A change of culture at Denny High School

​It was an exciting time as Denny High School prepared to move to a new school building in February 2009 - everyone was looking towards working together for a bright new future.

Always committed to parental involvement, the school was keen to work more closely with parents and carers to further develop partnerships that will benefit the whole school community. They have now introduced regular monthly parents focus groups to help.

Rector Stephen Miller selects 20 parents’ names at random and invites them to attend an evening workshop to discuss how the school could improve. Focus groups have already been held on key areas such as communication, transition and the move to the new building. 'I’m genuinely trying to find out how we can support them, and give us a chance also to think how we feel parents can best support us,' says Stephen.

Tell it like it is!

The focus groups take place in the staff room to create a comfortable, informal environment, and parents are offered tea and coffee to help put them at their ease and encourage casual conversation. A small group of senior pupils are also invited to attend, and both the teachers and parents enjoy their ability to ‘tell it like it is’!

An S6 pupil explains the benefit of the group from her perspective: 'It’s quite good I think because everybody’s expressing their own opinions and you’re getting the voices from all different sides throughout the school and all the people that speak feel involved. Everybody’s getting the chance to say what they want. Their voices are being listened to.'

During the focus group, the rector and teachers encourage free flow discussion and are delighted to find that the parents are happy to contribute their opinions and ideas. 'I see this as a great opportunity to do something in helping with the parent partnership,' one parent said. 'I feel involved.'

Extremely valuable feedback

The parents’ feedback has been extremely valuable in helping the school to move forward and in creating a culture of partnership and teamwork. All those who attend the focus groups are asked to share their feedback on the group and all the parents in the whole school community are kept informed of the next steps via the school’s regular newsletter.

Both the parents who attend the focus group and staff enjoy the opportunity to meet one another personally, resulting in a stronger relationship between home and school. The focus groups also increase parents’ confidence in expressing their views and encourage them to take a more active role in the school community.

'The atmosphere is absolutely superb; it’s always constructive,' says parent David Pow. 'To come along here and just be a passenger doesn’t help anyone so I think it’s important that everyone does participate. I think it’s to get an all-over perspective - not just a parent perspective, not just a pupil perspective, not just a school perspective. It’s easy to see that you can make a number of assumptions and quite often those assumptions are wrong, so you really need that input from the various parties. I really enjoy these meetings.'

'Parents are assured that we’re taking what they’re saying seriously and acting on it,' says Stephen. 'They know it’s not just a talking shop, its part of an ongoing process of consultation. We’re valuing very much what they’re telling us and putting it into action where possible.'