Parent Power creates parent/carer communities across the UK, each one supported by a local partnership. Through support to develop skills in community organising and advice and guidance on accessing higher education, parents are empowered to make change to support their children’s future and ensure their children have a fair chance in education and their future careers.
Share Big Idea:
Head Teachers / School Leaders, School Teachers, Trusts
Careers & Aspirations
Why was the project needed?
Parents play an important role in supporting their children’s school education and progression university (Archer et al., 2014). However, parents who have a limited or negative experience of the UK education system can lack the knowledge and confidence needed to support their children to access higher education.
Effective approaches to supporting parental engagement have the potential to mitigate causes of educational disadvantage (EEF, 2021). However, they also risk entrenching existing access and attainment gaps if opportunities are only accessed by parents from more privileged backgrounds. It is therefore crucial that parental engagement programmes are accessible and enticing to parents from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Fenland is an area with low university access rates. For example, in Wisbech, only 25% of 18 year olds go to university. This is compared to 100% in the central Cambridge 007 ward, and an average of over 50% across Cambridge (HEFCE, 2022). There is a clear need to engage parents in the effort to close this gap, which is what we aim to do with Fenland Parent Power.
What happened and what was the impact?
Engaged with over 50 parents/carers from across four schools in Fenland.
Held a 121 with each parent/carer, via which they have told us what support they want to get their child to university and what barriers they want to address.
Held several face-to-face and online group meetings at which parents have been trained to become HE experts and started to discuss what issues they want to take action on.
Developed notable parent leaders, such as Cat Rickett in Whittlesey who has become a parent governor and is looking to organize an IAG fair in her school:
“As parents, we have a duty to provide the best support to our children that we can. Not all children want to go to university, and that’s fine, but for those that do, we need to be able to provide them with the tools and information to make that happen. I was delighted to hear that the University of Cambridge is working towards being more inclusive and diverse, and am grateful for the extra support and guidance we are being given.”
On 21st May 2022, 25 Fenland Parent Power families visited the University of East Anglia. They were provided with an insight into university life and a space to plan their campaign to improve public transport in Fenland, which currently does not allow their children to access the extra-curricular opportunities which will help them access university.
What did and didn't work?
121s – developed a sense of trust and stronger relationship with each parent.
Online open evening – we got over 30 parents along to our online open evening and 15 of them signed up for Fenland Parent Power.
Leadership development – parents have taken a lead on their campaign to improve public transport in Fenland.
University trip – the UEA trip was attended by 50 parents and young people and was successful in bonding the group together. The evaluation showed that families gained HE knowledge and confidence from this trip.
Engagement of Traveller families -we have 2 families on the project from these communities, which is fantastic given their lack of representation in HE.
Online meetings – although the online open evening worked well, further online meetings were poorly attended.
‘Cold calling’ parents when they were nominated by a school – their needed to be some framing of the project before we spoke to them.
How did you measure success?
Fenland PP is a long-term, sustained project, so we have not measured many of the intended outcomes yet e.g. HE progression of the children involved. However, our key interim outcomes are:
Leadership development – we have developed a framework for measuring this, including outputs which indicate that parents are progressing to different levels in their leadership e.g. ‘spoken about their experiences at a meeting’.
Parent self-efficacy around HE – we have measured ‘pre’ levels of this before the UEA trip.
Parental engagement – we have tracked and monitored attendance and 121 engagement levels.
Ingredients For Success
The role of our Community Organisers is fundamental. The 121s they have with parents underpin the entire project and allow us to listen properly to parents and respond to their needs with our activity, both with campaigns and information, advice and guidance around HE. They also develop a crucial sense of trust which leads to sustained engagement from parents. Therefore, the budget for the Organisers which provides their capacity (roughly 20 hours per week) is the most essential ingredient.
Is the Project Complete or Ongoing
The project is ongoing.
How is the Project Sustainable
We have secured funding from Cambridge University which will ensure the project runs until December 2024. Our aim will be for parents to continue to develop as leaders and begin to take on more responsibilities themselves for running the project, which is crucial for its long-term sustainability.
What are the Long Term Impacts
Longer-term impacts and timescales include:
Parents becoming experts and ambassadors in their communities for HE (20 parents to be at this stage by July 2023).
Children of parents progressing to university (children are different ages, but we won’t have data for this until at least 2027).
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