The role of parents in education

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When your child goes to Primary School there are many roles you can play as a parent.  Find out what some of these are our Role of Parents article.

What role can I play?

While your child is at primary school you can play a large and important part in their education. The best way to make sure that their time at school is successful is by playing an active role in their schooling.

Your child’s learning needs to be a partnership and you’ll soon realise that you cannot just send your child out the door in the morning, hope they get all they need in the way of learning at school during the day and leave it at that.

Research has shown that the greatest factor in determining a child’s success at school is the amount of support they have at home (including whether education is highly valued in the family environment).

You need to value education and your child needs to see that you do. They need to realise that learning is important, that it can be fun and that it has to be done. Your child will look to you for acceptance and guidance with everything they do so your role in their education is more important than you may appreciate.

There are different ways you can help and play your part.

Covering the basics

There are some very basic steps you can take to help your child learn…they may seem like obvious suggestions but often the easiest, little things are the most important.

So that they are receptive to learning and can concentrate children need to:

  • Have had enough sleep: you need to make sure they don’t have late night after late night….especially on school nights!
  • Eat properly: they need a good breakfast before they go to school and have a good healthy lunch to take to school.
  • Have a water bottle to take to school (and check that they’re drinking from it!)
  • Get to school on time. Being rushed in the morning can disrupt a child’s behaviour first thing and ‘throw them’ which is not what you want happening before they start to learn for the day.

Talking to your child about school

Talking with your child about school is probably the best way to understand what’s going on during their school day.

If you pick them up from school you can have a conversation, in the car or as you walk, about what they did during the day.

You can ask questions like…

  • Who did you play with at morning tea and lunch time?
  • What did you play?
  • What’s one thing you learned today that you didn’t know this morning when you went to school?
  • What did you write a story about today?
  • Who did you sit with?
  • What was your favourite / most enjoyable thing that happened today?

You can turn this into a game and your child will then expect this in the afternoons and may even pre-empt it.

Ask also about any notices that may have been handed out. Often these can lurk in the depths of a school bag covered in yoghurt or banana skin if you don’t ask or look for them yourself!

Reports

Talk to your child about their school report. Get them to have a read of any comments the teacher may have made and ask what they think about it.

It’s important to let them know you are proud of them (and check that they are proud of themselves). Tell them it’s great that they are making an effort. Note any positive changes that have been noticed by the teacher since the last report. Is there anyone to whom they might like to send a photocopy of the report, to show them how well they are doing? Grandparents love this!

If the report is not so great ask them why they think that may be. Ask if there is any way you might help, or if they think there is any way they can change their behaviour or improve their practice. Talk gently to them about what the teacher has noticed.

Have regular contact with your child’s teacher

Keeping in touch with your child’s teacher is easy to do and will pay huge dividends. It helps to present a united front from time to time too!!

Every now and then pop your head into the class as you drop off or pick up the kids. Just see how things are going; is ‘Johnny’ behaving? Any issues?

It’s also nice to have a glance around the classroom from time to time. There’s often wonderful work displayed on the walls and your child would probably love to show you around; point out where his or her work is and what it’s all about.

Keeping in touch with the teacher will also give you a handle on class routines, what happens on which days and when these change. If you, as a parent, know when library day, news day, sports day and so on are, then you can help your child prepare and be organised for these events. It will also give the teacher the opportunity to ask for help during these times.

If your child is not so good at being organised, help them to create a weekly plan that outlines on which days things happen. They can use this for quick reference the night before, and morning of, school.

Parent help

The support of parents is greatly appreciated by primary schools. A lot of the extra-curricular and outside of classroom activities wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for parent help. There are different ways you may be able to help:

  • It may be that you work and can only help out with a lot of notice and only once or twice a year. This may be for limited time periods such as supervising the children walking to an event or swimming in the school pool.
  • You may be lucky enough to be able to help in the classroom on a regular basis. Ask the teacher if he or she thinks this would be a good idea and how you can help out. He or she may gladly give you little jobs to do that would really help them out – stapling work on the walls, sticking sheets in books, ticking off homework, helping with spelling tests. You don’t need to have any qualifications to help in this way – just the enthusiasm to do it. And there are added advantages, you’ll be able to gain first hand knowledge on how the class operates and how your child is getting on in there!

Whatever your situation, any time spent helping at the school will be of great benefit to both you and your child!

Joining the Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

PTA is a generic term for the group of parents and family that volunteer their time in order to support the school. There are other names these groups go by – Home and School, Friends of the School, School Support, and so on…they all have the same aim – to build a closer relationship between the school and home for the benefit of the children.

The PTA may have several possible roles your school:-

  • to encourage parental involvement
  • to hold parent discussions on topics relevant to the school
  • to carry out fundraising
  • to host special occasions
  • to give parents/caregivers a voice in the school

Joining the PTA may give you a real sense that you are making a difference for your child’s school and is a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

Great Websites

For more information on PTA and how to get involved you can ask at the school office or visit the NZPTA website www.nzpta.org.nz.

Kylie Valentine

Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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