How Can Education Settings Create Strong Relationships with Parents and Carers?

May 2, 2023

As we contextualise the landscape that we are now working in, it is no surprise to those working in education that education settings are having to rethink so much of what they do and have done in the past. Every inquiry we receive here at TICS describes the same challenges; a rise in pupils on an education, health and care plan (EHCP), a rise in pupil absence, a demise in pupil wellbeing and an increase in parents who are also struggling to manage. 

Research is clear; culture change fit for embracing the complexities that our children and young people face requires leadership buy-in from the outset. This buy-in prioritises time, cost and a desire to bring all members of the education setting community on a journey. 

In this series of posts, we’re going to be looking at how settings can make changes that support relationships with parents and carers. They can sometimes feel ignored, misunderstood and judged yet parents and carers form the relational web that supports and buffers the child or young person. A good relationship with parents and carers benefits the child and young person in a variety of ways. Alongside this, if you are a setting on the journey moving away from 'punishing' behaviour to thinking about behaviour as communicating something that can't be articulated in ways that we find easy to hear, parents and carers need to understand the 'why' as much as staff.

Today, we want to explore how education settings can work with parents and carers, eliminating some of the challenges that create further ruptures and in this example, build in capacity and sustainability for a good relationship for the duration of that relationship.

One of our associates, Amelia Brunt, shares her experience of a setting doing just this, focusing specifically on starting school:

“One school that I work with, like many, thought long and hard about how to welcome new starters and their families in during the pandemic, when transition visits were just not possible. They devised a transition package that supported families and children to develop a connection with the school despite the required physical distance. This package comprised of a ten week extended transition project to support families to feel welcomed and staff to get to know the families as best they could from a distance. The package included: 

  • Treasure hunts around the local area
  • Baking activities
  • Artwork related to family 
  • Artwork related to the colour of the uniform and school buildings

This project helped to support families to feel welcomed and staff to get to know the families as best they could from a distance. All activities completed were emailed into school and copious amounts of positive feedback and ‘thanks for engaging’ were shared by the staff in return.

What transpired was a shift in practice. Where previously there would have been a home visit and a school visit before starting, staff discovered that this extended piece of work was building relationships with children and families in far better ways than they ever imagined.The benefits were: 

  • The children arrived more settled and settled in more quickly
  • The parents and carers had already begun to develop a relationship of safety and trust with the staff and so information sharing and collaborative problem solving became a more natural approach more quickly
  • Children and families who might have SEND or developmental needs were ‘on the radar’ much more quickly so that work could begin to identify needs and implement appropriate support 
  • Families that couldn’t or wouldn’t engage were noticed and additional efforts were made to connect with them, in a non-judgmental, curious and supportive way. 

Overall, the benefits in relation to inclusive practice have led the school to continue with the project and enhance it year on year.”

This is such a good example of how a solution that was designed to respond to the pandemic, shifted practice in a substantial way that has continued well beyond a need for managing the physical distance experienced during covid. 

What examples do you have? Feel free to share them in the comments below and we can ripple ideas that enhance relationships, understand the impact of trauma and respond to adversity. 

We hope this article has been helpful and if you’re looking for any training or consultancy in your setting on anything mentioned in this article, please do contact Lyndsay, our Working Together Lead, on and she will help to support you on your journey.

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