From parents to students

Jodie Lopez

Jodie Lopez is a self-confessed geek and proud of it. Her career started in sales and customer service, and she left this to become a Primary teacher. She is now a freelance consultant and founder of lovEdtech. Jodie speaks at conferences for schools about using technology on a shoestring. Jodie is passionate about ensuring that every penny spent on tech in schools is both fit for purpose and keeps teachers coming back for more!

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Image credit: Burst // Samantha Hurley. Image credit: Burst // Samantha Hurley.

In 2008 I was in my NQT year and teaching at South Rise Primary School. I had just been appointed as shadow ICT coordinator and given my first project. The ICT coordinator had applied successfully to the Local Authority for funding to start a community project with parents. We had written the application form, asking for money to buy five digital cameras. These would be used as part of a project to reach those parents whom we felt needed more of our support, or were “harder to reach” for whatever reasons. When we were granted the money, it fell to me to then run the project.

I was also the school enrichment coordinator. Every Friday afternoon, the class teachers (apart from me, obviously!) had their PPA time while the school transformed into an enrichment session for every KS1 and KS2 pupil. Sessions included football, “Sessions included football, tennis, scouts, sewing, art, film club, and much, much more.”tennis, scouts, sewing, art, film club, and much, much more. They were run by a combination of volunteers and hired coaches. Enrichment on a Friday meant that class teachers (in a large, three-form entry Primary school) could meet and plan together. It also cut down hugely on supply teacher costs, and stopped pupils from having inconsistency of teaching for the main subject areas.

KS2 students chose their sessions and rotated each half term. KS1 worked on a carousel of activities. It was quite a unique set up, and so we decided that we could use the time in which I ran the enrichment afternoon to also work with parents. They decided to make a video showcasing the enrichment afternoons, as they were curious about their children’s learning. So, I taught them how to use the digital cameras, how to plan their shots and storyboard, and then how to use Windows Movie Maker to edit their photos and videos, helping to add them with music and titles to create videos. The final video was a culmination of all of their hard work:

YouTube link

The project was so much fun. Parents felt empowered to be part of advertising the school. We were able to make them feel more comfortable in the school grounds, and engaged them in finding out more about their children’s learning. As an NQT, it was a fascinating chance for me to find out more about the families and community that our school served. I learnt two main things from this project:

1) The parents who never stayed on school grounds for long had also not stayed on their own school grounds much as teenagers themselves, for any number of reasons.

2) Our parents felt that technology was something for their children, but it was too late for them to get involved.

From that one parent project we gained a new school governor. Another of the mums went on to set up an enrichment class herself, and was in school with us every Friday afternoon from then on.

With this in mind, I was inspired to look into doing more for them. The following school year, we created a parent ICT lesson each week. I was released from class (having a different PPA time to everyone else, as I ran enrichment on Fridays) and so would lead a session on a Tuesday morning for 45 minutes. Here, parents could drop off their children and come straight to the ICT suite to work with me. Some brought their children’s younger siblings, so we had babies in carriers with us too!

I started by assuming we were going to be teaching word processing and the like, but it gradually expanded to be much more than that. Parents wanted to know how to download the photos they had on phones and digital cameras. “Parents wanted to know how to download photos from phones and cameras.”We learnt how to turn pictures and text into birthday party invitations. One family made wedding invitations to print out, and then went on to create a website to which guests would RSVP. Suddenly the ICT club had saved them £500 in invites! In a deprived area of south-east London, that was hugely important. We went on to learn how to save money by banking online and paying bills by direct debit.

We covered CV writing, of course, and one mum went on to get her first ever part time job. One of the dads from the course came back to see me two years later. Not only had he made himself a website (we used free online website builders such as, but he had now created one for a local business, and been paid for his work!

They learnt touch-typing through the BBC Dance Mat typing programme that I also used with the students. All along the way, they learnt a variety of things, but I learnt from them also. I learnt more about the cultures and “Sessions included football, tennis, scouts, sewing, art, film club, and much, much more.”attitudes of our parents. I found out what they loved about the school, and where we were letting them down, giving us ample opportunity to take their views on board and change things like communications.

I found out about the issues facing our families and we were able to expand our offering to cookery lessons, language and Maths classes, as well as day trips out. The deputy headteacher ran very successful trips with parents to the nearby farms to do fruit picking every summer. The more we worked with the parents, the more they worked with us. They were grateful students and sage mentors.

You probably know that working with parents is advisable if you want good engagement in their children’s learning. But it is also worth looking at what the parents themselves need to learn, and offering that to them too when you can. They will thank you for it endlessly!

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