Parents are the first educators of their children and will continue to influence their children’s learning and development during the school years and long afterwards. Schools have an equally important responsibility in helping to nurture and teach future generations and parents trust schools to provide educational foundations for their children’s future. At the same time, schools need to recognise the primary role of the family in education. This is why it is important for parental involvement in schools as it leads to parents and schools working together in partnership.
Research demonstrates that effective schools have high levels of parental and community involvement. This involvement is strongly related to improved student learning, attendance and behaviour. Family involvement can have a major impact on student learning, regardless of the social or cultural background of the family. The results of families and schools partnering together is significant. Families that understand the education system and the difficulties schools face are a valuable source of support which schools cannot afford to underestimate. Schools that engage families in their children’s learning are tapping in to a rich source of information and expertise and can help build communities.
Parents Associations in Spanish schools are known as AMPA (Asociación de Madres y Padres de Alumnos). An AMPA brings together the parents or legal guardians of students enrolled in non-university education who voluntarily choose to join the group with shared objectives and purposes. They will be considered AMPAs if they belong to Infant, Primary Education, E.S.O., Bachillerato or Vocational Training centres.
Definition of AMPA
– The natural channel for collective participation of students’ parents and it ensures their involvement with regards to the education of their children.
– A meeting place for parents who want to participate in their children’s education as more than just sending them to school.
– An institution within the school which should protect the rights of the pupils, the parents, the school and the staff.
– A bonding place for parents, which must contribute to their children’s education, and a means for them to participate in the educational community, as educators of their children.
- To inform and advise parents about the AMPAs activities, both individually and collectively, in everything that concerns their children’s education and to promote the exercise of their rights and duties.
- To promote parent involvement in the running of the school and its governing bodies.
- To support students and families with special educational needs, or social needs.
- To promote educational quality.
- To collaborate with students and faculty for the smooth running of the school.
- To promote good relationships within the educational community.
- To conduct educational activities which reinforce the values and objectives of the school.
- To provide educational activities regarding the environment.
Benefits of an AMPA to the school
- Raise overall school standard – Bringing parents into the equation provides a fresh insight on improvements that are needed and processes they feel are outdated or need to be put in place.
- Improve home-school communication – It provides schools and parents a two-way channel of education. This is an important one as school-parent communication can be a significant source of tension and frustration for both parents and school staff. The issues tend to be around the timing, frequency and effectiveness of the communications. Some parents even feel that there needs to be a problem with their child’s progress before contact with the teacher can be made.
- Increasing opportunities for students – All of those fundraising events will be of great benefit to the students, widening their possibilities and optimizing their overall learning experience.
Personal benefits of being a member of AMPA
- There’s no better way to know what’s happening in your school.
- It can be a way for you to more effectively suggest change at your child’s school.
- It is an opportunity to meet other parents, building rapport and discussing issues that are on your mind. You can share ideas, concerns, and experiences.
When parents are engaged in their children’s school lives, students have the home support and knowledge they need to not only finish their assignments, but also develop a lifelong love of learning. Teachers who focus on parent engagement often see a profound change in their classrooms. The more parents involved in their children’s education, the better their entire class’s motivation, behavior, and grades become. Parents and teachers share a responsibility to help their children learn and meet educational goals.
Barriers to parent involvement in Spanish schools
In an ideal world, at least one of each student’s parents would be engaged and involved with their child’s school. Being realistic this is not always possible due to other tasks like Life gets in the way; demands of other children, childcare difficulties and lack of time. Poor grasp of spoken language can be another reason that parents are put off becoming involved.
Another even bigger barrier might be the lack of AMPA at your child’s school in Madrid. When this is the situation it really doesn’t matter how much time or enthusiasm that you have, it just won’t be possible.
I regularly visit schools and always enquire whether or not there exists an active AMPA or what other types of parent involvement take place at this school. Based on my experience both as an educational consultant, teacher and Mum, I would say that AMPA is much more active and present in Public and Concertado schools. Most Private schools in Madrid do not have one preferring instead to manage communication directly with parents. Some suggest that parents W hattsapp groups work well. And while Whattsapp does help to keep us up to date on school events, (and to understand that Pepito has lost yet another prized pocession …), it is not a substitute for an active AMPA.
For families that are relocating to Madrid, the choice of school is a major decision. It is for all families of course, but when you’re new to the city, your child’s school in Madrid might also be the families only regular contact with other families. Remote working, Covid restrictions have meant that our social interaction has been greatly curtailed. Fear of Covid means that some families do not even hit the playground after school and of course the playground is only attractive to children up to a certain age.
An active AMPA really does help to bring a sense of community to the school and can lead to new friendships. It has a positive effect on both the school and the parents involved.
If you are interested in learning more about suitable schools for your child in Madrid, please do get in touch. We will give you our honest and unbiased opinion and together we will secure the right school for your child.
Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child.
Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Our trusted and expert service is provided to families who are moving to Madrid from abroad. And also, to families that already live here and need some extra guidance and support.