Community is a core value at MBAT. We know each other intimately. We foster close relationships with parents and encourage them to get involved. However, there is a difference between parental involvement and engagement.
Parental involvement is often mistaken for parental engagement. It is commonly used to bring parents and schools together through social events, reinforcing homework, teaching skills; it serves the school’s agenda.
Parental Engagement doesn’t serve the school’s agenda. It is a negotiated relationship with the school, the children and the parents as participants. It has to be clearly defined in a free school such as MBAT. Children in the school have freedom of choice of action. It is easy to see how having your parents around could infringe on this freedom. We have thought hard about this and come up with a number of workable solutions.
Parental Engagement has been well-studied. Bill Lucas is a professor at Winchester University and produced an engaging and stimulating report in 2007, which outlines the whys and the wherefores of parental engagement. This is not an idea we came up with by ourselves! It is based on research, evidence and solid theory. You can look at the report here: Engaging Parents: Why and How. It’s a short document that can be read in a sitting. I recommend it..
At MBAT there are opportunities throughout the year for parents to get involved in the school. However, our goals and vision urge us to put the emphasis on engagement. We will develop a partnership with parents underpinned by the following principles. Parents will:
- understand why they should be engaged
- feel able to engage and make a useful contribution
- feel the school and their children want them to be engaged
At the younger ages we create a family-like atmosphere. Parents/guardians may stay with their children until they get familiar with the school. We recognize and value their role in their children’s lives. We believe that parents’ involvement in their child’s school life is beneficial for the child and the school community. Given the unique character of MBAT, parents will also learn alongside their children the importance of our core values: community, dialogue, and compassion.
There is a dedicated member of staff at each level of the school who coordinates parent engagement. It is essential that their involvement does not conflict with or override the freedoms the children experience in their community. Parent participation may take the form of:
- Helping with school outings
- Providing assistance with projects, especially when the parent has specific and appropriate knowledge
- Reading with or to children
- Working in the gardens; help on the farm
- Helping with school productions such as plays, performances and exhibitions
Parents are not involved in:
- Designing courses of study
- Setting school policy
- Assessing children or staff.
Involvement is voluntary and unremunerated. All parents who are involved with children must have a criminal record check and will always be under the guidance of staff members. They will be given precise roles and instructions with regard to outings, for example. They must accept these conditions.