Guide to Home-School Communication

Introduction:

We believe that clear, open communication between the school and parents/carers has a positive impact on students’ learning because it:

  • Gives parents/carers the information they need to support their child’s education
  • Helps the school improve, through feedback and consultation with parents/carers
  • Builds trust between home and school, which helps the school better support each student’s educational and pastoral needs

The aim of this policy is to promote clear and open communication by:

  • Explaining how the school communicates with parents/carers
  • Setting clear standards for responding to communication from parents/carers
  • Helping parents/carers reach the member of school staff who is best placed to address their specific query or concern so they can get a response as quickly as possible

When communicating with the school, please bear in mind that a great many staff are working extremely hard in trying to help our children achieve well. We would never wish to discourage parents from communicating with staff, establishing a relationship and working together. Parental communication is essential; we do not always get it right and we need your feedback to help us to continue to improve.

All communication must respect the dignity of the recipient.

The following outlines the school approach with regard to communication between home and school.

How the college communicates with home:

For all students, the college communicates with home at the following scheduled points:

  • Admission into the School – via phone call to arrange meeting, face-to-face meeting
  • Changing provision / timetable within the school – via phone call to arrange meeting, face-to-face meeting
  • Weekly positive news – via text message, paper certificates and Headteacher’s Letter
  • Academic reports – via termly reports with the option to discuss further at our termly open morning or by a pre-arranged meeting at another time – Year 11s also receive two additional Mock Exam reports (Dec, March)
  • Well-Being / behaviour – all parents/carers are invited to a readmission meeting follow a suspension being issued and/or absconding (leaving the site without permission), Form Tutors will ring to discuss lower-level concerns and will invite parents/carers in face-to-face where they feel it is more appropriate to discuss matters in person.
  • Safeguarding – where concerns have been observed by staff or shared by students, the member of staff will speak with a Designated Safeguarding Lead in the school – from there, the member of staff will speak to you directly or with higher level concerns and potential emergencies, the Deputy Headteacher will contact you or the LA team responsible for safeguarding (MASSH) may contact you
  • School life – the school regularly writes to parents/carers with arrangements for end of term / start of term, arrangements for exams etc. The school also maintains a blog and social media accounts to give a flavour of what is happening in school:
    • Blog Link: www.highfieldscollege.org.uk/blog/
    • Twitter Link: www.twitter.com/HighfieldsColl
    • Instagram Link: https://www.instagram.com/highfieldsstockport/
    • Facebook Link: www.facebook.com/Highfields-College-100262181633374/
  • ‘Snow Days’ and other unplanned closure – the college will use its text messaging service and post announcements on its website and social media where the school has to close due to weather, COVID-19 outbreak or other emergency scenarios.
  • Parent/carer requested meetings – parents and carers can meet with our staff about specific issues – this can be about general issues or about specific subjects – meetings are by prior arrangement and the first point of contact to organise these is by ringing reception.
  • Parent/carer survey – the school runs an annual survey of all parents/carers asking for general feedback from the school.
  • Welcome Evening – the school runs an annual ‘Welcome Evening’, usually in Spring, in which all parents/carers can visit the school, see their child’s work and meet teachers and support staff who they would not ordinarily have regular contact with.

In addition to the information provided across the website, parents/carers have named contacts they can use to seek specific information and discuss any positives or concerns – via telephone or email: www.highfieldscollege.org.uk/contact-us/

Some students have additional levels of need and the school communicates with home via the following processes in such situations:

  • Team Around The Child / Family
  • Special Educational Needs / EHCP Review
  • Child Looked After / PEP
  • Child in Need
  • Attendance

If concerns are expressed to a member of staff and parents/carers do not feel they have been addressed properly and in a reasonable timeframe, they are advised to refer to the college’s complaints policy: www.highfieldscollege.org.uk//wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Stockport-Complaints-Policy-for-Schools-2019.pdf

This is when the headteacher will become more closely involved. By not being as closely involved in previous communication, it allows them to take a rounded view of what’s happened and whether anything needs rectifying and improving.

Timeframes of communication:

The school’s reception is open from 8.30 to 3.30 each day and is open to low level inquiries such as start / finish times, uniform etc. This is also the main way to report absence. If the school’s receptionist cannot answer the inquiry, they will look to connect you with the relevant member of staff who can – keeping in mind they may not be immediately available if they are in lessons, in a meeting or on another call.

Where inquiries cannot be immediately answered over the phone or when the parent/carer uses emails / messaging to contact the college, we will seek to respond within the following timeframes:

  • Academic and behaviour queries – 48 hours / 2 days
  • Safeguarding queries – same day

If a member of staff is not able to deal with a communication directly then they will pass it on to the most appropriate person and inform the sender that they have done so. This may result in communication taking longer but we would expect no longer than 3 days / 72 hours.

With more complicated inquiries, such as where an incident has reportedly occurred or there is a question of protocol / policy, response time may take up to 5 days because it requires internal communications between more than one member of the staff and collating of responses. In these cases, we will inform the parent/carer that more time is required to provide a full response.

Use of email and mobile messaging:

In recent years, communications between home and school have shifted from pen and paper to email and electronic messaging, with this becoming the preferred and predominant mode of communication for some parents/carers and for some staff.

Staff will not be expected to monitor or respond to emails and work mobiles out of their normal working hours which is generally 9 – 3.30 – and includes weekends and school holidays. If staff are absent, they will set their email responses to inform the sender of this. During holidays, the college will organise for a member of staff to be on call for urgent concerns.

Whilst parents/carers may compose emails / messages outside of the college’s working day to suit their own needs, we would ask that emails are not normally sent outside of a member of staff’s normal working hours. Mobile phones and other electronic devices that enable staff to access their school emails when away from school can make it difficult to ‘ignore’ a message from a parent, leading to unnecessary worry and anxiety on the part of the staff.

Keeping communication useful and safe for all:

We understand some parents/carers – having experienced the breakdown of their son/daughter’s previous school placement – can feel anxious and possibly distrustful about school. This in turn can result in a greater need for more frequent communication.

Where parents/carers are struggling at home, this too can create a need for more frequent communication.

Where parents/carers are requiring more frequent communication – and where the communication is perhaps overwhelming particular staff – we may meet to agree a more personalised communication plan so that both parties feel communication remains useful and safe.

Whilst this is rare, if a member of staff receives an email / messaging / face-to-face interaction which is of an aggressive tone, sets unreasonable demands or could otherwise be interpreted as harassing (such as repeated queries / concerns having already reasonably addressed them), they will refer this to a School Leader. Again, the school may then put in place a personalised communication plan.

Personalised communication plan:

A personalised communication plan may be required when there is a language or other communication barrier with school (this includes visual or hearing impairment, struggles with literacy). Where there is a question of this, the school will sensitively approach parent/carer to ask if they would like to work out together a better set of arrangements for communication.

A personalised communication plan is also available where the college’s leadership feels communication between staff and parent/carer is proving problematic and creating stress / conflict.

To help improve the situation, a plan will be put in place involving the following:

  • Preferred ways of communication – this may include prohibited ways of communicating if the situation has become particularly volatile / problematic
  • A named member of staff / or small number of staff within the college who will handle communication
  • Specific times for communication to take place – this may include limiting the number of non-emergency / non-safeguarding communications per day / week where communication has become overwhelming for the college and distracting staff from other important duties.

With the above, the college will always attempt to seek agreement from parent/carer but the headteacher reserves the right to implement this without agreement where situations have become threatening or harassing for staff.