Parent View and engaging parents

It is now well accepted that parental involvement at school benefits a child’s learning and wellbeing. However, the role of parents in their children’s education as equal stakeholders has not been fully recognised.

Ofsted has been slowly involving parents in their OFSTED inspections. To that end they have developed Parent View, an online questionnaire for parents to give their views on their children’s schools.

Yesterday they launched a toolkit for schools to help them promote Parent View and engage more parents.

So this is a rather good opportunity to take a look at the platform – is it a useful tool for parents and schools or just a bureaucratic gimmick and a waste of money?

When Parent View was first launched almost two years ago, it received a cold welcome from the teacher community, while the National Union of Teachers expressed their concerns about the actual purpose of the questionnaire.

Parent View is a simple tool, where parents are asked to give their view on the following 12 questions, from ‘strongly agree’ through to ‘strongly disagree’.

  •     My child is happy at this school
  •     My child feels safe at this school
  •     My child makes good progress at this school
  •     My child is well looked after at this school
  •     My child is taught well at this school
  •     My child receives appropriate homework for their age
  •     This school ensures the pupils are well behaved
  •     This school deals effectively with bullying
  •     This school is well led and managed
  •     This school responds well to any concern I raise
  •     I receive valuable information from the school about my child’s progress
  •     I would recommend this school to another parent

These questions touch issues that really concern parents – quality of teaching and care, dealing with bullying, and ultimately creating a safe learning environment for children to learn and flourish. These are hot topics that we are all discussing in informal as well as formal settings.

The answers to those questions could potentially draw a picture of the school and the environment in which the children spend a big chunk of their day. But can this questionnaire provide an accurate and fair description of a school?

The Teacher Union claims that Parent View is open to abuse by angry parents. Although some parents may see it as an opportunity to express their anger or dissatisfaction with the school, I do not believe that they have the critical mass to skew the results.

I think the main problem is the platform’s limitations. Given that this questionnaire can only provide qualitative data, it does not really provide a context for interpretation.

In addition to that I have some issues with the actual questions. Are the parents well equipped to judge quality of teaching or appropriateness of homework? Can they really comment on school management? The answer to both questions is most probably not.

Engaging with the parents is crucial. Their feedback and insight can really benefit a school, but I cannot see how Parent View can help schools improve their teaching and provision, as it can only provide fragmented information if not of dubious credibility.

I am a firm and passionate believer of involving parents in a child’s education. Parents can provide   useful insights and support teachers. Schools ought to engage with them in meaningful ways and seek their feedback. After all, we, teachers and parents, are on the same side – we care about the children, their wellbeing and education and want the best for them.

But I don’t think Parent View provides a platform for engaging the parents and allowing them to express their views. It is a rather rushed and certainly not well-thought attempt to tick the box labelled “parental involvement”.

Parent View can only provide a superficial outlook of a school, which may well be inaccurate. This certainly defies its original purpose and the DfE’s intentions.

Have you been asked by your school to fill in the Parent View questionnaire? What are your thoughts?

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