This study explored the nature of parental involvement in a low-fee independent secondary school in South Africa. The relevant available research indicated that participatory input by parents should be seen as contributing to improving the efficiency of schools; this can be applied equally in a low-fee independent school. However, whereas there are a number of studies in the literature on parental involvement in independent schools, there is a minimal number on parental involvement in low-fee independent schools. According to the few applicable relevant reports when low-fee independent schools were created the socio-economic status of the families of the children attending the schools was a contributing factor in explaining and influencing parental involvement.
This apparent gap in the literature encouraged the researcher to conduct a more comprehensive study which explored the nature of parental involvement in an independent secondary school in South Africa - more specifically, a low-fee one. A qualitative research methodology was deemed most appropriate for this case study. Data was gathered by using a purposive sampling method which involved interviews, observation and document analysis. As this is a research report of limited scope for the partial fulfillment of the requirements of a lectured Master’s degree that consists largely of course-work, a small sample of school stakeholders in an independent secondary school was selected.
The conceptual lens of Joyce Epstein’s typology of parental involvement in schools was used as a basis for the study. The framework informed the data collection methods by referring to the different types of parental involvement, namely: Basic Obligations of Parents; Basic Obligations of Schools; Parent Involvement in Schools; Parent Involvement in Governance and Advocacy; and Collaboration and Exchanges.
Overall, the study found that in terms of the perceptions of the participants interviewed, there was a probability that families’ socio-economic backgrounds had an impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of communication in terms of the mode and language used. The results show that even though there was an attempt to improve parental involvement in this low-fee independent secondary school, it was still lacking.
The study recommends that communication and relationships between parents and the school should be improved through the development of a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC would have the potential to aid the designing, drafting and implementation of policies and procedures. In addition, the findings of further research could assist in closing the gap in communication between parents, teachers and the community.