School survey design and listening well – Workshop 2 done

school survey listening to parents

by Just Add Parents

The team at Just Add Parents, drawing insight and knowledge from decades of experience of professional communication and education.

June 30, 2020

School survey questions for parents, when well-written, have the potential to transform the parent-school relationship. A school leadership team closely connected to the aspirations and concerns of the parents is more likely to make decisions sensitively and bring the parent community with them.

Yet it is easy for a survey to be created reactively, without sufficient thought being given to the overarching goal, the messages it sends and a clearly defined sense of what success will look like.

Creating a successful school survey

This was one of the main focuses in our second free Just Add Parents communication workshop. You can watch the video below.

We were very excited to see many of the same attendees as in Workshop 1. Many school leaders, teachers and governors gave up their time for a second occasion. Plus we welcomed a number of new faces too, reminding us the need for a resilient parent-school community is especially strong during the coronavirus pandemic.

It starts with the parents

For Workshop 2, we wanted to go further to understand the parent context. As we sifted through many sources of data, we revealed a picture that provides grounds for optimism for school leaders.

We looked at the growth of the global digital network into which we are increasingly plugged. It reveals the extent to which global citizens are exposed to exponential growth in information and connections. We looked at the surprising growth of email over the past decade (and the fact that fewer than a quarter of external emails sent in education are ever opened). We looked at screen time trends over 20 years. The time we spend in front of a screen has grown almost three-fold in the UK, from a few hours of TV a day to most of our waking hours spent attached to a screen.

While this contributes to a sense of being overwhelmed, it also reminds us that parents are more proximate to schools than ever, digitally. Research shows that many smaller tasks these days can be completed with little effort using a mobile device or computer. Parents are in fact only a click away from a school.

Parents are more in control than you think

And finally, we revealed some fascinating recent research from NatCen, the respected research organisation, showing that in fact parents have become more adept at managing their time than they were 20 years ago. They are under less time pressure and typically give more attention to any given task than parents were able a generation ago.

For schools, we argue that the task now is not sending communications to parents, but to do everything to become one of their trusted connections. Your goal as a school leader is to make sure you cut through the noise so that parents prioritise your communications. Do this, and schools will find parents are more capable of partnership than ever before – certainly grounds for optimism in the context of our mission to help schools build positive parent communities.

We also spent a little bit of time to help schools understand what it looks like for an institution to listen and speak in language that resonates with parents.

School survey under the spotlight

Our deep-dive this week was into school surveys. We used a real-world example of a parent survey and picked it apart constructively. We found a number of critical issues in the survey that could jeopardise its success, plus some other valuable lessons. Surveys are such a powerful instrument of listening, and we believe our 20-minute video could help any school make sure it gets them right every time. We have also produced a Successful School Survey cheat sheet to help.

Spreading the word

Finally, we were really pleased this week to join another fledgling organisation aiming to support schools to return to a new socially-distanced reality in September. Leadership Lemonade is running teacher and school leader exploration and coaching courses, to help them find answers to the profound questions being thrown up by coronavirus. We delivered excerpts from Workshops 1 and 2 to their first international cohort and we hope other school leaders visit their website to get some inspiration for their return to school in September.

Our final message to the Leadership Lemonade attendees bears repeating and remembering: parents are present, parents are connected and parents share your goals. If you see your parents as an asset, an asset they will become.

In the following videos, you can delve into Just Add Parents’ second workshop and explore some of these areas at a time that is convenient for you.

Workshop 2 videos

Full workshop (52m 43s)

In the full workshop video, Pete and Simon take a blend of theory, practice and real-world examples to dive much more deeply into the parent context, revealing grounds for optimism: parents may be more available to schools then ever before. They also think about what it means for a school to “listen”, from the parents’ perspective, and do a deep-dive on a real-world survey to draw out learnings that could help any school.

8m 33s

Deep-dive into the modern parent context. Grounds for optimism for schools.

21m 01s

A deep-dive into a real-world survey. Cheat sheet available to support this video.

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