Parents International was invited to contribute to the biennial conference of our partner, the European School Heads Association held in Dubrovnik on 24/27 October 2023. The title of the conference and the focus was School Leaders Making a Difference. This provided us with the perfect opportunity to showcase the outcomes of the Parents Engage project, offering ways for school leaders to support their teacher to become more inclusive with special focus on the inclusion of migrants – a hot topic everywhere.
How to engage parents and students in today’s school realities was the main focus of the workshop with a very high turnout of over 100 participants.
School leaders all over Europe are facing a multitude of challenges from the growing diversity of the student population to demands about changing curricula or teacher shortages that are also a main concern for the parents and family of their students. As a result of school closures, parents have a deeper insight into the schooling of their children that resulted in massive movements, primarily by parents with lower levels of education, to opt out of school and find pseudo-homeschooling solutions – a truly frightening development. At the same time, the percentage of students who regularly attend school and fail to acquire basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills is still growing in Europe. Boys are falling behind and dropping out of school. Research clearly shows that, regardless of their level of education or socio-economic status, parents have the largest impact on students’ learning outcomes by having a main influence on their attitude towards learning and school. At the same time, freshly conducted research from various European countries show that neither parents, nor schools are content with the level of engagement parents have with schools while this topic is largely missing from teacher training programmes.
In the first half of the workshop, outcomes of recent research and the tools developed in the Parents Engage project were shared. Apart from the inclusion highlight, research was introduced on the mismatch between schools’ and parents’ expectations and perceptions as well as possible solutions for engagement in shared leadership solutions that not only provide engagement opportunities for parents, but also for students.
The second half of the workshop served as a case clinic inviting participants to share their ideas on each other’s biggest challenges in parental engagement and also child participation.