Parental involvement in a child’s learning process from the early years to high school remains among the key factors contributing to a child’s success in school and life. It is widely associated with better learning outcomes, school improvement and lower risk of early school leaving and greater educational aspirations. It also contributes to cognitive and social development and a stimulating home learning environment for all families, and for disadvantaged families in particular. – . However, current levels of parental involvement vary among different groups of parents and countries in Europe.
Many factors may limit the quality of parental involvement in a child’s learning process, both on structural and practical levels. Educators may be primarily focused on their teaching load, not sufficiently prepared to develop fruitful partnerships with parents and have or make too little time for reaching out to parents. Teachers may often lack the knowledge and experience needed to engage in a dialogue with parents, especially with those coming from a disadvantaged or minority background. This in turn can serve as an obstacle for parents becoming more involved in a child’s education process. They may not get support from teachers and report feeling misunderstood or even unwelcome in school. In addition, work commitments and time constraints, such as competing commitments between work and school meetings, may also limit parental involvement in a child’s learning process. Furthermore, there is an observed tendency that single-parents, families with low socioeconomic status or low educational background tend to be less involved in their children’s education process and do not always understand what role they might have in their child’s learning. Also, low proficiency in the state language/language of instruction may hinder communication between parents from a minority and/or migrant background and educators.
There is a growing attention given to ‘whole school’ or ‘whole institutional’ approaches to improve student learning, behaviour and well-being. In a whole school approach to teaching and learning, all members of the school community (school leaders, teaching and non-teaching staff, learners, parents and families) together with external stakeholders and the local community (social, youth, health workers, psychologists, local authorities, NGOs, businesses, etc.) cooperate in a process to promote excellence, equity, improve school quality and the achievement of all learners. Additional key elements of a whole school approach include greater flexibility or autonomy of schools, distributed leadership, and whole-school improvement processes (including internal school evaluations). In this context, analysing the impact of collective and collaborative school community action while addressing issues relating to the social aspects of education and training (such as academic under-achievement, bullying, or early school leaving) is one of the key issues which could be tackled by the Network.
Responsibility for children’s development and learning is shared between different stakeholders especially in the light of growing diversity in classrooms when dialogue and openness/respect for different views is crucial for a positive learning environment. Having in mind the importance of parental involvement in a child’s learning process and various barriers limiting it, research evidence shows that it would be useful to make further progress in: changing educators’ attitudes on parental engagement and increasing their understanding of its importance, as well as allowing the time necessary for educators to promote and invest in dialogue with parents and strengthening their preparedness and ability to establish effective methods for parental involvement, in particular with parents of different social, economic or cultural backgrounds; searching for innovative, flexible ways of parental involvement in a child’s education process based on a close, respectful and knowledge-based approach by schools, teachers and NGOs, as well as the families that better match with the life and working conditions of the parents; raising awareness, among all parents, on why it is important to be involved in their child’s education process and on the different ways they can do so.