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Enhancing and maintaining parental engagement with Tapestry

by benc on June 15

Since schools closed their doors to the majority of their children on the 20th March, educators have done what they always do at times like this; they have risen to the challenge of keeping a sense of normality for the children and found ways to enable access to learning while they are at home.

Some teachers prepared packs of work to use at home, others headed online to find ways to communicate with the children whilst having to remain apart. This was going into the unknown for everyone; they didn’t know how long the lock down would be for, how much work children would need and how many children would be accessing the work.

By the Easter holidays, the picture was much clearer – this was not going to be a quick lock down and school leaders and teachers realised how important keeping in touch with the children and their families was going to be.

At Tapestry we were busy moving our development plan around so that features we felt would help our customers most during this time could be released more quickly. We had a lot of feedback from staff and parents, and this informed our choices. As lockdown got underway, we went ahead with some practical features: Memos, an increased length of videos to 10 minutes, the ability to add documents to observations, and the ability to have clickable weblinks within observations. Within a few weeks of the lock down, we then added Activities, the ability to schedule observations and memos, and to upload audio files.

All these features have made it even easier for Tapestry users to keep in touch with families and children. Being able to upload longer videos has allowed staff to share stories or ‘teach’ a short lesson to children. Having documents attached to the same observation or memo has meant that parents have been able to find everything they need in one place. At a point when parents and carers have needed as much support as possible, this has been a huge time saver for many people. In return, the parents have been sharing so much of their child’s learning with the settings. In the first 8 weeks of lockdown, there were over 4 million relative observations added on Tapestry. Relatives have been communicating how their child has been sharing a book, creating artwork, exercising, making music – the list is endless. The evidence that teachers have on their children doing things that might not be possible in the classroom is immense.

The reason for this increase may well be because the parents were really involved in their child’s learning and they were keen to share this with their teacher. In return, the teacher could then give feedback on what the child had completed or provide the next activity based on what the relative had added, creating an amazing cycle of observations between the setting and home.

Memos has enabled settings to send out work easily to children without it clogging up their journals. In addition, sending things via Memos means you do not have to alter the user permissions as you would do for photos and videos to be visible in group observations. Settings have also been using Memos to send messages, keeping families up to date with plans for welcoming more children into schools and nurseries and storing them all in one place for easy organisation.

The Activities feature supports a new level of teaching and learning within Tapestry. The education team here are adding 5 new activities each week across EYFS, SEND and Key Stage for staff to access. Settings can edit selected activities and add their own to their collection. All these can be accessed by parents and carers as required.’ Staff at the setting can see responses to activities from relatives quickly and easily as they are all linked together, while relatives will just see it as a normal observation.  Assessing the observation that comes back from the child is also a great way to add evidence to your journal. We are looking forward to seeing how this feature develops and grows over time.

The Education Team have also been busy creating activity infographics to share with parents. These are packed with ideas for learning that families can try together, using resources that can be found around the home. Parents and carers can then add observations about how their child responded, all the time providing a collection of evidence to add to the child’s learning journal.

As schools and settings prepare to reopen their doors to more children, we really hope this increase in parental engagement is something that will remain, as settings continue to explore creative ways to reach out to families.

Ben

Product Support Technician and Education Advisor

As a Reception teacher at a school in Littlehampton, Ben was one of Tapestry's early customers. He made good use of the helpful Product Support Team, sending them lots of emails. Eventually, he was invited to come and meet everyone at ‘Tapestry Towers’. He must have made a good impression because a few years later he found himself at his very own desk at the new Tapestry HQ. Ben now uses his experience of teaching 4 year olds to help him adjust to working in an office - he finds it comes in handy with his colleagues, as well as making him a knowledgeable Education Advisor! He also tweets (a lot!) and runs the Tapestry Support Group on Facebook.