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Tapestry Survey 2021: Parent and Carer Engagement during the Pandemic in Early Years

by Anna Pedroza on September 22

3 min read:

Getting to know you – results from the Tapestry survey

Earlier this year we undertook a survey to gather information about parent and carer engagement and we asked questions about approaches to fostering positive relationships, communications and strategies for supporting families who experience barriers to engaging with settings and schools.

More than 370 early years educators responded to the survey which we really appreciated. We wanted to share some of the main themes, and we’d be interested to get your thoughts and reactions.


Theme 1 – use of video

Early years educators are using one-to-one video calls, recorded video and live video broadcasts to stay in touch with parents and carers to a far greater extent than prior to the pandemic. The survey found that before the pandemic only 9% of settings used recorded video messages but that’s now increased significantly with a third (30%) planning to use them. Similarly, 7% used one-to-one video calls previously, and a quarter (26%) now plan to use them. Live video broadcasts also increased from 3% pre-pandemic to 11%.


Theme 2 – traditional communications

Use of the traditional printed letter has reduced. Over three quarters (79%) of respondents used these before the pandemic but this has dropped to just under half (44%) who now plan to continue to use them. Similarly, there has been a shift from face-to-face to online parents’ evenings. While face-to-face parents’ evenings have fallen from 86% to 47%, online versions have risen from 6% pre-pandemic to 30% now planning to use them.

This reduction in traditional ways of connecting has made way for a broader range of communication approaches. Educators now have a greater variety of methods available to them, and they can consider what will work for the families at their school or setting.

Andrew Simpson, headteacher at Arundel Church of England Primary School explains this well: “The pandemic has seen us expand the approaches we take to communicating with our whole community. Video is now a tool we use weekly to stay in touch with all our families and feedback has been positive. However, we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, having a chat or picking up the phone are still vital, what’s key is that we keep talking, whatever approach works best.”


Theme 3 – supporting parents who experience barriers to engaging with settings and schools

Interestingly, respondents were clear that when supporting parents who face barriers in engaging with settings and schools, traditional methods are still important. More than three-quarters of respondents (79%) reported that phone calls and face-to-face chats were important and having a Key Person for each child/family was also high on the list (53%). Almost three-quarters of the respondents (74%) also reported that an online learning journal was an important communication tool.

Encouragingly, three-quarters (77%) of respondents felt that they had reduced barriers to engagement for parents and carers in the past year. Peter Farrant, Head of Operations at Dolphins Pre-school, helps to capture why the pandemic has bolstered parent and carer engagement: “Despite the challenges of remote communications and drops offs at the gate, relationships with many of our families have been strengthened through the shared experience of the pandemic. How we communicate with families, and more widely, has changed. Approaches we started in the first lockdown such as our WhatsApp group or remote consultations, are now just part of daily life.”


Theme 4 – planning and CPD

We found that virtually all respondents (95%) believed a clear plan was central in helping to nurture good relationships with families, and three quarters (78%) also reported having a plan already in place.  Continuing professional development (CPD) in how to support families was a priority with almost nine out of ten (87%) believing this was important, while 91% highlighted the importance of CPD relating to diversity and inclusion.


This is the second year Tapestry has undertaken a survey and we feel the results are really insightful. We’re planning to make this an annual activity so please get in touch if there are questions you think we should ask. Finally, thank you again for getting involved and responding.



Anna Pedroza

Anna Pedroza is a PR and comms expert who works in the education sector. She helped Tapestry to design and gather the survey findings and supported them in analysing the results.