Although the association between parental involvement and a child’s academic success is well-established, evidence in our Toolkit suggests that there is surprisingly little robust evidence on which approaches are most effective in improving parental engagement, particularly for disadvantaged families.
Schools should therefore monitor their parental engagement activities carefully, and first consider alternative strategies that have a stronger evidence base. For example, if a school is struggling with literacy, improving literacy teaching – for which there is good evidence – might be prioritised before embarking on a new parental engagement programme.
The EEF has funded trials of nine projects focused on improving parental engagement. Three completed projects - Mind the Gap, Parenting Academy and SPOKES - aimed to engage parents in workshops or training, where they received advice on how they could support their children’s learning, and/or undertook activities together. In each case the study found that participation rates were low and that it was very difficult to attract and retain the parents at the sessions.
In the case of Parenting Academy, the standard provision was compared with a version that offered parents financial incentives to attend. The incentives did improve attendance rates, suggesting they may be an effective way to engage and retain parents in interventions of this type.
These studies did not find impacts on children’s attainment, although there is promise of a longer-term impact for SPOKES, which we are exploring further.
Another EEF-funded project, Texting Parents - which aimed to engage parents using text messages about dates of upcoming tests, whether homework was submitted on time, and what their children were learning at school - found a positive impact on maths attainment at GCSE, and a reduction in absenteeism. Although the impact is small, the delivery costs were very low (£6 per pupil), which suggests that this could be a cost-effective and promising approach. This is why it is listed as an EEF Promising Project.
The EEF is currently funding two other trials of approaches that use text messages to engage parents in early years (EasyPeasy) and further education settings (Texting Students and Study Supporters), in addition to evaluating other more intensive approaches in early years and primary settings.