Sharing Good Practice

1. Introduction

2. What you can do as a principal

3. What you can do with your school community

4. Impact on students

5. Some ideas and resources

6. What some principals say

7. What some parents say

8. What some researchers say

9. Some useful books on parent engagement

10. References

11. Acknowledgements

Acknowledgement
The use of the words parents and families throughout this module refers to all types of home arrangements and parental figures, including carers and legal guardians, who care for and rear children. Any images of people in this module do not indicate these people were in any way part of the project or are in agreement with any information contained in this module. Except where otherwise indicated, and save for any material in this document owned by a third party or protected by a trade mark, a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en) applies to this document.
This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education through the Grants and Awards Programme 2015-16 to 2018-19.
First published July 2019
Cover image: © Andrei Rahalski | Dreamstime.com

Introduction

Knowledge gained from individual experience is worthwhile. It becomes even more valuable and understood when shared for the benefit of others.

Schools and families will benefit when they share their experiential knowledge of what works for them in engaging in their children’s learning.

Forums of teachers and/or parents, both within and/or between schools, can explore the latest parent engagement research and best practice models to identify suitable approaches that could work in a context. In turn, sharing successful parent engagement practices between schools can enhance the practices of those schools. Such sharing assists in prioritising parent engagement as routine practice in schools and high on the agenda of school leaders, families, teachers and support staff. Ongoing cycles of action learning (planning-acting-reviewing-planning …) in parent engagement helps to ensure continued improvement based on real experiential knowledge.

Best practice in parent engagement in learning and wellbeing will be contextual – what works in one school may not work in another. School communities are composed of different people and may need different approaches. However, sharing what works within your school has the potential to help other schools – and vice versa.

It is important to seek feedback from parents about what actually works for them at each stage in their transition to high school. This includes their first contact with the school, the processes of enrolment and getting to know the school, and then throughout the first year of secondary schooling.

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What you can do as a principal

Following are some notes on sharing parent engagement practices both within your school community and with other schools.

• It can be strategic to build the practice of parent engagement into conversations with your school leadership group, teachers, parents and the broader community. It’s important to also lead by example in engaging at all levels with parents.
• Provide opportunities for teachers to share their experiences around engaging parents, whether positive or negative, with other teachers. Have teachers discuss their learning experiences.
• Build understanding in all staff and families that parent engagement practices are integral to best practice in teaching and learning.
• Emphasise to teachers where parent engagement is explicitly included in the AITSL Standards for Teachers and discuss how this focus might be included in their goal setting and review. (Parent engagement is highlighted in this copy of the AITSL Standards for Teachers).
• Build parent engagement strategies into your Annual Action Plan.
• Develop a shared vision with your staff and parents of what family school partnerships and parent engagement looks like and how it will be implemented.
• Work with other principals to create a cluster of schools to learn from each other about engaging with parents around their children’s learning and connecting with community organisations.
• Minimise parent engagement professional development costs by combining with other schools for guest speaker input and other professional learning related to parent engagement.

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What you can do with your school
community

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Creating a culture of sharing best practice is helped by some formal structures that bring together the various interests. One way is to develop a parent – teacher – leader – student - community member consulting group whose role within the school is to:

• Generate opportunities for idea creation and sharing teaching.
• Advocate the value for children’s learning when parents are engaged through shared responsibility and partnership.
• Monitor the progress of parent engagement strategies and impact on student learning and wellbeing.
• Help embed engagement strategies in the school’s teaching and learning culture.
• Host “community conversations” to better understand the families in your community and how to better work and learn in partnership.
- These conversations can help build parent understanding of teaching and learning methods within the school and support their child’s learning.
- Reach out to families in a setting outside school to listen to their ideas, build relationship and discuss how you would like to engage families in their child’s learning.
- Generate opportunities both within and between schools to discuss with school representatives, ways to best engage their respective parent groups with their children’s learning and wellbeing.

IMPACT ON STUDENTS

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Many researchers emphasise how family and parenting influence a child’s mental health. Effective parenting practices and positive parent-child relationships are very important as young people transition into secondary school.

“Parents and families are children’s first teachers and they continue to help their children to learn and thrive throughout the school years. Parents as partners with school in supporting children’s learning can have a significant and long lasting positive impact.

Research shows benefits of parental engagement include:
• improved academic outcomes
• greater engagement in learning
• children can be more likely to enjoy learning and be motivated to do well
• children can have better relationships with other children, improved behaviour and greater confidence
• enhanced relationships with others in the school community
• the development of effective partnerships — where families and schools can work together to address issues that may be impacting on children’s wellbeing and achievement”.

The above information is taken from the Progressing Parental Engagement Project, resources for parents – public school life. ACT Government, Education - this resource is available at:
https://www.education.act.gov.au/public-school-life/resources-for-parents/progressing-parental-engagement-project

The Australian Government’s Learning Potential free app and website provide information on topics about how to respond to the many impacts that secondary school has on students. Please refer to section 5 for links to this information.

The following information on transition to secondary school is taken from the Te Tari Arotake Matauranga Education Review Office (2016) and is available at:
https://www.ero.govt.nz/publications/evaluation-at-a-glance-transitions-from-primary-to-secondary-school/6-transition-from-primary-to-secondary-school/

“The transition to secondary school often coincides with important social, emotional and physiological changes in the lives of adolescents” and parents’ and teachers’ understanding of these changes can enhance parental confidence and also enhance the confidence of young people.

“When students change class within or between schools, they must adjust to new surroundings, become familiar with new teachers and peers, learn new ways of working, and make sense of the rules and routines that operate in their classes (Sanders et al, 2005). While students are navigating the formal school environment, they are also adjusting to the social changes that happen when changing schools and classes.

Why the Primary to Secondary Transition matters.

Students need to make positive adjustments to their new school and classes so that their wellbeing is maintained and their learning is coherent and continuous. McGee et al (2003) found that there was a strong correlation between the extent to which students experienced difficulty following transition and their likelihood of dropping out from education. Other research indicates that poor transitions impact on students’ wellbeing and on their achievement in the future (West et al, 2008). Where students experience multiple transitions because of transience, there are identifiable negative impacts on their achievement.”

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SOME IDEAS AND RESOURCES

Professional Learning to Support Teachers in Parent Engagement.

The success of St Mary’s School, St Anthony’s School and St Gerard’s School, referred to as the ‘SMAG’ cluster in Dandenong, is based around employing a cluster engagement leader. A key role of this leader is to encourage these schools to share parent engagement experiences.

While this cluster is of three primary schools, much of the processes would be the same for secondary schools.

The cluster leader states: “There is increased communication with parents and children and families seem happier and more enthusiastic. The students are proud of their learning and knowing that their teacher communicates with their parents has increased their motivation as well.”
(Brown, 2018).

Sue Brown is the SMAG Cluster Engagement Leader. The above quote is from Professional learning to support teachers in parent engagement, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY). The full statement is available at:
https://www.aracy.org.au/blog/professional-learning-to-support-teachers-in-parent-engagement

In their words: ACT schools share their parent engagement practice, June 2017 available at:
https://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/334/filename/Parent_Engagement_in_ACT_Schools_Case_StudieswCover_JULY2017.pdf

Parent engagement in ACT schools: good practice case studies report available at:
https://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/332/filename/Parent_Engagement_in_ACT_Schools_ReportwCover_JULY2017.pdf

ACT Government. Progressing parental engagement school fact sheet: engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian families.
https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/807432/150897-Engaging-with-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-Families.pdf

Review of best practice in parental engagement – Goodall, Vorhaus, Carpentieri, Brooks, Akerman and Harris (2010) available at:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265673055_Review_of_best_practice_in_parental_engagement

Family Engagement: Best Practices for Attracting and Involving Parents in Your School Community – Ohio PTA. Powerpoint presentation available at:
https://www.ohioschoolboards.org/sites/default/files/OPTA.pdfhttps://www.ohioschoolboards.org/sites/default/files/OPTA.pdf

Progressing Parental Engagement School Fact Sheet: Engaging with families of children with disability
https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/807434/150897-Engaging-with-families-with-children-with-disabilities_rev2.pdf

Australian Government - Learning Potential

Learning Potential is a free app and website for parents, families, and carers packed with useful tips and inspiring ways parents can be more involved in their child’s learning. It is designed to help parents be part of their child’s learning and make the most of the time they spend together, from the high chair to high school. Visit the Learning Potential website, or download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play. (Department of Education & Training).

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What some Principals say

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The following quotes are taken from interviews conducted as part of the Re-Energising Parent Engagement in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools Project.

“Another way is what we’re starting to trial is an Education Advisory Committee (EAC) unplugged, so that will just be parents getting together, there will be a topic and it will be parents’ wisdom being shared with parents which is a key factor of how we operate with the EAC – there’s wisdom in the room even though they might be for an EAC event, there might be an expert outsider, we always give people a chance to have the wisdom in the room shared with each other.”
(Principal, secondary metropolitan school, Queensland).

“Well, what I would like to see is the Commonwealth Government marshal resources around this issue to provide some research and to use good research and data around strategies that schools can use with parents and say here’s a template for good parental engagement, here’s some best practises, this is what research is saying and if it’s working this is what you get.”
(Principal, metropolitan school, Australian Capital Territory).

“We are currently in the process of writing a shared vision for the next five years, and certainly, the feedback from families in our school, and students and staff, things that we value most in our college in terms of a community are around that notion of inclusivity, and education that’s holistic.”
(Principal, metropolitan secondary school, Queensland).

“We’ve worked with the <education authority> in terms of the parent and school partnerships model and we’re a part of a cluster with <another college> and we’re working together – one of my deputies has a responsibility around community – it is her portfolio and so she provides some professional learning for staff around ways that we can make our school more readily accessible for parents.”
(Principal, metropolitan secondary school, Victoria).

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WHAT SOME PARENTS SAY

The following quotes are taken from interviews conducted as part of the Re-Energising Parent Engagement in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools Project.

“I think there’s a good opportunity to have a parent voice and to be able to contribute to you know a situation where it might help to bring about some feedback for schools or to support other parents … I think it’s really important to showcase the schools that do have really good Principal school teacher parent student relationships.”
(Parent, metropolitan secondary school, Queensland).

“Most parents want the very best for their children. If they are made aware that engaging in their children’s learning is going to benefit them, they will want to know what to do. However it very important that parents are given the reason why.”
(Parent, metropolitan secondary school, Western Australia).

“So I was just saying at my daughter’s school, at the high school I think there is a large appetite there for some parent information - opportunities to hear from experts on the kind of topics that another parent just mentioned at her children’s school. For example there were two evenings at the school this year that were actually hosted by the P&F and they sold out within minutes in one of the amphitheatres and so because of that, and the feedback received, there’s going to be a larger program rolled out – the P&F in conjunction with the school are rolling out a more dedicated program in that kind of area about wellbeing and social media, safety, anxiety – topics like that.”
(Parent, metropolitan secondary school, Queensland).

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What some Researchers say

“Research shows children are much more likely to reach their full potential in life when their family and education and care service work together. These benefits are evident when families and educators exchange information regularly and collaborate on consistent approaches to daily routines, child development and learning.”
(Taken from Quality Area 6 – Building partnerships with families – National Quality Framework. February, 2018. Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority).

Further information available at:
https://www.acecqa.gov.au/nqf/national-quality-standard/quality-area-6-collaborative-partnership-with-families-and-communities

“Increasing and improving parentteacher interviews so that parents can form stronger relationships with teachers and interact at more frequent points to discuss learning ... structure and content of these meetings would benefit from revision so that there is ample time for building relationships and forming shared understanding and dialogue between parents and staff.”
(Stafford, Barker, Ladewig, 2018).

“Schools should consider offering knowledge exchange opportunities for all teaching staff, including principals, to share learning about successful parent engagement practices. In addition, they should provide training to all staff in evidence based, holistic, strengths-based approaches to support communication and relationships with all young people and their families. There is also value in educators being encouraged to work with colleagues from other schools to share ‘what works’ in parent engagement practice across different school communities.”
(Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, June, 2017).

Full article is available at:
https://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/332/filename/Parent_Engagement_in_ACT_Schools_ReportwCover_JULY2017.pdf

“There is increased communication with parents, and children and families seem happier and more enthusiastic. The students are proud of their learning, and knowing that their teacher communicates with their parents has increased their motivation to do well ... The cluster model adopted by SMAG has provided the schools with an important mechanism for learning from other each other, which strengthens the learning of the staff. It also enables the cluster to build partnerships with organisations in the local and wider community.”
(Brown, S. 2018).

Extract from statement available at:
https://www.aracy.org.au/blog/professional-learning-to-support-teachers-in-parent-engagement

Some useful books on parent Engagement

Please click here to peruse a list of useful books on parent engagement

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References

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (2017). Parent engagement in ACT schools: Good practice case studies report. Canberra: Families ACT.

Brown, S. (2018). SMAG Cluster Engagement Leader, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

Quality Area 6 – Building partnerships with families. February, 2018. Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority.

Stafford, Barker, Ladewig (2018). Parent engagement: Analysis of qualitative research with principals and parents. Re-Energising Parent Engagement in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools Project (unpublished report).

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Education Services Australia.

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Acknowledgements

Ethics approval for research was obtained through the University of Southern Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee.

Special thanks to the following for contributing to the project.
Project partner - The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for assistance with survey development and data analyses.
National principal associations for various assistance with dissemination of project information.
National parent associations for various assistance with dissemination of project information.
Australian primary & secondary school principals who completed surveys.
Australian primary & secondary school principals who participated in interviews.
Australian school children’s parents who participated in interviews.
Project partner - Professor Sue Saltmarsh (USQ) for ethics approval submissions, interview protocols, training of interviewers, qualitative and quantitative data analyses, research publications and presentations.
Dr David Saltmarsh for data analyses and research publications.
Presenters of preliminary findings: Professor Sue Saltmarsh (USQ), Tony O’Byrne (Catholic School Parents Australia (CSPA)), Carmel Nash OAM (CSPA) and John O’Brien (CSPA).
Interviewers: Tony O’Byrne (CSPA), Bernadette Kreutzer (Catholic School Parents Queensland (CSPQ)), Siobhan Allen (CSPA), Linda McNeil (CSPA), Rachel Saliba (CSPA) and Greg Boon (CSPA).
Dr Tim Sealey for assistance with survey generation and survey data analyses.
Interview data analyses and generation of qualitative data report: Barbara Barker (ARACY), Neil Stafford and Dr Caroline Ladewig (ARACY).
Parent Engagement Module writers: Carmel Nash OAM (CSPA), Siobhan Allen (CSPA), Rachel Saliba (CSPA) and David Fagan (Backroom Media Pty Ltd).
Charmaine Stevens (CSPQ) for graphic design and art direction.
Schoolzine for web design and Adventure Clipz for video footage.
John O’Brien (CSPA) for project coordination.