Supporting Parents to Support Children: Raising attainment and enhancing equity report

The Chartered College of Teaching will host a webinar on Tuesday May 17th from 5:30pm until 6:30pm. They will be joined by both researchers and some of the teaching staff involved in the With Others We Succeed (WOWS) Consortium of Wigan to discuss the WOWS report, produced in 2020, on how to engage with parents and/or carers to encourage them to help their children’s learning. Graham Herbert, one of the project researchers, discusses the activity.

Following the impact of COVID-19 on children’s learning, the findings of this report are as relevant today as they were when the report was first written, if not now more relevant. The WOWS Consortium consists of 17 primary schools, including a school catering for children aged 2-19 with a range of diverse needs, including severe learning difficulties (SLD), that have worked collaboratively and voluntarily for a number of years.

The Consortium has developed a way of working based upon collective observations, a spirit of trust and professionalism, the sharing of good practice, the challenging of assumptions, open dialogue and mutual respect. Following on from the highly successful WOWS Marking Project Report (DfE, 2018), a number of colleagues began to apply a similar approach to other areas of teaching and learning, most notably, helping parents and carers to help their children learn and enhance equity.

The data about educational attainment in England shows one thing particularly clearly: where you live, and your social background, affects your life chances. Education has an opportunity to change that for the better, but all too frequently education doesn’t remove social difference, it reproduces and reinforces it.

Many parents want to support their children’s education, but schools are not always able to supply the information, guidance and support which enables this to happen, and some parents lack the confidence to engage with their children’s schools in areas such as mathematics and phonics. We send our children to school so that they can learn that which is not readily intuitive. However, if those new found skills, understanding and knowledge are not applied or supported in life away from school, it is unlikely that they will become embedded. It’s not all about ‘making sure they do their homework’ (although that’s important), it’s about conversations at home, listening to things on the radio, watching things on screen, reading more widely, and so on, applying those cognition skills to life outside the classroom.

This report presents the outcomes of the research project. It provides an overview of the context, approach, key findings and conclusions of the project. This is augmented by the inclusion of individual case studies provided by each of the schools taking part, along with posters that summarise their individual projects. These are offered as a support for other schools considering issues around parental engagement, in the hope that that they will find some similarities with the schools taking part in this project and the ways in which they addressed the issue of parental engagement.

But research on this topic suggests that knowing what to do and when to do it really matters; it’s on this that schools themselves need to develop and share good practice.

What information do parents need about their children’s progress? When and how should it be given to them? What action can they take? These are all vital questions. And some things have been done which really help parents with their own learning – English lessons for parents who speak a different language at home; maths catch-up for those who want to develop their skills at the same pace as their children; access to services which help with family problems. And two further issues: some parents want to help the aims of the school, but do not know the detail of what they can do.

One of the results of this project was to develop a school ethos that genuinely embraced parents and carers, enabling them to have a positive impact on their children’s learning, to overcome the barriers to that learning and have a positive impact upon their children’s attainment.

The approach taken by the WOWS schools can be widely replicated regardless of the size of the institution, its location or phase. It shows that research does not have to be on a grand scale to have impact. This report and the Chartered College webinar will show that a research-based approach, conducted in a trusting and professional community, can make a difference, not only to pupils, but to teachers, support staff, parents and carers.


DfE (2018) Reducing teacher workload. Project reports for the teacher workload research projects.