Understanding barriers to engagement

Reaching families you may have previously struggled to engage

"Parents who are viewed as 'hard to reach' often view the school as 'hard to reach'."

- Parental engagement: how to make a real difference' Oxford School Improvement

The key to more successfully engaging some families is to focus on non-curriculum aspect of school life, and then building on this to encourage engagement in children's maths learning.

We have included a variety of programmes to help meet the different needs and barriers to engagement that families may face.

Key recommendations

  • Make your school or organisation a safe and inviting place. Training reception staff to be more inclusive is a simple and low cost way of making all families feel welcome.
  • Ask families what they want. How do they prefer to be communicated with? What times and days are best for them to come into school? Is there any support they particularly need, with literacy, IT skills or CV writing for example?
  • Offer family learning provisions. "Family learning should be integral to school strategies to raise children’s attainment and to narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers" - NIACE
  • Try to involve fathers and other family members. Parental engagement isn't just about getting mothers on board.
  • Don't give up! With the right support in place, any family can engage. In the interim, you can still support children. See Extra support for children


*External links will open in a new tab

School home support

A combination of specialist support and emotional and practical advice to vulnerable children and young people, working with them and their families to help overcome the barriers that are preventing them from learning. (Paid for resource.)

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Families and Schools Together

An award-winning early-intervention programme run by Save the Children that brings parents, children, teachers and the wider community together, to make sure children get the support they need to fulfil their potential at school and.

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How to Involve Hard to Reach Parents - Encouraging Meaningful Parental Involvement with Schools

This report provides a crucial insight into the problems faced by some parents, and gives strategies to help schools improve the relationship.

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Translating Maths in a Multicultural School Community - the story of Sacred Heart Primary

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Jean Gross, Education Expert, discusses how a school can reach families who it has previously struggled to engage

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Raising boys' achievement expert Gary Wilson suggests how to involve parents in boys' learning

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Recommendations and guidance around family learning

Learning and Work Institute

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Closing the Gap: The Critical Importance of Parental Engagement (2015)

by National Numeracy trustee, Di Hatchett

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Mayor's Fund for London

Parental engagement good practice guide

from the Mayor's Fund for London

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