Family engagement enhances student learning and wellbeing

Trish Riley
Trish Riley

One of the best ways to set up students for lifelong success is by involving their families in their educational journey. When family involvement is a priority in class, student achievement, self-confidence, and motivation all improve.

From introduction letters to parent-teacher evenings, schools have plenty of opportunities to boost family engagement. 

Why schools should prioritise family involvement 

To understand the importance of family involvement in education, it’s important to clarify what it means. Family involvement is defined as an ongoing, collaborative relationship between families and school faculty with a shared goal: to help students succeed. 

Instead of keeping families at a distance, teachers who value family engagement welcome their insights and strive to work together throughout the year. The more support students have available to them, the better equipped they’ll be to reach their potential.

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When family engagement is prioritised, every student is better prepared for success. Research shows that as schools improve parent-teacher communication, classes see the following benefits:

  • Improved test scores, grades, and school attendance1
  • Higher levels of self-confidence and motivation in students
  • Families have more positive opinions of their child’s teacher
  • Increased performance of all students in class, not just specific children
  • Heightened teacher morale

Unfortunately, in recent years, there has been a steep drop in families who believe school engagement matters. This means teachers may end up taking on ‘parenting’ and ‘behavioural’ issues that they should not have to.

What to include in a teacher introduction letter to families

To encourage community involvement in your school, build a positive relationship with families as soon as you can. You may meet some on the first day of school, but with many students joining schools throughout the school year, parent/teacher meetings are another opportunity. Emailing or sending home a letter of introduction as their child’s new teacher can provide a framework for connection before you even meet these families.

Provide a brief overview about yourself and your background as a teacher.

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Not only will this help families see you as an equal, but it can also provide them with helpful information on your teaching style. Then, briefly explain your teaching philosophy and your goals for the remainder of the school year.

If possible, add a class syllabus or list of classroom rules (depending on which grade you teach). Families can refer to this information throughout the school year to stay informed. Include ways for families to engage in their child’s education, like helping with homework, so that every student has as much support as possible.

This introductory letter doesn’t have to be the last one. Keep writing teacher newsletters throughout the school year about upcoming class events and assignments. If families prefer a briefer, two-way form of communication, consider sending regular texts or emails instead.

How to prepare for parent-teacher meetings

In many cases, the parent-teacher meetings will be your first chance to connect with families in person. Every family is different, but you can keep a few ideas in mind for a productive discussion.

Even if you mostly focus on what your students are learning this semester/year and getting to know families, try to include a little background about yourself during back-to-school events, too. You might share, for example, how long you’ve been teaching or what drew you to the field.

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Finally, don’t overload families with information. Encourage them to ask questions. Sometimes, families don’t know whether teachers are receptive to hearing their thoughts. When you give them time to stop and ask questions about your class and plans for the school year, you encourage their involvement.

With parent-teacher meetings that happen in the second school semester, families may have more specific questions or concerns than they would at the start of the year.

If possible, offer a flexible schedule for meeting times. Some families may work long hours or have limited transportation options. In these cases, getting to school at a specific time may be difficult. Work with families to schedule a meeting time that works for them, so they know you’re interested in talking with them.

If they can’t physically make it to school, consider offering alternatives like video or phone meetings.

A few questions you could ask at parent-teacher meetings to support families include:

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  • What is the best way for me to keep you updated on school events?
  • Is there anything I need to know about your student’s background that would help me provide better instruction for them?
  • Do you have any questions about our class curriculum?
  • How can I better support your student?
  • What questions or comments do you have for me?

5 tips to encourage greater family engagement

Taking steps to improve family involvement in school can revolutionise your class environment. These five simple yet effective ideas can help you promote family involvement:

  • One-on-one relationships with educators can be intimidating. Give families an “ally” like a school counsellor to connect them with resources and provide support.
  • Find ways to physically bring families into your school as much as possible through volunteering, school events, and other opportunities.
  • Try to learn as much as you can about a student’s background and personal needs. That way, you can construct your interaction with their family in a way that meets their priorities.
  • Families are more likely to get involved if they feel welcome and believe they have a voice. Start a feedback box for families to feel empowered.
  • In general, electronic engagement is one of the quickest ways to connect with parents. Consider using an email newsletter, private social media group, or school communication app to keep families updated.

It can be difficult to know when and how to reach out to parents, but honest, caring communication is the best route and usually well received. Some teachers worry about parental interference, but if you develop caring relationships and are sincere in your communication, that can go a long way in building a partnership that leaves both parent and teacher feeling like you are on the same team.


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Trish Riley is a Zimbabwean-born writer and communications specialist. With experience in journalism, and public relations, Trish has been developer and editor of several trade publications and regularly contributes articles for diverse sectors including aged care, animal care, construction and education.