During Parent Partnership visits, the question of seeking parent views is often raised as a topic of discussion.
It can be a seasonal event, the sending out of the Ofsted questionnaire to seek parent opinions about the school. The return rate is often poor, when schools are asked and the outcomes often less than useful. Equally, not every school is good at reporting outcomes from questionnaires. The longer the questionnaire, the longer the set of answers needed, which doesn’t make for easy reading.
Instead of sending out a long questionnaire, sometimes several pages of questions, why not tailor a few questions each month, related to the school development agenda, recruiting parent views on areas that are of mutual interest. If you are considering changes in some areas, over time, focus on one at a time and ask questions that have obvious utility. Schools send out regular newsletters, so these can be on tear off slips, or filled in electronically through the website, prompted by text messaging.
At parent’s evenings, a single question at the door could have green and pink post its, to quickly capture positives and areas for improvement.
Feeding back to parents can often be a significant missing element within what can seem like high quality communication.
A number of schools are now using a form of “You said, we thought, we did…” as a way to report to parents the outcomes of comments from parents. Where this happens, parents value the obvious two way nature of the dialogue, even if the issue raised has not resulted in immediate action. To understand the school rationale and possible limitations in decision making is purposeful.
The “You said, we thought, we did…” response can be shared back via the newsletter or website, or, as I saw in one school, on a parent notice board. In all cases where this is an obvious feature of school life, parents comment on the very good nature of communication.
This is such an easy tweak to make to school life, yet can have a significant impact on relationships.