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Parental engagement

Helping parents to support their children’s learning.


Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning, and levels of parental engagement are consistently associated with children’s academic outcomes. Schools and early years settings can support parents to engage with their children’s learning in a wide range of ways, for example, by:

  • Critically reviewing how they work with parents, to plan and monitor parental engagement activities 
  • Providing practical strategies to support learning at home 
  • Tailoring school communications to encourage a positive dialogue about learning, and;
  • Offering more sustained and intensive support where it is needed.

Guidance Reports

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Toolkit strands

Evidence Summary

Although the association between parental involvement and a child’s academic success is well-established, evidence in our Toolkit suggests that there is surprisingly little robust evidence on which approaches are most effective in improving parental engagement, particularly for disadvantaged families.

Schools should therefore monitor their parental engagement activities carefully, and first consider alternative strategies that have a stronger evidence base. For example, if a school is struggling with literacy, improving literacy teaching – for which there is good evidence – might be prioritised before embarking on a new parental engagement programme.

The EEF has funded trials of fourteen projects focused on improving parental engagement. Some completed projects - such as Mind the Gap, Parenting Academy and SPOKES - aimed to engage parents in workshops or training, where they received advice on how they could support their children’s learning, and/or undertook activities together. In each case the study found that participation rates were low and that it was very difficult to attract and retain the parents at the sessions.

In the case of Parenting Academy, the standard provision was compared with a version that offered parents financial incentives to attend. The incentives did improve attendance rates, suggesting they may be an effective way to engage and retain parents in interventions of this type.

These studies did not find impacts on children’s attainment, although there is promise of a longer-term impact for SPOKES, which we are exploring further.

Another EEF-funded project, Texting Parents - which aimed to engage parents using text messages about dates of upcoming tests, whether homework was submitted on time, and what their children were learning at school - found a positive impact on maths attainment at GCSE, and a reduction in absenteeism. Although the impact is small, the delivery costs were very low (£6 per pupil), which suggests that this could be a cost-effective and promising approach. This is why it is listed as an EEF Promising Project.

Further detailed guidance on how to support parental engagement in order to improve learning may be found in the Working with Parents to Support Children's Learning guidance report. 

Promising Projects

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The Working with Parents to Support Children's Learning guidance report offers four practical and evidence-based recommendations on engaging parents with their children's learning and is available to download here.

Our YouTube channel features discussions on the evidence presented in each of the Toolkit strands.