Top marks for primary school engaging with parents to improve pupils’ attainment - thanks to Erasmus+
Old Road Primary School in Llanelli used Erasmus+ funding to get parents more involved in their children's learning and saw great improvement in the attainment of some of the most disadvantaged pupils.
Headteacher of the Carmarthenshire school, Non Neave, explained: “We recognised that our pupils were under-attaining and the needs of our school have changed quite drastically over recent years.
"The number of our pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) is now above national and local averages; over a quarter of our pupils speak English as an additional language (EAL) and almost as many have additional learning needs.
"We needed to help our staff support the educationally disadvantaged and to meet the diverse needs of families within this ever-changing demography of our community.
“We identified that poor engagement with parents was a key factor contributing to pupils’ under-attainment, so we successfully applied for Erasmus+ Key Action 1 funding to run the Involving Parents, Developing Communities project to help us turn things around.
"Our key focus was to discover effective strategies in breaking down barriers and creating innovative pathways that would develop and promote social inclusion and involve parents in the learning of their children."
The aim of the project was to build bridges between the school and communities by improving parental engagement and thus improving pupil attainment. In the process, the school hoped to upskill staff and foster greater understanding between communities and the school as well as learn how to tackle challenges more sensitively.
Non highlighted how Erasmus+ has helped the school. “As a result of this project, we have experienced a number of successes in the field of family engagement, based on the fundamental principles of building good relationships with staff and parents.
"For example, we now ensure that our ‘meet and greet sessions’ are fully inclusive to all our parents and this has been supported by members of staff who visited Poland as part of the project.
"We also invite parents to attend craft sessions at the school and engagement has been very positive.
"Staff are becoming more culturally aware and confident in their communication with pupils and parents, which includes comments in the Polish language at the end of year reports.
The Erasmus+ project has helped us as a school team to develop a culture of social inclusion, a respect for diversity and attitudes of non-discrimination
"In addition, parent questionnaires are sent out in many languages and the response from groups of parents has greatly increased," said Non.
Improvement in student attainment
The initial aim of the project was to improve pupils' school performance and the results so far are looking positive.
Non said: "Our end of Key Stage 2 data for 2019 shows a very encouraging picture, with our FSM pupils performing just as well as our non-FSM pupils. A similar picture can be seen with our EAL pupils, in that 100% achieve the expected level in Mathematics, English, Science and Welsh."
As well as raising attainment, the school also hopes that through this project staff and pupils will be supported to become more aware of cultural and linguistic diversity and encourage respect for differences.
Building blocks for engagement
The project has provided a clear path for future engagement with parents. "We are now ready to build on our successes through launching a new project of keeping chickens in the school," Non said. "The uptake from parents to care for the chickens during weekends and holidays is significant.
"This positive response is as a result of the school implementing strategic building blocks of family engagement and adopting effective practices we learnt from our Erasmus+ partners in different European countries.
"We intend to use this project as a stepping stone for greater internationalisation for our school in order to develop our pupils as ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the world - one of the core purposes of the new curriculum in Wales.
"We plan for the family engagement programme to evolve based on respect, integrity and transparency. The skills that we have learnt will become embedded throughout the school and we will continue to foster understanding of what is best practice from Europe, to achieve ongoing successful family engagement."
Non concluded: “The Erasmus+ project has helped us as a school team to develop a culture of social inclusion, a respect for diversity and attitudes of non-discrimination.”
Find out how your school can take part in Erasmus+