Schools use various digital platforms to inform and communicate with current and prospective parents. These tools include, but are not limited to websites, social media and online newsletters. Your school’s website is a ‘virtual window’ into your school and is the prime location for public advocacy and information.
Competition between schools to attract new students is only increasing, with academic achievements, school profile, geographic location and other benefits used as enrolment incentives. As school websites are often the first port of call for parents when researching potential schools, it is important to understand the best ways to design a website that is useful to parents and also maximises the chances to maintain and increase student enrolments.
In order to understand how your school website can be utilised to improve parental involvement in education, we need to consider two main aspects. Firstly, the definition and scope of parental involvement in a child’s education should form the basis of your school website’s content. A framework by Epstein (2010) outlines six key areas of parental involvement:
- Learning at home
- Decision making
- Collaborating with the community
The second aspect is the functionality of your school website with respect to how it addresses the six key areas of parental involvement. Today’s article is the first in a series that will examine ways to facilitate and enhance parental involvement through use of school websites.
In part one, we focus on the using parent portals to improve parental involvement in education.
Part One: Parenting
Your school should help families establish positive learning environments at home that support children as students. Likewise, the school should actively encourage learning and understanding of its families.
Established ways that schools communicate with parents about positive home environments include:
- Periodic one-on-one meetings with teachers
- Distribution of information via handouts given to children
- Special days that celebrate cultural awareness and diversity
- Special days that celebrate children’s talents and interests
However, with increased work pressures on one or both parents, it is not always possible to be fully involved in such activities. Not all parents are able to attend meetings in school or who can conveniently and actively contact teachers. Thus, improving information exchange between your school and parents is desirable, often resulting in an increased awareness of:
- Families’ backgrounds, culture, goals, needs and views of their children
- Student diversity
- Families’ strengths and efforts into improving their children’s education experience
Your school website is an excellent way to establish open communication channels that encourage dialogue and information exchange between the school and parents, as well as amongst parents of classmates. The availability of your school website ensures that parents always have an avenue to communicate and share information, regardless of their working hours.
Exchange of information regarding children must be safe and secure in order to protect a child’s rights and privacy. As such, a restricted membership-based section of your school website such as a parent portal is an ideal way to facilitate information exchange.
Parent portals are commonly used to provide information about student records, attendance, timetables, announcements and upcoming events. However, parent portals can be extended beyond these functions to provide additional functionality to encourage information exchange:
- Direct messaging between teacher and parent
- Forum for parents to communicate with each other
- Digital storage of photos and videos relating to each student’s family life
Such facilities encourage parents to become more proactive in their child’s education. Improved parental engagement is not only of great benefit for children, it also strengthens teacher-parent relationships and paves the way for these relationships to turn into partnerships.
Little Munchkin Digital can design and build customised parent portals for your school website to suit your school’s unique needs. Find out more about our parent portals.
Epstein JL, Sanders MG, Sheldon SB 2010. School, Family and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook For Action, 4th edn, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks California.