Survey suggests communication gaps between parents, local school board

Officials at the Thames Valley District School Board are already looking ahead to the next fall term to introduce a new initiative, not for students but parents.

Results from the 2017 Parent and Family Engagement survey

The Thames Valley Education Centre main offices on Dundas St. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Although the school year has just come to a close, officials at the Thames Valley District School Board are already looking ahead to the next fall term to introduce a new initiative — not for students, but parents.

In September, school officials will partner with parents in school community groups to address communication gaps that were raised in survey results released this month.

"One of the big highlights was a theme around communicating, connecting and learning," said Rose Anne Kuiper, superintendent of student achievement.

It's much easier to talk about school [with your child] if you're being communicated with from the school or the school board.-  Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education

More than 1,200 parents and caregivers across the region took part in the board's first Parent and Family Engagement survey back in 2017. About 40 per cent of respondents were from London, and the others were from Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin counties.

Seventy per cent of respondents have one or more children in elementary school — the other 30 per cent in high school.

Some of the answers show that parents aren't receiving adequate updates on their children's progression or even on how they can better support them at home.

"We do hear from our parents that there are gaps in what the communication could look like or what it could become," said Kuiper.

"We know that there are still times when we have to find, with each school community, the best methods of communication," she added.

Survey results

Some of the questions asked in the survey along with results:

The school lets me know when my child is having trouble in school:

  • Parents with children in elementary school: 50 per cent agree
  • Parents with students in high school: 34 per cent agree

The school lets me know when my child is doing something well at school:

  • Parents with students in elementary school: 43 per cent agree
  • Parents with students in high school: 22 per cent agree

My child's school provides regular information on what I can do at home to support my child's learning:

  • Parents with students in elementary school: 58 per cent agree
  • Parents with students in high school: 32 per cent agree

Despite a lack of communication, parents say the school's broadcasted messages are easy to find and understand, including contact information.

For full survey results, click here.

What does this mean?

"It's important for school boards to do surveys like this so they can understand how parents are feeling about this and how well they are doing in the communication piece," said Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, a research and advocacy organization.

(Thames Valley District School Board)

When parents are more in tune with what's happening at school, they can better relate to their children, creating stronger relationships even at home, she said.

"It's much easier to talk about school [with your child] if you're being communicated with from the school or the school board," she said.

More than 90 per cent of parents in both categories said they regularly talk with their children about their overall school day and career interests. 

What parents are asking for

In the survey, parents asked the school board to more efficiently and punctually update them on child progress through effective communication methods.

They also sought more information on academic support, course selection, career planning and mental health and well-being supports.

That's why the next step is important, said Kuiper.

"We need to find the ways that we can invite the parent voice into our schools and into our classroom because we would like to see us improve as a whole district in communication back and forth," she added.

In the fall, school principals across the district will receive a hard copy of the results that were publicly shared this month. The school will go on to hold discussions with parents to implement changes.

Officials will then keep track of the changes to ensure progress.