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Avoiding problems

Getting it right with Parental Involvement can be quite a challenge. Whilst it is important that you will inevitably be drawing on your own background and experiences, you have to keep in mind that your involvement has a specific purpose. Where that purpose is to support a specific child, the outcome is clear. However, where the purpose is to represent others we can often fall into the trap of unintentionally excluding part of the parent community by not considering their needs.


Another problem can often be how much ‘help’ you give. It’s very easy to do too much as a keen parent. The skill is to deliver exactly what the school has asked for. To go beyond that, without consultation, can be undermining. 


I have a saying:


‘It’s a wise school that knows when to ask for parents’ help. It’s a wiser parent who knows when to stop.’


Parents and school leaders should also be aware of the impact that one group of parents can have on others. The running of PTA events provides a perfect example. PTA members are usually well educated and have highly developed organisational and networking skills. In research published in 2000, Gill Crozier found that many parents who were not as at home in the school environment, compared themselves with the PTA members who were seen as the public face of the school, and concluded that the school wasn't really interested in them. They had an apathetic approach to letters sent home about school policy, whereas the 'supportive' parents responded thereby increasing their level of influence and widening the feeling of alienation.


Obviously, this isn't the case in all schools, but it should act as a reminder to school leaders that all parents are members of the school community. Those parents who have a role that bears on other parents should be mindful that their actions need to include the wider parent body.


As an illustration, imagine that you have asked a group of pupils in the playground to organise an activity and in their enthusiasm they inadvertantly exclude a small group of pupils. How would those excluded pupils feel? Sad? Dejected? Probably. And if it happened repeatedly? Frustrated? Alienated? Resentful?


Adults have emotions as well. We should always be mindful of the needs of the wider school population, be they pupils or parents.