Head Teacher Scott Pennock says that consultation needs to be as wide as possible:
“You’ve got to be very wary of running your school only to please the parents who will respond to a survey. You wouldn’t be running it for the whole school, you would be running it for a much narrower demographic of parent. They’re great and these are really supportive parents, you want them to be part of the school, but you want others to come in as well.”
Wallace High School staff have started to deal with this by gathering information from various sources:
“I think what you need to do is use all your intel, use your family link workers’ conversations, use your conversations at the school gate, use the conversations at the readmission from exclusion meeting, where somebody’s telling you what the barriers are. Get as big a suite of information and then use that to inform your policy.”
This broad approach means that staff are able to hear the views of families they may not have heard from before. Scott feels that it’s well worth thinking about the quality of information you are able to gather.
“Sometimes it’s about the quality of information that you get from fewer parents in one community, rather than the volume you would get from another one. This might help to more fully inform your practice.”
Wallace High has a parental engagement group which aims to work with the parents and carers whose voices are often less represented. The group began when a PE teacher contacted some parents about their children and went on to “ask them if he could come out to their home and went out and asked them a few things, and had a really good chat about barriers.” Now the school has in place an ongoing programme which aims to speak to parents in their own communities. Scott describes how the network has made a difference to the school:
“The network gives us greater capacity to do things like outreach work, to touch base with parents that can’t make it in and can’t come to general events, but you are still getting their voice and their feedback. That’s the key, I think.”