The underlying idea behind Parent View is still a good one – that it should inform school development. In order for that to happen schools have to accept that for one reason or another, some parents will disagree with the way certain things are done in your school.
In any healthy relationship an amount of disagreement has to be accepted. Schools have to accept that and make it very clear to parents that you welcome their views, regardless of what they are. You also need to make it clear that you would welcome parents with any concerns to contact you as soon as possible. We would suggest very strongly that the quality of the first contact any parent with a concern has with the school is vital. It will set the tone for what follows and it is essential that they feel they are being listened to and taken seriously – so perhaps some key training identified here.
So given that there is almost certainly going to be a bit of turbulence in the quality of relationships, the important point is what the vast majority of parents think.
We are suggesting that schools can pre-empt Ofsted’s Parent View by asking parents to complete their own version but phrasing the questions in such a way as to be useful to school development and Ofsted when they arrive. Below, we recommend which questions should be removed and give examples of questions which can be used constructively by the school.
‘My child makes good progress at this school’ ‘
‘My child is well taught at this school’
‘My child receives appropriate homework at this school’
‘This school is well led and managed’,
‘I receive valuable information from the school about my child’s progress’
Replace them with:
‘My child understands what she/he has to do to improve in all subjects’.
‘This school provides me with regular opportunities to support my child’s learning.’
‘This school helps me to understand the important role I have to play in my child’s education.’
‘I have received clear information about the school’s approach to home study and information about tasks set are communicated to me in advance.’
‘I am provided with advice about how to help my child consolidate learning.’
‘If ever I am confused about something that is happening in school, I find it easy to phone someone to get an answer".
Openness is the key to this exercise. Ofsted are insistent that surveys should be anonymous. We would suggest that schools that are not trusted by parents to such an extent that parental surveys will only be submitted anonymously, have serious problems. The real problem lies in the misconception that parents don’t trust schools.
School leaders need to think about this carefully when they consider how to approach parents and ask them to submit a survey. You also have to make it clear when you have acted upon parental concerns. When you have undertaken this exercise for the first time, make sure you include a question such as ‘My suggestion for improving the school is...’ and then make sure that you follow up on the most popular responses, let all the parents know that you have done it and are grateful for their input.
In order to make the best and most effective use of these questionnaires you need to know who the parents are so that you can monitor the views of parents from key cohorts. If it’s an annual survey you conduct online you could compare the last survey each parent completed and compare it with the new one. This would enable you to chart any changes in opinion and perhaps identify issues within specific year groups that need your attention.
A breakdown in relations between school and parents is most frequently caused by a lack of communication. Make sure you get the communication right.