Global Day of Parents: working with parents to improve school attendance

Global Day of Parents: working with parents to improve school attendance

News article from June 1, 2023

At School-Home Support, we know that parents want the best for their children but that pressures at home can sometimes stand in the way of getting their children to school, ready to learn, every day.

Our School-Home Support practitioners work with the whole family to address barriers to good school attendance, and that includes building open and trusting relationships with parents that allows practitioners to provide the support families need, when they need it. By listening to parents, we can strengthen the bridge between home and school and deliver the best outcomes for children both inside and outside the classroom.

Although our practitioners are referred to work directly with individual young people, the support they offer extends far beyond this, working with family members including their siblings, and their parents or carers. Our latest data report shows that in the most recent Autumn and Spring terms, our practitioners have delivered support to 3833 individual family members, and wider reach support to 6,116 family members.

Rachel’s parents were struggling to engage with her school because of challenges at home

10 year old Rachel lives with her parents and her two siblings in Blackpool. Initially, Rachel was referred to School-Home Support because staff at school were struggling to contact mum and dad, and wanted to make sure everything was okay at home.

At first, School-Home Support practitioner Lisa reached out to mum over the phone, and began to have regular calls that helped to build up a relationship and to reassure mum that she had someone she could talk to without fear of judgement. Once a trusting relationship was established, Lisa was then able to make home visits, which allowed them to have more honest and open chats about everything going on for her at home.

Mum explained to Lisa that she suffers with a range of physical health issues and cannot get out of the house easily, relying on Rachel’s dad as her carer. This has had a negative impact on her mental health and she suffers periods of depression where she worries she cannot be a ‘proper’ mum to her children. Lisa was able to make referrals to mental health support for mum, which helped mum to feel that she could trust Lisa to help her access the right support for her and her family.

In time, the family also opened up to Lisa about how much they were struggling financially due to the cost of living crisis, and that they were finding it harder to keep on top of rising costs for essentials like school shoes and warm coats. Lisa was able to apply to the School-Home Support Welfare Fund to purchase the items they needed. Mum then confided in Lisa that their washing machine had broken and as they weren’t able to purchase a replacement, they were struggling to keep the children’s uniform clean ready for school. Lisa was able to purchase a new one through the Welfare Fund, taking significant pressure off the family as they prepared for the school week ahead.

Working with Lisa has helped Rachel’s parents to develop a much healthier relationship with school, which in turn has supported Rachel and her siblings to thrive at school and at home. Where mum was previously reluctant to allow school to support them by paying for school trips and events, she is now happy to let them, now that she feels more connected to the school community and knows there is no judgement.

Breaking down the barriers to communication between home and school helped Rachel’s parents feel empowered to make positive changes for their children, and remove some of the stigma they felt about asking for the support they needed.

We spoke to Mikael Cohen, our Parental Engagement lead at School-Home Support, about the importance of working with parents to improve school attendance.

How do School-Home Support practitioners work with parents to tackle poor attendance?

“They support parents with attendance in a multitude of ways. For example, providing financial support for travel costs for families who have been moved away from school, or making home visits and working with parents on morning routines to improve punctuality. They also work with schools to monitor persistent absences and make contact with these families to offer support and guidance. Our practitioners are experts in attendance support, and so can share with families information about attendance fines or other legal proceedings specific to their local area. The School-Home Support Welfare Fund is an essential resource for practitioners to purchase items for families that directly impact attendance, such as beds and mattresses that ensure children have a good night’s sleep ready for school in the morning.” 

Why does good parental engagement work to improve attendance?

“Good parental engagement will improve the relationships parents have with the school and allow less confident parents to feel welcomed and more involved in the school community. When parents are better connected to their child’s school and learning there is more opportunity for information sharing, meaning that parents better understand the negative impacts of missing school and can take a more active responsibility for their child’s attendance, knowing that the school community is there to support them.”

Is getting children into school solely the parent’s responsibility?

“While in the legal sense, it is the parents responsibility to get their children to school, it takes support from the wider community to help families tackle the issues they are facing that impact on their children’s attendance. The fallout from the pandemic has had negative impacts on attendance patterns and families need more support and guidance. Schools are an important part of providing this but they need additional resources to provide this support, as just having an attendance officer in school often isn’t enough.”

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