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Partnering With Parents Part 2: Barriers To Engagement

confused parent helping child with homeworkThis is the second in a series looking at parental engagement in schools, covering both primary and secondary education.

Last week, we looked at a very basic outline of what parental engagement constitutes, why it is important, and acknowledging the fact that some schools have found it to be challenging. This week, we’ll be looking at some of the main barriers to strong parental communication, and invite our readers to discuss potential solutions.

Most of the barriers can be attributed to a few broad categories, the main ones being parental or child factors, parent-teacher factors, and societal factors. Most will fall into the category of parental factors; these are a few of the biggest and most often cited issues.

Negative school experiences
It’s not uncommon for an adult’s dislike of school to follow them through life long after they have thrown away their exercise books. It could be something as seemingly inconsequential as a negative experience with one teacher, or a more impactful ongoing experience such as bullying – particularly harmful if it was perceived that the school did little to intervene. This mistrust of schools and teachers can easily be passed on to their children, and fractured communication with the parents means the cycle is hard to break.

Cultural differences
The number of non-native English speakers continues to grow in a diverse multicultural society. While this brings an enriched environment to schools, it can bring challenges where there is a significant language barrier between parents and teachers. Parents may be quick to assume that their children will accurately relay messages from school, or perhaps not be confident enough to approach teachers to discuss any concerns.

In addition to language barriers, there is also the possibility that, having been educated in a different country, the education system that their child is in may seem completely daunting. It’s not always guaranteed that a parent will have the confidence to approach the school, especially if they worry about their lack of knowledge.

Time: a universal currencyburro
Even if there is a definite home-school communication structure in place, some parents find that time works against them. Between work, childcare, and other commitments, it isn’t always going to be straightforward for parents to allocate regular time to nurture a positive relationship with their child’s school. On the flip side, there is the chance that a parent has invested too much time getting involved in their child’s education, which can also cause communication between home and school to suffer.

Child factors
Barriers that stem from child-centric issues can sometimes be closely tied with parental issues, and other times completely independent. Family and home life can also impact a child’s behavioural conduct, eventually having an impact on parental engagement. This naturally becomes more of an issue at secondary school, where children are rapidly becoming aware of what their place is in the social sphere and peer pressure can quickly become an issue for students who don’t want their parents to be involved with their school life for fear of ridicule from classmates.

What about teachers?
It doesn’t come up as often as other factors, but a lack of time and absence of proper training on or awareness of parental engagement strategies are usually the main problems. Other concerns can often be closely linked with other factors, such as language barriers or societal differences.

Are any of these barriers something that you have come across in your career? Do you think any of the above issues are no longer relevant? We’d love to hear your thoughts either below, on social media, or via email.

Next time, we’ll be taking a closer look at parental engagement at primary school level.