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Classroom performance and academic achievements are significantly influenced by the extent to which a child’s parents become involved in school life, and the interest they take in their child’s education. Simply by being aware of their child’s progress and understanding their achievements, parents provide additional motivation for their child to work hard in class. However- in order to establish and maintain this interest, there needs to be regular and reliable communication and sharing of information between the teacher and pupils’ families. Class teachers must create an effective partnership by providing an open and communicative environment with its wider community, forming a link between the classroom and the home.

So how can teachers begin to involve parents more in the learning process?

In the past, messages from the school to the home relied heavily upon ‘pupil post.’ Frustratingly for teachers and parents, numerous painstakingly, handwritten letters rarely arrived home in one piece, with many not showing up at all. This method of communication provided a natural barrier to developing any sort of relationship between the school and the home, while the alternative face-to-face meetings are a logistical nightmare to arrange.

The good news is that it has never been easier to strengthen links with parents. Technology can play a key role in bridging the gap. Contact can now be established with parents, irrespective of location – so parents living apart, travelling or even parents living abroad, can be kept up to date with their child’s progress or achievements.

Apps such as Sharek, Class Dojo, Seesaw and many others are bridging the gap. Sharek meaning ‘to participate, share or collaborate’ in Arabic, is the region’s first learning application, dedicated to transforming the communication loop between teachers, students and parents. These applications are designed to give families an immediate and personalised window into their child’s school day, which is much more effective and efficient for teachers than the traditional paper-based parent messaging system.

Parent feel included in their child’s education and classroom community. Teachers are able to instantly share what is going on in lessons and give timely feedback about students’ work.

Full visibility of a child’s interests, strengths and commitments – as well as information about school events and developments – put parents in a stronger position to help their child’s learning, and ensure children get the most out of the education system. With all of the improvements in communication occurring in the rest of the world around us, parents quite rightly don’t just want blanket whole school emails or letters; parents want to know that their child matters and is, therefore, more interested in personalised communications that are directly related to their own children.

The benefits of this approach are wide-ranging. Communicating on matters relating to homework and passing on details of achievements and rewards can generate positive relationships between home and school and helps combat the negative image of schools contacting parents only when things go wrong. Sharing information regularly about a child’s progress enables parents to develop a clearer appreciation of their child’s true strengths and weaknesses. Parents can be notified earlier in the learning process, should their child be experiencing difficulties or problems. Ultimately, allowing parents to monitor and take part in their child’s education means they can reinforce the standards set by the school, helping raise standards of overall attainment.

Parent co-operation and support can make a real difference to how children see themselves as learners and engage in learning. Regular communication about the child’s individual development and achievements is a key component of successful partnership work and an area in which schools can either enhance their reputation or leave themselves open to criticism. Schools have the opportunity to build great parent relationships by engaging families in the learning process from the very beginning.

By: George Stokes

George is currently the Head of Innovation at the Arbor School. Around three years ago, he built his own learning platform called Sharek, which is now widely used across the UAE. George was a finalist in the Middle East Education Influencer Award 2018.