Re-Energising Role: Parental and community involvement is crucial to school performance and academic achievement
IN my article on Jan 5, I discussed the dynamics of exit and voice, and the way they relate to issues of public schooling.
The essential argument was that voice is an important aspect to helping institutions such as schools improve and respond to the needs of parents, students and the wider community. I want to return to the issue of parental involvement in schooling and argue for its importance.
Research has shown considerable links between parental involvement in schools and school performance.
There is a significant body of research on the relationship between schools, families and communities, and findings on the whole support the contention that increased community and parental participation, voice and involvement in schools have a positive relationship with general school performance and even academic achievement.
Garry Hornby in the book, Improving Parental Involvement, argues: "The importance of parental involvement is reinforced by the considerable amount of research evidence which is now available to support the contention that improving parental involvement increases the effectiveness of the education that children receive.
"Reviews of the literature consistently provide support for the effectiveness of parental involvement in facilitating children's development.
"Reviews of numerous studies of the links between parent involvement and children's achievement have concluded that the evidence that parent involvement improves student achievement is beyond dispute."
The Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment in its publication Parent and Community Engagement Framework has suggested some matters to consider in regard to engaging parents and the community in schools.
I have simplified, paraphrased and, at times, expanded on some of the points in the framework.
These concerns include the extent to which:
- discussions are open, honest and encourage input from all parties
- schools help to provide support to build parental capacity and capability so that they can use their voice effectively
- schools provide formal and understandable channels for consultation and communication between parents community and the school
- parents are encouraged to participate and get involved in school activities
- a volunteering culture is encouraged and developed in schools
- school communications are clear and easily accessible
- cultural events, festivals and other events are marked and to what extent the school community is encouraged to get involved
There is no doubt that encouraging schools to involve parents and the broader community in their activities is an extremely significant part of the puzzle in improving public schools and in making them more genuinely "public" in nature.
After all, if we are to have genuinely public schools committed to the public good and open to all, then the extent to which our schools are properly integrated into our communities and the broader society becomes a critical issue.
Public policy in this area is vital given the central importance of social cohesion and the key role that schools play in the formation of social empathy and moral character.
Involving parents and the community in our schools is a central contributor to ensuring that the institutions contribute positively to social cohesion and, ultimately, to national cohesion as well.
Maximising the benefits of parent and community involvement in schooling requires addressing barriers to their involvement in schools. Hornby argues that barriers to effective parental involvement can include:
- Demographic changes
- Historical and societal factors
- Policy and legislative environment
- The attitudes of parents
- The way the school system is organised
- School culture
- Local school policies and procedures
- Lack of resources
- The attitudes of teachers
These matters need to be addressed if the rhetoric of parental involvement and the benefits that can flow from this are to match the realities on the ground in schools.
The promise of a truly public education in part depends on the extent to which the public trusts, values and appreciates public schools.
Getting parents and the community involved in public schools is a sure way to build the trust necessary to ensure that public schools are schools of first choice for parents and the wider community.
Building the social capital between parents' community and the school is crucial to our efforts to drive an agenda of inclusiveness and excellence.
The role that parents and communities can play in helping to raise the standard of our public schools and improving educational outcomes should not be dismissed. The impact that parental and community involvement can play in helping disadvantaged schools is also something I want to draw readers' attention to as well (Do Parents Know They Matter? Raising Achievement through Parental Engagement by Alma Harris, Kirstie Andrew-Power and Janet Goodall).
Making public schools the schools of first choice means encouraging the public dimension and public characteristic of the public school.
Schools in combination with an active community and parental body can play a re-energising role in developing a sense of public good.
This can be an important contribution that the public school can play in society. There is far more at stake in the debate over parental and community involvement in public schools than we may at first realise.
As always pedagogy, broadly understood, lies at the root of many of our political, social and institutional dilemmas.
James Campbell NST Online Channels Learning-curve 19/01/2014