Smarter Schools – Parental Engagement in Schooling in Low SES Communities
The National Collaboration Project, Parent Engagement in Schooling in Low Socioeconomic Status Communities is one of six national key reform projects which are supporting States and Territories to implement the Smarter Schools National Partnership reforms. The project aims to advance the identification, promotion and implementation of best practice in parents and caregiver engagement in low socioeconomic status schools as a critical factor for improving student attendance, behaviour and learning outcomes. The program is about promoting awareness and an understanding of the importance of engaging parents in education, in schools, and in their child’s learning. It’s aimed to deliver a number of outcomes. It’s looking at studying a number of schools in Australia who are demonstrating good practice, or innovative practice in engaging with their families. It aims to develop a tool kit of resources for schools that they can use to help them engage with their parent communities. It’s also aimed at supporting the national agenda around school teaching standards and pre-service teacher training, to support the development of teachers to work in partnership with families. The bottom line is, families and parents are the first and continuing educators of their children. We know from research, and we know from practice, that when schools and families do work together in partnership, children perform better academically, they stay in school longer, and they enjoy their schooling. So it’s actually a core to education to work in partnership with families. It helps to improve educational outcomes, and it helps to boost the capacity of school communities to support children’s learning. So strategies that help to break down those barriers have been really successful in helping families feel welcome and included. Strategies like playgroups, cafes, art and craft classes, pastoral care strategies are all important in helping families feel part of the school community. Other strategies that have worked are where schools have actually employed Community Liaison Officers whose main role is to engage families, to work with families, and support families. So it’s seen as central and core to what the school is doing. It’s not a periphery, it’s an actual core service that the school is providing. Parental engagement in education is summed up nicely in the family/school partnership framework where is says “Family/school partnerships are collaborative relationships and activities involving school staff, parents, and other family members of students at a school. Effective partnerships are based on mutual trust and respect, and a shared responsibility for the education of children and young people at the school”.