Working effectively with parents and carers Guest Blogger: Sophie Craven, Schools and Colleges Liaison Service, The University of Huddersfield
As part of your school or college higher education and employment preparation programmes, one key area involves working with families, parents and carers – in order to raise awareness and understanding and to involve them as a key stakeholder in the learners’ decision making process.
The recent Quality in Careers Standard (QCS, October 2017), the national quality award for careers education, makes specific reference to involving and supporting families and carers in CEIAG provision (B1.6). It is therefore useful to be aware of what universities can offer to support you in this area of your work.
Example activities: university support for working with families, parents and carers The University of Huddersfield offers a wide range of activities aimed specifically at parents, and, in line with other universities, these typically fall into the following categories.
Presentations at school or college parents’ events and evening
Presentation topics include the UCAS process, understanding student finance and study skills. Presentations often feature as part of an Options Evening, or might be offered as a stand-alone.
Information stands at school or college Options Evenings
Such events are a great opportunity for parents to chat to university staff about entry requirements, routes into specific careers as well as seeking advice about suitable GCSE and Level 3 options for HE entry. Many universities produce printed guides specifically targeted at parents.
Open Days and Applicant Visit Days
Parents are integral to the decisions making process and are actively encouraged by universities to attend Open Days and Applicant Visit Days. As well as finding out about courses, parents often want to find out about specific admissions processes, student accommodation, finance and student support services.
Bespoke parents events
In addition to the core activities above, universities may offer bespoke parents events on campus or out in the community. For example, the University of Huddersfield runs an annual Parents’ Information Evening offering information stands on careers and courses as well as a programme of presentations covering why go to university, a parent’s guide to higher education and student fees and financial support.
Top tips for successfully engaging parents in your work
As many of you will be aware from your own prior experience, it can sometimes prove challenging to engage parents in school events. Here are some useful tips to help encourage parental participation.
- Think about the timings of events from a parent’s perspective – for some parents, evenings are best, whilst others prefer daytime events. Many schools try to span their events from the afternoon to early evening to meet the needs of as many parents as possible.
- Send out dates and other information as early as possible as parents may have other commitments. Send reminders to make sure they don’t forget.
- Think about what’s in it for them and highlight the benefits of attending in your invite. For example for Year 8 and 11 pupils the focus is on making informed GCSE and Level 3 course choices. For Year 12 and 13 parents it’s about being involved in and understanding the application process, which may have changed considerably since parents were at university.
- Involve employers as well as universities to appeal to the broadest possible range of parents as possible. For example, rather than hosting a HE event consider something broader such as a ‘next steps’ event.
- If you are worried about turn-out at your event, consider organising joint events with other local schools. Joint events can also spread the burden of organisation and with an increased number of potential attendees you may be able to encourage more universities and other contributors from further afield to participate.
How to find out what’s out there?
In most cases, details of the programme of activity for parents, including how to book, should be available on university websites. Alternatively you can contact the Education/Schools and Colleges Liaison Team directly if you have a more bespoke request.