Parental Involvement Project (PIP)
Parental Involvement Project (PIP) Early Intervention Initiative
The PDST strives to offer innovative CPD opportunities to support Irish teachers as they endeavour to reflect on and improve their teaching and learning practices. For those teaching in the DEIS context, this can be an additional challenge. The Report on the First Phase of the Evaluation of DEIS shows, that while improvements in student attainment are being made, children in DEIS schools continue to perform well below national norms (Weir, Archer, O’Flaherty and Gilleece, 2011).
Some schools in Ireland and internationally, have significantly raised the attainment of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. By researching the practices in these schools and tailoring them to the Irish context, the Parental Involvement Initiative (PIP) has harnessed what we know to be effective in raising student attainment: firstly, that early intervention is vital and secondly that students perform better when schools and families work in partnership to support learning. The national strategy Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life (DES, 2011),states that the support of parents who are engaged in their child’s learning has a significantly positive impact on a child’s attainment especially in literacy and numeracy and that this is particularly important for those children at risk of educational under-achievement. The strategy also stresses that while socio-economic status is considered the greatest predictor of academic success and failure, parental involvement can significantly mitigate the negative effects of low socioeconomic status or low parental educational attainment .
The PIP initiative is an early intervention programme that supports teachers in providing high quality evidence-based practices in the teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy while also enabling them to facilitate the involvement of parents. Not only does the initiative provide teachers with the skills and resources needed to involve parents, but it offers a model of how to get them involved both in school and in the home. The initiative was piloted in two DEIS schools over the school year 2012 – 2013. A PDST advisor designed the project and supported these schools by working closely with the infant teachers, Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinators and principals. The main aspects of the project are outlined in the following paragraphs.
Teachers of Junior Infants and the Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinators held regular workshops for parents, a central tenant of these being to convey the primacy of the parent’s role in their children’s learning and to provide families with the skills, knowledge and resources to support this learning at home. Workshops included: developing literacy at home, phonics, ICT to support literacy development, reading comprehension, paired reading, early numeracy and positive attendance.
Schools and parents were involved in selecting workshop topics with one parent suggesting that ‘...as my child’s reading is becoming so good, could the next workshop be on ‘chunking’ as opposed to blending!’ Workshops also served to showcase and celebrate children’s learning. This opportunity to see the children’s progress further motivated parents to stay involved in learning activities at home. A number of success factors for these workshops were identified from the outset based on a previous pilot carried out as part of the PDST advisor’s research work. These factors were
- scheduling of the workshops within the school day (end of school day worked best)
- parents were encouraged to bring younger siblings along
- showcasing of children's’ work was a central feature of the workshops thus boosting attendance
- classroom based nature of the workshop provided a non-threatening environment
- high expectations were communicated by the school to parents regarding regular attend.
Irish research suggests that parents from all backgrounds are interested and involved in their child’s education. However, for some parents their involvement is not the type known to support educational attainment (Cregan, 2008; Byrne & Smyth, 2010). It is suggested that middle and higher socio-economic parents transfer advantages and skills to their children through the use of structured and language rich activities outside of school, or what Lareau (2003) terms as “concerted cultivation”. Educative trips provide families with opportunities to avail of free social and cultural activities in the local community, many of which have a language /literacy focus. Visits to the local library, science trails in the local environment and trips to local art centres are examples of some of the fun and educational activities on offer as part of this project.
Target Pupil Groups
A number of children were identified at different stages of the project as needing additional support in literacy and numeracy. The class teachers met with the parents of these children and explicitly communicated areas needing attention. The parents were provided with a tailor made pack of activities to support the learning of this area in the home. The teacher met regularly with parent thereafter to check in, to provide guidance where needed and to share evidence of the child’s progress at school which could be attributed to the good work being done at home. This shared responsibility for children’s learning and on-going sharing of assessment information with parents ensures that any gaps in children’s learning are quickly addressed. It is also hugely motivating for parents to see the fruits of their efforts being borne out in the child’s progress at school.
Active involvement of parents during class lessons provides an ideal context for developing them as first educators of their children. The availability of more adults in the classroom also allows for differentiated instruction. In this project, parents receive training to support literacy and numeracy classroom activities. They are also responsible for reading with individual children with a particular focus on the development of comprehension strategies and oral language skills. Teachers involved in the PIP initiative have worked together in small action-learning groups to plan together and reflect on their practice. At present, data is being collated on the experiences of the teachers involved as well as the outcomes for pupils. The early feedback from teachers has been very encouraging with teachers quickly seeing the positive effects in the
classroom. Teachers report improvements in reading fluency, comprehension and phonics. Progression in basic competency in number is also evident since the project began. As a result of the knowledge and skills gained in the workshops, parents are more involved in learning with their children at home. Following their initial success, both schools have chosen to extend the initiative into Senior Infant classes next year with plans to expand it to other classes over time. It is every teacher’s hope that their students will master basic literacy and numeracy skills in infants classes to provide that all important platform for further learning. The PIP initiative has helped to build this platform and is rooted in the well-known fact that children learn best when their families are actively involved. It shows
the enormous potential that Irish schools have, not only for providing a truly child-centred education, but for ensuring that all children have equal opportunity to succeed in literacy and numeracy.
Byrne, D & Smyth, E. (2010) Behind the Scenes? A Study of Parental involvement in Post-Primary Educa- tion, The Liffey Press in Association with ESRI: Dublin
Cregan, Áine (2008) Sociolinguistic Perspectives on the Context of Schooling in Ireland, Volume 2: Parent Perceptions, Combat Poverty Agency, Working Paper Series 08/04
Department of Education and Skills (2011) Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life. The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People, DES; Dublin
Weir, S., Archer, P., O’Flaherty, A., Gilleece, L. (2011). A Report on the First Phase of the Evaluation of DEIS. Dublin: Educational Research Centre