside the classroom.
  3. Model the value of learning, self-discipline and hard work. We are our children's primary role models, so in exhibiting these values in real-life situations by continuing our own learning experience we steer them towards nurturing these valuable qualities. 
  4. Express high but realistic levels of achievement appropriate to age and ability. Children develop a sense of pride in realising they can achieve goals previously thought unattainable, particularly when we praise and support them in such endeavours.
  5. Encourage children's development/progress at school by demonstrating that you are actively interested in what they are learning and being prepared to support their learning at home. It's also beneficial to discuss potential career/further education opportunities and maintain contact with teachers/school staff.
  6. Encourage reading, writing and discussion among family members - parents who read themselves and especially those who participate in reading activities with their family help children develop valuable literacy skills with lifelong positive consequences.
Studies show that parents' active participation in educational activities with their children has a great impact on achievement. Try discussing homework with children; make use of online educational resources together; make suggestions and ask reflective questions rather than simply checking that homework has been done or correcting mistakes. Enjoy educational activities as a family, such as trips to galleries and museums (which need not be expensive), and discover ways to make learning fun.

Such qualities not only contribute toward academic achievement but reinforce a sense of closeness with our children.

How to be more involved at your child's school

There are many ways in which even busy parents can be involved in the school environment, though many parents don't know how they may participate, or even if their children's school would welcome parental involvement.

Essential participation should of course include parents' evenings and any official meetings organised by school, such as those organised when children begin attending primary school or graduate to secondary education. 

All schools are required to communicate regularly with parents, via letters sent home regarding important announcements or activities; regular newsletters, or even text messages to convey important information (such as school closures due to bad weather).

Similarly, parents are expected to convey important information about their child to school, such as absence due to illness or medical appointments they are required to attend. 

Most schools welcome more active parental involvement in other ways, such as advocacy, decision making and oversight roles, volunteering, and as para-professionals who can add to the value of school life. Here are a few examples of how schools encourage parental participation:

Parent Governors

Almost all schools in the UK operate a board of governors to which parent governors may be elected. Becoming a parent governor is a hugely rewarding (though voluntary) position through which you can learn a great deal about how your child's school operates for the benefit of students. It does require a deal of commitment and some formal training, though if you have the time and inclination I highly recommend it! 

Take a look at the National Governors Association website for further information or apply to be a school governor online via the Department for Education.

Parent Teacher Associations

Many schools have Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) which are groups made up of parents, teachers and often other members of the local community. PTAs provide a range of opportunities for parents to be actively involved in school life, many of which do not take up too much time.

PTAs may focus on different types of activity, which may include:
  • Fundraising opportunities for school activities or improvements
  • Social events to help parents (and teachers) get to know each other better
  • Meetings to inform parents about educational issues
If your child's school has a PTA, ask about participation or simply turn up to a meeting to get involved. Even if you're unable to spare the time to volunteer your services, it's helpful to learn more about how school operates and what events may be happening.

Volunteering to help at school

Some schools provide opportunities for parents to help in the classroom (such as helping primary-aged children with reading activities), on school trips, or with after-school clubs and activities. 

The increased support provided by an extra adult can be greatly beneficial to pupils, while parents can use such opportunities to learn more about classroom learning. 

Depending on the level of involvement with children, the school may ask for permission to conduct a police background check before allowing you to volunteer. Ask your child's teacher or the school office for information about potential opportunities or if you'd like more information.

If you really don't have much time to spare...

Schools recognise that parents may have many commitments to work and family; while participation is encouraged, it is by no means expected beyond attending progress meetings and important communications.

Even the busiest parents can still find ways to be involved in school, by:
  • Dropping children off a few minutes early so there's time to greet (or even have a quick conversation) with teachers
  • Attending class assemblies or open days
  • Try to learn the names of teachers (not just the ones who teach your children) and greeting them whenever you see them
  • Send short notes to your child's teacher if an opportunity arises, perhaps to explain how much your child enjoyed last term's class project or that you enjoyed being able to discuss progress after parent's evening
By being present at school regularly, if only for brief periods of time, you can help your child realise that home and school are connected and that education is an important part of family life. Getting to know your child's teachers helps establish methods of communication between home and school: this enables any potential issues to be dealt with promptly and provides opportunities for praise of progress and achievement.

Further reading

I've recently read two books which I think offer particularly good advice for parents who wish to be more involved in their children's education.

Calmer, Easier Happier Homework by Noel Janis-Norton focuses primarily on establishing good homework habits for children aged 4-14, and offers practical advice for home-based involvement in education. I'll be writing up my review of this excellent book shortly.

Top of the Class by Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim provides insight into the methods used by Asian parents to help their children succeed at school. This book focuses on a broader range of techniques and includes many suggestions for improving home-school relations for parents who seeking solutions to help their children achieve their potential.

Of the several papers I read in preparation for this post, I've found these to offer the most practical advice:

What do you think?

As a busy work-at-home mum with a toddler in tow, I completely understand how difficult it can be to find the time to be more involved in my older children's education. However, I'm also fully aware of the difference this makes to my children's attitudes towards learning and feel strongly that I should at least try to.

Do you have any further suggestions for how parents can find ways to be involved in their children's education? Have you personally experienced the benefits of a more involved approach to your son or daughter's learning experience?

Please feel free to leave your own comments and suggestions below - I'd love to read any more ideas suggested by Glamumous readers!

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  1. This is an excellent post. We (the royal we) have recently become much more involved in our children's education, previously thinking that education was the school's responsibility. For all the reasons you mentioned, that is not the case and I now feel it is mainly up to the parents.