It is a common observation in teacher circles that everyone knows best when it comes to education (this is often accompanied by eye rolling). After all, we have all been a student at some point in our lives. And whereas once upon a time, parents would enrol their children at a school and then let their teachers get on with it, we have seen a steady increase in parents being actively involved in their children’s education.
The COVID school lockdowns certainly gave parents new insight into what their children were learning at school and the sort of support each of them needs. Being responsible for supervising their schoolwork and even for direct instruction in some cases meant that parents could see where their children lack confidence, where they have developed methods of avoidance and may experience specific problems with learning. This has led, on one hand, to greater recognition of the challenges of being a teacher and providing all the support that all the children in the class require, and on the other, to louder parental voices asking for more and different learning interventions.
But even before COVID, teachers were seeing a rise in parental involvement. This increased engagement comes in part from greater community understanding of special learning needs and the mental health needs of young people. It is also driven by the widespread (paradoxical) view that while children’s future careers are likely to be much more diverse than those of their parents, they also face much greater competition. For a long time, teachers have been saying that they are preparing their students for jobs and careers that have not yet been invented – and the truth of this is starting to be evident. Given how much uncertainty has been circulating in the past few years, it is not surprising that there is greater anxiety about how best to prepare children for their futures, and in the face of anxiety, parents have a tendency to want to take control.
However, there is actually a very positive side to this. At Cluey, we constantly hear from parents who want their children to have a better foundational education than they had and more choice for their future. We talk to parents who recognise their children are not best served by conventional methods of teaching and learning and want them to be better catered for and better supported. Above all, there is a widespread rejection of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning.
The research resoundingly endorses parental involvement. It is clear that partnerships between parents and educators provide the best outcomes for students. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and are involved in their child’s education. Parental involvement gives children the support to keep learning past the school gate and, indeed, throughout their lives.
At Cluey, we see parental involvement as a very valuable part of learning. Parents have the insight and empathy that allows them to identify that their child requires greater support, whether it be to fill learning and skills gaps, for greater academic challenge or because they need a boost in confidence. Parents also want learning to be fun. I hear frequently from parents that the cookie-cutter education that they themselves received didn’t really help them to enjoy learning, an attitude that continues into adulthood. At Cluey, we know that if students enjoy their tutoring sessions, not only are they more likely to look forward to their next session, they will remember more of what they studied, be more likely to participate in class at school, and more likely to seek out other opportunities to learn in the future.
The modern involved parent is less like the stereotypical ‘tiger parent’ of popular culture than you might expect. While they may well be ambitious for their children, parental ambitions refer less to their offspring doing better than other children and more to them developing the skills that will enable them to grow and thrive. They want their children to know how to learn, to develop metacognition and the capacity to be lifelong learners. Because, as the world continually shows us, the best way to prepare for an uncertain future is with an education that teaches you to be an adaptable and continuous learner.
Dr Selina Samuels is Chief Learning Officer at Cluey Learning