Is parental engagement critical?

August 18th 2017

One of the questions that Family Focus Consultancy often get challenged on when delivering our workshops is; how important is parental engagement really to a child’s educational outcomes? Generally, that question is followed by a discussion about how far great teaching alone can go in helping a child realise the “good educational outcomes” that are required to put them on a sound life path. For us, the answer is simple, parental engagement is critical. A great well-rounded education requires more than just a dedicated teacher and a keen learner. The enemy of any and every child learner would be if they had to progress through their school years feeling unsupported. Parent engagement allows the home and the school to be connected. Authentic parent engagement means the connection is tangible, dependable and provides the child security as they become aware of what they know and what they don’t know. And we aren’t just referring to intellect and academic subjects. Contrary to popular belief schools are much, much more than homework, rules, and tests. Just like raising a child is much more than changing nappies, providing a home and feeding them regularly!

From the moment children are born they start to navigate their way in the world. Discovering how to get people to respond to their needs, understanding what they want, who they are and where they fit in. This learning doesn’t stop, it is a continuum, lifelong learning is inevitable for individual evolution. This education will take place in many different forms over a lifetime, nonetheless, it will likely be identified relevant and useful for the learner’s purposes. This theory of lifelong learning serves to reinforce the primary and critical role of parents and caregivers in a child’s education. They are a child’s first and, likely their longest educator. They will be a significant factor in the way a child approaches education and, they will most certainly have an influence over the child’s attitudes to learning.

This first educator role is not necessarily a natural or easy fit for many people. Parents often share their experiences of schools and formal education being overwhelming. Family Focus Consultancy often talk with parents who don’t understand what their child is learning or feel useless in terms of providing support to their child. These feelings are exactly the type of negative responses that positive parent engagement can overcome. Now that may seem obvious to a lot of people but, with parent engagement being a required element for educators to complete before they can obtain their Proficient Teacher Accreditation with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) there is obviously a gap in what educational communities know and what they do?

Improving parent engagement for enhanced student wellbeing are the workshops that we at Family Focus Consultancy facilitate. They are open to all members of the school community and they are designed to help teachers identify what collaborative relationships with parents look like. Keep in mind the relationship between the home and the school, no matter if it is good or bad is enduring. Consider that each child attends school on average for 200 days a year, times that by thirteen years, now add a couple of children into the equation. That can be a lot of years a parent will interact with a school. It is nothing for families to spend decades in schools. With those figures running through your mind everyone involved in a child’s education would have to agree that it would be ideal if the relationships could be mutually respectful, positive, welcoming, authentic, beneficial and lasting? Schools need parents to not just be involved, they need parents to be engaged.

Improved parent engagement not only assists a student’s educational outcomes but also their overall social and emotional wellbeing. We haven’t met a parent yet who didn’t want their child to be happy and confident. Better yet, a family that relates to their child’s learning is also more likely to have improved experiences within their own communities. Positive parent engagement can short-circuit negative factors such as low socioeconomic status. Real change, change that makes sense.

With so much to gain is it any wonder that parent engagement is a factor in realising teacher proficiency? All that said here are the questions for each of us to answer honestly;

As a teacher when was the last time you sat down and strategically mapped your interaction with your student’s families?

As a parent when was the last time you had a discussion with the teacher about what support you could provide above and beyond the parent/teacher/student interviews and reporting and assessment conversations?

Now is the time to speak with your school’s Principal, ask them to consider booking staff and community members into an upcoming workshop. Remember, great schools make time to invest in their most valuable assets; people.