Talking Futures: Understanding Parents

To develop a better understanding of parental engagement and help schools and colleges provide targeted support, the Gatsby Foundation’s research has identified four groups of parents, based on their relationship with their children and their attitude to school and college careers provision.

The table gives a brief description of each group and suggested ideas and activities to support them, which can be added to your existing parental engagement programme.

More detail about the research and these parent groups can be found in The Talking Futures Toolkit available to download here.

Parent group



How you can support them

Group 1


Have strong relationships with their children. Happy to take a back seat in decision-making, but also happy to be involved by schools. Trust that the right choices will be made.

These parents are open to participation and have a strong influence on their children. Encourage these parents to understand the value of their role in supporting decision-making.

Group 2


Highly engaged in their children’s decision-making. Often educated to A-level or degree-level. Talk to their children regularly about careers and they have high expectations. May hold misconceptions about the choices available, especially in technical education and careers.

This group is very open to what schools and colleges offer. Consider subject- and career-specific events to spark interest and dispel myths about particular routes.

Group 3


Have a more distant relationship with their children and/or minimal engagement with school. May lack confidence and knowledge. Their communication skills, coupled with fear, may hold them back from seeking help.

These parents need particular support from schools and colleges. Consider tailored preparation activities or workshops to build their confidence to talk and ask questions about careers options. Collaborative learning events can help them explore different routes together with their children.

Group 4


Highly anxious about their children’s future. Receptive to engagement from schools and colleges, but the usual format or frequency of events may not be appropriate for them. This may be compounded if they or their child have additional needs.

This group will respond well to small-group activities which allow them to voice concerns and tackle the specific issues their children face. Consider personalised events, with follow-up sessions with Careers Advisers.

To find out how best to provide information and support for parents, see The Gatsby Foundation's recommendations for good parental engagement



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