The issue of truancy for New Zealand schools reared its head again at the end of 2017, with attendance rates falling even further than previous years. The Ministry of Education reported the number of students regularly attending school fell from nearly 70 percent in Term 2, 2015 to 67 percent in the same period last year. Only 55 percent of Maori students were regularly showing up and 57 percent of Pacific students.
Increasing parent engagement and involvement at school and the wider school community is one way to help reduce truancy rates. Tai Tokerau/Northland Principal’s Association President, Pat Newman mentioned in this Radio NZ article that, “If you haven’t necessarily had a successful education when you were a pupil, then perhaps you don’t see it as important when you are a parent.”
This highlights that some parents may feel alienated, distrustful or disconnected with the school community. This should be of concern to schools, that parents who are involved in school life are more likely to be supportive of their child’s education and have better relationships with teachers.
Could your school put in more effort to include parents?
The key influencing predictor to parent support of their child’s learning is not parent or child behaviour or attitudes, but the school’s behaviour and attitude. When parents feel that the school is actively involving them, they generally respond by becoming more active in their child’s education.
Does your school have the right attitude to involving parents? Does it have an accommodating organisational structure? Are you using effective communication methodologies with your parents?
It is the school’s role to help parents feel welcome and to find a place in the school network where they feel valued and will make a positive impact.
However, even though some parents want to play a part in their child’s school life, they may not know how to contribute.
There are many different roles for parents to become involved that they may not be aware of. This is where strong communication between schools and families is essential.
Clear, effective communication between the school and parents will help to inform them of opportunities to contribute to the school and feel like the school really wants them to be a part of their community.
If cost and time consumption of regular communication to parents is a barrier, there are many technological alternatives to traditionally expensive letters, phone calls and paper notices.
Instant messaging apps, SMS integrated email and mass text messaging systems are popular, low cost communication options that schools across New Zealand are utilising to keep parents in the loop about school involvement opportunities.
Making parents feel more connected and involved with the school community can have a positive impact on their child’s education and relationship with the school, which is one way to help improve truancy rates in New Zealand.
To learn more about effective parent-school communication and strategies to involve parents at school, download the white paper: Upholding a Child’s Education – The Three-Legged Stool Effect.