It is important that schools generate ideas about what they might be able to do to overcome any obstacles and barriers. All parents and carers can feel vulnerable at any given time and find it harder to engage with school. However, some parents and carers might have a negative view of what teachers and schools are like before they step inside the building. Some parents and carers rarely visit their children or young person’s school, whether for parents’ evenings or school events. The reasons some parents and carers might feel uncomfortable coming into school can be many and varied. These can include their own negative experiences but it is unusual for it to simply be a lack of interest in education or in their own child or young person.
Parents and carers are likely to reflect a diverse range of backgrounds encompassing race, values and culture and their previous and current life experiences may include poverty, hardship or issues affecting their wellbeing such as substance abuse, mental or physical health needs or a transient home life.
Some parents and carers, for example if they have grown up feeling they have been let down by the education system, or were not encouraged to fulfil their opportunities for learning, may equally feel very concerned their child or young person does better than they did. They might feel like outsiders themselves and experience their own needs but still be committed to their child or young person getting a ‘better deal’. However, they might bring their own experiences of learning with them to meetings with staff which can lead them to feel anxious. Parents and carers with literacy needs, for example, may be also be worried they will be ‘put on the spot’ and present an overly assertive or anxious front to mask this instead.
Barriers to parent carer involvement can stem from school or parents and carers. However, positive attitudes and creative ways of working can make school seem more welcoming and can be valuable in making parents, carers, children and young feel included.