This morning I dropped my son off at school nursery and then went for a run. As I ran past our local church I noticed there being more cars there than usual. This got me thinking about fluctuating church attendance over the last few hundred years and how, in times of crisis, people tend to start attending again.
When people who don’t usually attend church return – at times of crisis or for the major festivals like Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival – they expect things to be the same. It’s much the same with parents and schools. Apart from dropping their children off when they’re younger, the only times they enter schools are for parents’ evening and school events. Parents expect schools to be much the same as when they went themselves.
People expect institutions with which they don’t engage much to remain the same.
So what are schools, churches and other institutions to do who face this problem? Wait until people engage with them to gain a mandate to change and stay relevant? Of course not, that would create a vicious circle.
What’s needed is strong leadership. A vision: a clear, decisive focus on what’s important. In our increasingly atomised society it takes a huge effort to create an engaged community. This is especially true in schools who, according to a figure I heard at the Scottish Learning Festival this week, have had to deal with 700 new initiatives since the dawn of the National Curriculum.
Parental engagement is like confidence. You can’t wait for it to happen; you have to make a decision and decide to change. It’s takes effort, but it’s got to be worth it in the long run!