Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

If You Really Want to Inspire Pupils, Meet Their Parents

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

If You Really Want to Inspire Pupils, Meet Their Parents

Article excerpt

Children may worship footballing superstars or admire world leaders but their real heroes are closer to home

Most parents don't play international football or lead millions of oppressed people to overcome injustice - but they are still the most inspiring people in their children's lives.

A survey for The Future Leaders Trust, which trains teachers to head schools in disadvantaged areas, asked 7- to 18-year-olds to name their biggest inspiration.

Superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was the single most-named individual celebrity - cited by 6.4 per cent of pupils - and finished above Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Lionel Messi and Nelson Mandela.

But they all trailed well behind children's own parents, with 34 per cent naming their mother among their top three most inspiring people, and 22 per cent naming their father.

Broaden their aspirations

Now Future Leaders wants to encourage headteachers to make the most of that inspiration and become more engaged with parents to improve education. "We believe that when children are inspired, they are more likely to achieve," said James Toop, who will become the charity's next chief executive officer later this year. "This survey's findings highlight the need for parents and teachers to work together to inspire students and broaden their aspirations for the future."

The trust is now calling on school leaders to work more closely with parents to help inspire their students. Here, three headteachers trained by the charity explain how they do it:

Rimah Aasim, headteacher, Worth Valley Primary in Keighley, West Yorkshire

Ms Aasim has prioritised working with parents, and arranged meetings with them before she had even started at the school.

"Parents and carers are the biggest ingredient in getting it right with children," she said. "They're their first educators, so schools have to work in partnership with them or the results for children simply won't happen."

Initiatives that she has introduced include:

Courses for parents on subjects ranging from support for autistic children, improving behaviour and adult maths and English.

Regular communication. "I call home, send postcards, meet them in the playground."

Inviting parents into school whenever a child reaches an attendance target and letting their child present them with a prize.

Providing cooking classes for parents and children to attend together.

Ms Aasim recognises that some parents are harder to engage than others - she has worked to reach these families by offering support on issues such as bereavement and attendance, and there is a weekly meeting with staff to identify families who might need help.

"We do phone calls, home visits and I give families food if they need it," she said. "For some, it's just about knowing what their issues are and pointing them in the right direction. "Sometimes they just don't know how to get help and they're afraid to ask. We need to make it clear that we're always here for them."

"Two weeks before I took up the post, I invited parents in to talk to me about the issues they had with the school, and what they wanted to change.

"It was a great way to kick-start my relationship with them, and for them to feel involved in the school, and that their views were important and mattered to me."

Craig D'Cunha, principal, Chantry Academy, Ipswich

Mr D'Cunha has introduced mentors and staff to work with parents and build relationships. …

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