Anglia Ruskin University
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Reimagining parental engagement in special schools – a practice theoretical approach

journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 18:06 authored by Sara Spear, Fiona Spotswood, Janet Goodall, Stella Warren
Parental engagement is widely acknowledged to have a positive impact on children’s achievement, and interventions to increase parental engagement have had some success in improving educational outcomes for children in mainstream settings. However, there has been little research on parental engagement in special schools, despite some studies indicating that the challenges of parenting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can negatively impact parental engagement. Understanding and supporting parental engagement in this context is therefore an important area for research and intervention, to provide the same opportunities for enhancing outcomes for children with SEND. This paper reports on research with two special schools, using theories of practice to understand parental engagement. A practice theory framing diverts from an individualist or responsibilising conceptualisation of parental engagement and instead takes practices and practice architectures as the unit of enquiry, and by implication as sites of intervention. Based on data from focus groups with 129 school staff and depth interviews with 26 parents, our analysis illustrates the opportunities and challenges for special schools in fostering a practice architecture supportive of parental engagement, and highlights the importance of effective mechanisms for interaction between actors, in order to connect the practices performed at home, with practices performed at school. This offers a wide range of practices and connections between them as potential sites of intervention for special schools seeking to support parental engagement and drive beneficial outcomes for children.



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Educational Review




Taylor & Francis

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  • Accepted version


  • eng

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Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care

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