Parent View: Getting your parents online

Written by: HTU | Published:

Many schools do not have enough responses to display Parent View results. Now Ofsted is urging them to try harder. HTU asks whether it’s worth it

Ofsted wants schools to do more to promote Parent View. It has issued a toolkit, poster and leaflet encouraging schools to be more proactive in getting parents to record their views online.

There is a need. Research by Headteacher Update into 50 schools which have recently experienced an Ofsted, shows that 24 per cent had not recorded sufficient responses for the results to be displayed. Out of the 50 schools, three-quarters of them had a response from less than 20 per cent of their families.

Parent View was launched in October 2011 and includes 12 multiple-choice questions. However, getting the views of parents in this way has not been easy. Sofina Islam is headteacher of Stanton Bridge Primary School in Coventry where the proportion of pupils coming from a wide range of minority ethnic groups is well above average.

During her Ofsted inspection, parents’ experience of Parent View was less than positive. She explained: “Our parents complained to inspectors. How are they supposed to access it? For them, it’s not just a question of technology, but also of language. It shows just how far removed our educational leaders are. They don’t understand what it’s like out there.”

Tania Tirraoro of Special Needs Jungle, a website that focuses on bringing information about SEN to parents, admitted: “I had barely heard of Parent View and when I asked other parents, neither had they. So whatever their publicity is, it’s not working.”

When Parent View was launched, concerns centred around the possible abuse of the system. Would it just be parents with something to complain about who would use it? However, our research suggests that six out of the 10 “inadequate” schools in the survey recorded insufficient responses. Indicating apathy or inability to access, rather than the wish to shame an underperforming school.

Furthermore, positive parental view is no guarantee of a good Ofsted outcome. One “inadequate” school had 93 per cent of parents indicating that they would recommend the school and two “good” schools did not register enough responses. The school with the lowest indicator of parental satisfaction (50 per cent) was in a “requires improvement” category.

Improving Parent View

The creators of Parent View possibly misjudged the need to involve schools in its promotion. That it could also be used to trigger an inspection, did not enhance its reputation among schools. Recent amendments are intended to address their worries and include:

• Ten completed responses trigger the ability to view a school’s results online (previously it was three).
• Schools can sign up to receive regular email alerts to know when a questionnaire has been posted.
• Ofsted will investigate any concerns raised about its use within 24 hours.

Sir Michael Wilshaw is firmly behind its use: “I want to see all schools urging parents and carers to use Parent View. The changes made to Parent View will allow headteachers to regularly monitor how parents see the school and are part of our commitment to help schools improve.”

The toolkit includes a range of sample texts that schools might use in different contexts:

• Text for a letter to send to parents at any time of the year.
• Text message or short email message for inspection times.
• Text for a website/newsletter.
• Text to add to questionnaires.

How useful is it?

Ofsted claims that “gathering parents’ views electronically will save time, costs and resources, as well as being kinder to the environment”. For some parents who are able to handle the technology, there are advantages.

It is a more anonymous system and parents might have greater confidence in an online process that removes the need to hand the questionnaire response directly to the school. Ms Tirraoro recognises the attraction for parents: “At a recent meeting, one SENCO complained that some parents who had used it gave critical feedback when asked by Ofsted to use the system. They hadn’t spoken about their concerns to either the SENCO or the headteacher. I suggested that this might be because they didn’t feel confident or comfortable speaking to staff.”

There is a limited amount of time allocated to complete the questionnaire prior to inspections. For working parents the deadline can be particularly prohibitive. Ms Tirraoro experienced this for herself: “We were asked to use it in conjunction with a short-notice Ofsted visit, but the window was so small – barely 48 hours – I just didn’t have time.”

At Stanton Bridge, parents would rather use other means to publicise views of the school: “Our parents wanted to contribute to the inspection but didn’t have internet. So, 100 of them turned up to meet with the inspector. He was astounded,” explains Ms Islam.

A large number of parents at Stanton Bridge do not speak English as a first language. They wanted to congratulate the school and use Ofsted to show their appreciation, but didn’t have the language or technology to do it. “Our Romanian parents had even brought a translator to help them communicate. They wanted to tell the inspector just how happy they are with us, so I left them to it.”

As a school improvement tool, the questionnaire continues to be very limited in its scope. There are no questions relating to SEN and there is no opportunity to make additional comments. Stanton Bridge already has extensive means of involving parents: “We take consulting our parents very seriously. We invite all of them to termly discussions about school development. This is meaningful consultation and involvement, Parent View doesn’t do that.”

A proactive approach

The Parent View toolkit aims to make schools feel confident in using and promoting it. It states: “The majority of schools have found that, where they have actively communicated with parents, their results on Parent View have been overwhelmingly positive.” The omission of a free-text option is presented as an advantage in the bid to ensure the questionnaires are not used in a vindictive or abusive way.

Some schools have adopted a very proactive approach to boost its use. For example, Broadford Primary in London, featured in the toolkit, describes how they lobbied parents at parents’ evening.

The school applied to Ofsted for multiple guest log-ins which were then printed out for parents to use, with prefects on hand to help. This approach led to the completion of 121 individual responses.

Another case study, Elmgrove Primary in London, took a similar approach. Computers were set up at the back of the main hall and parents were directed to them at the beginning and end of events. Language support was available and teachers assisted. During the process the school received feedback that “setting up an account from home was difficult and time-consuming”.

The published materials can provide schools with the ideas and materials to help make Parent View more representative. This must be beneficial if Ofsted is to see a true picture of what parents think. However, it could also be argued that Ofsted is spoon-feeding schools with text in a bid to bring a poorly used and ill-conceived function up-to-speed.

Further information
• Parent View Toolkit (Ofsted, March 2013):
• Parent View poster and leaflet:

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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