Every school desires to be a communication friendly environment, where the school community has optimised opportunities for listening, understanding, talking and taking part. It is also recognised that engaging parents in a collaborative approach yields the best results for children and young people. So how do we engage parents in a communication friendly vision, what does this mean to them and how can it be fostered?

Parents are a unique force for any school: Constantly changing and bringing an array of skills, challenges, knowledge and enthusiasm. Most schools observe a broad spectrum of parental engagement, from those who give freely of their time and support – wholeheartedly embracing the school’s vision, to those who may struggle to engage due to time, life stressors, or competing demands and motivations.

For parents and carers to be on board they require an understanding of why a communication friendly environment will benefit the whole school community, an idea of what this entails and practical strategies that they can see in action.

Sell It!

A vision needs to be sold for everyone to be on board. This means weaving the communication friendly message in at every opportunity. An assembly presented to parents, about how the school has become more communication friendly, visual supports clearly being used at a (parent attended) harvest festival, signs and posters around the school and grounds detailing the main messages, which parents can read at drop off and pick up, or a quiet area which is explicitly labelled so (“This is an area for quiet thinking and talking”) are all ways that the message can be conveyed to parents. The aim is for a parent to unconsciously understand this message, identifying their child’s school as ‘communication friendly’ and in turn, identify that it benefits all.

Inspire and Involve

Parents are resourceful people with amazing ideas. The key to success when introducing a vision is collaboration. Once the vision has been explained, families will feel more part of the approach if they have had a hand in its design and implementation. This might be achieved through a parent working party, a questionnaire, an ideas board outside school, or simple chalkboard tick or cross opportunities to encourage participation.

It is important that ideas are ratified by families. A good example of this is the “Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile,” campaign which has been introduced in recent years, with the aim of reminding parents of the importance of being ‘present’ at this crucial end of day moment. The response to this has been mixed, with some considering it to be a healthy reminder, whilst others perceiving it to be an attempt to manage their parenting skills or condemn them for life’s competing demands. Consulting parents on this idea and asking them what their thoughts are opens a dialogue, providing opportunities for differences of opinions, questions, listening to viewpoints, resolution and developing a shared understanding. These are all skills we encourage in a communication friendly school, and we can likewise be fostering these with parents and carers.

Involving pupils in the communication friendly vision will also involve parents. Poster competitions, ideas boards and nominated class communication champions will all encourage parents to be proud of the vision to which their child has contributed.

“Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile.”


Keeping the message ‘alive and growing’ is about continued learning for all. Adding a ‘Communication Corner’, a sign or a visual support used in school, a ‘Word of the Week’ or a ‘Did you know?’ communication fact to the school’s newsletter keeps this learning and awareness alive. Some schools have been able to take this further with parent workshops or training opportunities for parents and teacher to share.

FLO Focus

Your school FLO is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to engaging parents; they understand the dynamics of some of the more hard to reach families and is likely to experience greater success in sharing ideas and visions with them. The language that the FLO uses with parents, to promote a communication friendly school is more likely to be taken on board by those families with whom they have a relationship.

The Big Picture

A whole school communication approach benefits every child but is of particular benefit to children with SLCN as it fosters understanding by all of the school community, to overcome barriers and provide opportunities for communication. This is a powerful tool for parents to understand because it has the ability to ‘open their child’s world’ beyond their classroom, and to dispel the idea that their child can only make progress with certain members of staff who understand their communication needs. An understanding of the benefits of this and a demonstration of it working in practice may encourage engagement from parents who would otherwise not choose to be involved.


When you have a communication friendly school, it should be celebrated – shout it from the rooftops! When possible, celebrate this with your new intake parents, reward it at achievement events and keep adding to the vision.

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