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Schools in Mind: Engaging with all parents and carers booklet launched

Today the Anna Freud Centre launches Supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools: engaging with all parents and carers. This free booklet has been developed by teachers, clinicians and parents and carers, including the Centre’s Parent Champions, to explore a range of innovative ways that schools can help children by successfully engaging with parents and carers. It includes tips as well as case studies that show both parents’ and schools’ perspectives.

Research shows that if parents and carers are actively involved in their children’s learning and activities at school, they will be more likely to thrive both in terms of academic performance and in their general wellbeing. Parental involvement in a child’s schooling for a child between the ages of 7 and 16 is a more powerful force than family background, size of family and level of parental education[i].

The booklet acknowledges that when a child presents with worrying or challenging behaviour, relationships between school staff and parents can sometimes become strained. This can impact on school staff wellbeing, the Anna Freud Centre’s school staff consultation (that resulted in the Ten steps towards school staff wellbeing resource) found that for 17% of school staff a relationship with parents had caused stress or unhappiness at work over the last two weeks.

The booklet also notes that if a parent or carer has not had a positive relationship with a trusted adult at school, it may be hard for them to feel that they will be understood by their child’s school. Difficult experiences with other services such as social care or the NHS may make parents and carers feel as though they are constantly scrutinised for their parenting.

Children’s problems will extend across school and their home life. The booklet shows that when a systemic approach is taken, where families, teachers and support staff work together, children can be supported more effectively to reach their full potential and to get back on track when problems arise.

Jaime Smith, Director of the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre, says: “Schools and parents or carers are the two main educators that children have in their lives. Both have crucial roles to play in a child’s engagement and achievement in school, and the impact is greater when they work in partnership.

“If children are struggling at school for whatever reason, they will take those problems home with them, and vice versa. By working together closely, schools and parents or carers can help children to resolve their problems at an early stage and provide them with the consistent support they need.

“Difficult conversations with a parent or carer are not easy and often stressful for school staff, but at the same time it can be difficult for a parent or carer to feel their child is a ‘problem’. This resource will provide school staff with tips and guidance on how best to engage with parents and carers in the most effective way.”

The booklet includes sections on:

  • Whole school approaches
  • Building rapport with parents and carers
  • Having difficult conversations with parents and carers
  • Managing your feelings

The multi-family groups in schools is one such approach that brings parents and carers, teachers, children and mental health professionals together in schools’ settings, with the aim of helping to change and improve the children and young people’s emotional wellbeing and behaviour.

The Anna Freud Centre sponsors and supports The Family School, a pioneering Alternative Provision, where parents and other significant family members are involved in the school at all times in relation to their child’s attendance and difficulties. The school practice is consistent with research findings that parental involvement with their child’s difficulties will have the best chance of providing change and positive outcome.

Click to join the free Schools in Mind learning network.

[i] Feinstein,L & Symons, J (1999) Attainment in Secondary School: Oxford Economic Papers, 51.