We’re quite sure many a teacher, school receptionist or administrator has been there – lovingly planning a school event, gearing yourself up for a serious parent turnout, and having to rely on sending crumpled letters home with the pupils only to hope the parent will get the message. From sports day to parents evening, whether it’s educational or extra-curricular, getting the attendance and engagement you need to make a school event a success is always the primary challenge (after maybe getting enough chairs).
We tend to think the solution to this problem is quite a simple one – it’s all about great communication. If you can keep up a good, consistent level of communication with parents, get across the value of the event or activity and push the wider message of the school, you’ll build a group of parents that are evangelists for your school. They’ll attend every event, help out with trips, fund-raising, and be a valuable asset in the educational journey of their child and the wider school community.
So, how to solve this “simple” problem of communication? Here are 3 ways to increase parent involvement in school events and activities using a range of communication tools.
The traditional ways for a school to get a message or announcement out to parents – newsletters, website, even SMS messages – is decidedly one-way. You, as the institution, are broadcasting the information to the parent, with no real means of getting real-time, direct feedback and responses. This can – and most probably will – make the parent feel detached from the school community. Involving them in a two-way conversation is an effective way of making them feel more engaged. If they receive a message inviting them to a school event, and can practically instantaneously confirm attendance or get more information, you would expect a higher response rate. Think about the way people use Facebook events in their personal life – it’s a simple, easy way to invite a lot of people to something, quickly get a list of who’s attending, and get a message out to the group that people can respond to. Even if someone doesn’t attend, they’ll likely send a message explaining why – this sort of communication is still valuable. If you consistently invite a parent to school events without a two-way conversation, you may never learn that the parent can’t make it to things because of work commitments, or other issues. They will continue to feel disengaged and left out unless you take steps to rectify the problem. While you won’t be able to solve this for everyone, you stand more of a chance if you can do one simple thing – listen.
Develop a “marketing” plan
Think about a professional – or even personal – event you have been invited to. It’s very likely you received the initial invite, then one or two follow-up emails with more details of the event and a general reminder to you to attend. This type of consistent communication is what helps drive attendance and engagement – you feel informed, you know exactly where you need to be and when, and what is expected of you. Above all else, this type of communication is useful. In our busy lives, we can’t possibly remember all of our appointments and commitments. Giving our brain a nudge is helpful. While sending a few reminders will never guarantee 100% attendance from those that have signed up, it can certainly help to re-engage up some of the stragglers who might’ve have forgotten, or become a little less interested as the event nears. You might think this sounds like a lot of work – but if you use a tool that enables you to set up and schedule automated messages, it’s an absolute doddle to get everything in place ahead of time. All you need to do is decide on the frequency and content of the messages, set it up and let it run.
This is closely related to the first point in this article – in order to make sure parents get and stay engaged with activities within the school, you should try and make it as collaborative a process as possible. There’s no better way to make someone feel involved and embedded in a process than asking for their feedback and ideas, taking them on board, and putting them into action where possible. Putting this kind of feedback programme in place will bring the parents closer to the activities within the school. Not only will this improve parental engagement levels overall, it’ll also likely to enable you to create a group of parents you can rely heavily on to assist and help out with events and activities in the future. Once you have a group of parents on-board at this level, it’s easier to get more involved through word of mouth. After all, parents operate in their own communities in and outside of the school, something which you can’t hope to tap into without building your own group of parental evangelists.
Put it into action
We hope that this has inspired you to put together a more intensive and structured communication plan for your next school/parent event or activity. A parental engagement app like Weduc is the ideal tool to put this sort of strategy into action. Two-way messaging, news feed style sharing and automated message capabilities can help you build a strong communication plan for your school. If you’d like to chat further about how we could help you build an outstanding parental engagement strategy, get in touch.