Childnet’s Education Team are out in schools almost every day, delivering presentations to pupils, parents and carers, and staff. Based on the Education Team’s experience and from talking to schools who have successfully attracted large numbers of parents, this blog looks at ways to attract more parents and carers to your sessions.
Whilst we know the numbers to expect from pupils and staff, for parents sessions we can never be sure until the session starts. The Education Team has delivered presentations to packed audiences of over 200, to a small group of 3 or 4, with an average session usually attracting around 25 parents.
A question we often get asked from schools is how to engage their parent and carer community and attract more parents to attend information sessions around online safety.
Below are some top tips for schools to help encourage a high turnout at parents events.
Vary the timings
All families have different routines and availability. By experimenting with timings, or by sending around a survey to parents in advance, you can find out what time suits the most parents to attend. Our Education Team have delivered coffee morning sessions at 9am, in the hour before school pick-up, immediately after school, and twilight sessions between 6 and 8pm. Some settings also film or send out notes after the session for those parents who could not attend.
Survey the school
Make the session valuable to parents by providing them with some new information or insights about their own children’s internet use. This could be done by surveying the pupils in school about their internet habits and attitudes to online issues. The results could either be used to promote the event, or presented to the parents at the session, highlighting the importance of attending.
Remind parents again and again!
Parents, like teachers, are very busy people. In our experience, we have found that a single advertisement in the school newsletter is not enough to gain high turnout.
Those with good turnouts have reminded parents well in advance of the session by sending letters home, and then also put up promotional posters around the school, as well as texting them reminders in the weeks or days before.
If your school has parent representatives, you could get them involved to spread the word as well!
It’s the small things
A simple way to help encourage parents to attend can be the promise of food and drink! Refreshments and a small bite to eat shows your school cares about its parent community and can help create a relaxed atmosphere. You could also have the added incentive of a raffle, the chance to win a voucher or prize, or discounts off future school events for those who attend.
If the session is happening outside of school hours, a big barrier for many parents to attend can be childcare. You could coincide the parents’ session with after school clubs, so that parents can pick up their child afterwards. If the session is in the evening, consider setting up another space for the children with teacher supervision. You could make it into a ‘move night’ with popcorn or set up some games.
Catch them while they are already in school
Some schools combine a Childnet online safety session with other school events. It could be that following the presentation, the school shows parents how to use the homework portal, or has a parent-teacher meeting just beforehand.
Sessions don’t have to be formal presentations all the time – you may choose to have a drop in session to take questions or an online safety stand with information and leaflets for parents to take away.
Alternatively, promote your online safety event at every occasion that you see parents face-to-face so they are aware of the time and date of the session.
Team up with other local schools
If you are a small school, to spread costs and to ensure a good turnout, an excellent idea is to team up with local schools in the area and open up the parent session to all.
Involve the pupils
Schools that have undertaken their own online safety sessions have told us that an effective way of promoting attendance is to invite pupils to share messages and tips in the session. This also provides opportunity for parents/carers to hear first-hand how children and young people feel about using the internet, and what steps they take to stay safe and positive.
You could also ask pupils to write invitations to their parents, explaining why it’s important they attend. The same could be done with posters or leaflets for pupils to take home.
Some schools have run competitions with their classes to get as many of their parents to attend as possible – the class with the highest parent turnout can win prizes such as merits , points or extra circle/golden time. Having children asking their parents to attend can be a very effective method!
Spread out your parent events
Parents may not want to attend another event if they have already been to one recently. Look ahead in the school year and liaise with your colleagues about the school calendar to ensure events are spread out evenly throughout the term.
Have an internet safety week
Although many schools celebrate Safer Internet Day with us on the 5th February, some schools also choose to host an internet safety week earlier or later in the year.
By dedicating a week’s focus to internet safety, parents are more aware of the importance of online safety and often attend a session to learn more. Each year for Safer Internet Day we create education packs that contains a resource pack to engage parents and carers. You can find this year’s packs and all the previous year’s packs on the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Safer Internet Day page.
Let us know how it goes!
These are just a few ideas, and it would be great to hear from schools about any other methods they have used to help with parental engagement. If you have a success story you would like to share then please let us know by emailing [email protected]
If you are running a parent event yourself, Childnet has created a Staff Led Parents Online Safety Presentation here, that you can adapt and use to guide the session.
Whatever you choose to do in school to reach out to parents, we hope all your online safety session goes well!