Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
Schools strive to deliver the best outcomes for students. However, schools sometimes miss a golden opportunity to do even more for their students when they fail to engage parents as partners in education. We know that parent engagement is critical in supporting student learning and development. It is also key to addressing the growing rates of cyber-bullying and mental health issues among young Australians.
Research here and overseas tells us that parent engagement has a positive impact on many indicators of student achievement. Things like higher grades, lower school drop-outs and post-school study. Parent engagement is also linked to positive student behaviour like increased attendance, better developed social skills and student self-esteem. Older students benefit just as much as younger students do when their parents are actively engaged in their lives.
When we talk about parent engagement, we need to go so much deeper than canteen duty, fundraising activities, parents and friends (P&F) associations and parent/teacher interviews. While these are important, genuine parental engagement is so much more. Seeing parents as partners means providing regular opportunities for parents to better understand the learning and teaching and to see it in action. It is also about providing opportunities for their feedback and for them to make meaningful contributions to issues that are important to the school. This needs to be done with the understanding that parents today are extremely busy.
Simple ways of increasing parent engagement could be inviting parents to contribute to discussions on the nature of the curriculum, introducing the learning agenda into P&F meetings, using all forms of technology to communicate regularly to parents on what is happening in schools, how are students learning and how best to support them.
Parent engagement is a rich vein that is not always tapped by schools. The schools that recognise parents as genuine partners tend to do better across all indicators. Meaningful parent engagement can have a very positive impact on the learning and the wellbeing of students. That is, after all, what schools are all about.
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta