2012 National symposium presentations 

Engaging Parents and families in learning

Key note speaker:

Helene Gregoire

Engaging Parents, Families And Communities In Children’s Learning: A Perspective From Ontario

Dr. Grégoire will frame her keynote address with Susan Auerbach’s definition of authentic partnerships as “respectful alliances among educators, families, and community groups that value relationship building, dialogue across difference, and sharing power in pursuit of common purpose in socially just, democratic schools” (2012, p. 5).

It is with that perspective that she will present and discuss the key elements of Parents as Partners: A Parent Engagement Policy for Ontario Schools (2010) as well as other policies that support parent and family engagement in children’s learning and in the education system.

She will set this discussion within the broader education reform agenda and, drawing from her experience with the Parent Engagement Office from 2006 to 2008, she will describe the process which informed the development of different initiatives to create the conditions for parent engagement in the province.

She will then reflect on the challenges of creating conditions under which authentic partnerships can flourish and will pose questions to spark dialogue about policy directions among symposium participants.                                                                                                                                     

Helene's powerpoint presentation here

Part 1 Smarter Schools

National Key Education Reform Project

Presentation: Smarter Schools National Key Reform Parental Engagement Project — Part 1 Case Study

Di Giblin

Di Giblin was a member of the National Parental Engagement Taskforce and will present an overview of the case studies component of the Smarter Schools National Key Reform Parental Engagement Project.

Liz McMinn: Partnership Officer NSW Department of Education and Communities

Case Study Example – Toukley Primary School

Toukley Primary School is located on the Central Coast of New South Wales and caters for 580 students. The school has taken a parent-centred approach to school-family relationships which has brought about significant change in parental engagement.

The approach to engaging families is concentrated on getting parents to be active partners in their children’s learning at home. It extends to building parental capacity in their roles as co-educators, parents and participants in the workforce. Raising students’ and parents’ expectations of learning is integral. One program, Making Education Goals Sustainable (MEGS), has been credited by the school as having a profound and positive impact on parents’ and students’ views of schooling and of the possibilities for the future.

This case study looks at key parental engagement strategies, progress and outcomes, critical success factors and issues that impact on continued growth while sharing stories of changed teacher attitudes around engaging with families, and the development of supports to embed family engagement. 

Di & Liz's powerpoint here

Community Engagement Lifting student outcomes

Community Engagement — Lifting Learning Outcomes Through Extended Service Schools

Margaret Orme

Education is one of many factors that influence the achievement and life chances of children and young people. Other factors include family life, family involvement and the degree to which children and young people are engaged with their peers and broader community – social capital.

Consequently the effectiveness of schools to maximise student achievement needs to consider how they work in partnership with families and the broader community. Stronger school and community partnerships and connections, developed between local organisations and revolving around specific localities, can build social capital, strengthen social inclusion and enhance educational outcomes.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is developing Extended School Hubs in five trial sites across Victoria. The Hubs provide a platform from which partnerships with business and community based agencies can deliver activities and services to students, their families and the local community before, during and after school hours.

This workshop provides an opportunity to share the learnings that have emerged through this exciting initiative. 

Margaret's poweroint here

Family School Convenors  

Family School Partnership Convenors Program

Mary Tobin and John Stafford

Traditionally school improvement efforts have focussed on what occurs within the boundaries of the ‘school gate’. While these eff orts have led to change, they have not delivered the reforms and outcomes needed for Australian schooling to ensure equity and excellence. Central to this is the need to go beyond the school gate.

This workshop will provide an overview of a system wide response to the implementation of the Commonwealth Government Smarter Schools National Partnerships reform agenda. Importantly the response builds upon the work that was already being led in this area. The Family School Partnerships initiative of the Catholic Education Office Melbourne builds upon the school improvement agenda, whilst promoting new relationships between school and community through a process of disruptive innovation.

Located in the growing body of international research this approach focuses on building the capacity of educational leaders throughout the system to move beyond the school gate in their efforts to improve literacy and numeracy learning outcomes and ensure that schooling contributes to a socially cohesive society.

This strategy recognises that schools alone cannot achieve these outcomes. Therefore it seeks to create new understandings of what role community plays in educational provision which is essential if all young Australians are to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.

Mary & John's powerpoint here

Family School Partnerships

 Family-School Partnerships – Principals A Crucial Ingredient

Punchbowl Boys High School

Jihad Dib

In this presentation, Jihad Dib, the Principal of Punchbowl Boys’ High School in the South Western suburbs of Sydney will take you on a journey to inspire and instil a belief in the value of schools being an integral part of the local community.

In his six years as the educational leader, Punchbowl Boys’ High School has served as a lighthouse of the excellence that can be found when all members of a school community have the same belief, drive and determination to improve and contribute to a society at large.

This presentation will outline some of the elements that have underpinned the transformation and demonstrate that student achievement and lifelong outcomes must be the core tenant of school improvement and community growth.

Mr. Dib is a passionate advocate for Public Education and an even louder advocate for the goodness found within all individuals, especially those most marginalised within society. He is a firm believer in recognising that all people are capable of achieving a better life.

Yea High School

John O’Meara

A strong focus on transforming the approach to family engagement over the past five years has led to significant whole–school improvement in a number of areas at Yea High School.

This session will examine some of the changes to school structures, processes and strategies that led to a significant change in organisational culture at Yea High School.

This work has enabled many families to have a greater understanding of what their child is doing in secondary school, appreciate their skills and have the confidence to further support their child’s learning. 

Jihad's powerpoint here

Supporting Teachers

A Report On A FSCPB Professional Development Module And An AITSL Pilot Study Project

Janet Smith

In this session, Janet will report on two recent projects associated with family, community and school partnerships. The first project involved workshops that Janet facilitated on behalf of the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau (FSCPB) for over 300 early career teachers and mentors in 2011-2012. This project was entitled Improving School and Family-Community Partnerships, and workshops were conducted in both the ACT and South Australia.

The second project involved focus groups that Janet facilitated on behalf of APC and ACSSO in late 2011 for an Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) pilot project. This project focused on the National Professional Standards for Teachers, and the primary research question was ‘What are the common practices of teachers and school leaders at each career stage that lead to effective parental engagement to support student learning?’

Engaging With Parents, Carers And Families: Teacher Professional Development & Pre-Service Teacher Education Programs Project

Sue Saltmarsh

The Engaging with Parents project is being conducted in partnership with the NSW Parents’ Council, Association of Catholic Schools Parents, and the NSW Federation of Parents’ and Citizens Associations.

This research has investigated parents’ experiences of engaging directly and indirectly with schools, their levels and types of involvement, and the factors that impact upon their engagement over time and in a range of circumstances, as well as the ways that Australian pre-service teacher education currently prepares students for parent-school engagement.

Outcomes of these projects include print and online resources for use in pre-service teacher education and teacher professional development programs, with a view to offering research-led information and discussion points designed to support the teaching profession in better understanding the complex issues at play when engaging with parents and families. 

Sue's powerpoint here

Patrician Partners in Literacy

Patrician Partners In Literacy

Russell Newman

Initially designed as a program to provide parents with literacy strategies to assist their sons with reading and writing at home, the Partners in Literacy became so much more.

Parents re-discovered their connection with learning, engaged with the secondary school context in a much more meaningful way and began to have a voice in previously unknown territory like curriculum design and College vision.

Partners in Literacy brought parents back to school, placed them in classrooms next to their sons and opened up communication about learning in the home on a much more significant level.

Panels and closing comments

Stakeholder Panel

Stakeholder reflections

Key recommendations for action

Closing Comments

Hélène Grégoire
Caz Bosch
Peter Garrigan

Smarter Schools

National Key Reform Parental 

Jan & Ann's presentation Engagement

Jan Patterson, Chair, Parental Engagement Project Taskforce and Project Director, SA Smarter Schools National Partnerships Secretariat
Ann Bliss, Taskforce member, Vice President, Australian Parents Council and Executive Director, The Federation of Catholic Schools Parent Communities SA Inc.

Building active connections between home and school is critical to improving the learning outcomes of young Australians. Schools and parents working in partnership to support their children’s learning is a powerful formula. Schools and parents sometimes struggle to know how they can go about developing this relationship or to know what other possibilities and opportunities there might be and what other schools are doing to foster a welcoming and nurturing school community.

The importance of strong partnerships with parents, families and communities is often overlooked in major educational reform initiatives. Drawing on the experience and findings from the Smarter Schools National Partnerships National Key Reform Project: Parental Engagement in Schooling in Low Socio-economic Status (SES) Communities, the presenters will discuss some of the steps necessary for embedding parent and family engagement into education policies, structures and practices across Australia, including from the different stakeholder perspectives.

Jan & Anns powerpoint presentation here

Part 2 Smarter Schools

National Key Reform  Project

Smarter Schools National Key Reform Parental Engagement project - Part 2 — Toolkit

Danielle Cronin

This workshop will provide participants with an opportunity to unpack the new national Strengthening Family and Community Engagement in Student Learning Toolkit. This interactive tool provides a one-stop-shop to assist schools and communities reflect on, assess and strengthen their current practice in relation to parent and community engagement.

The tool is designed to assist schools move away from a ‘random acts’ approach to a more planned, evidence-based and strategic approach that aligns their parental engagement efforts with the educational goals of the school. This tool can also be adapted for use by those groups (both government and non-government) that work with schools, such as Departments of Education, Partnership Brokers and community agencies.

Danielle Cronin will lead a conversation around the self-review process as outlined in the toolkit and demonstrate how the various tools can be used to suit the circumstances of individual communities. Participants will be encouraged to share their thoughts on how this tool could be used in their context. 

Danielle's powerpoint here

School Business and Community Partnerships

School Business Community Partnership Brokers Program

David Hardy

This session will be an interactive workshop drawing on the experience of participants to explore a range of issues related to parental engagement, and how a partnership approach can support greater parental involvement in young people’s education.

Participants will have the opportunity to examine an example of a partnership that is supporting parental engagement, and will be actively involved in discussion on the success factors and challenges around parent engagement.

Discussion will focus on key questions, such as:

How do we get more parents engaged?
What will it take to achieve a deeper level of parent engagement?
How can a partnership approach support improved parent engagement?
How can the Partnership Brokers network help?

Participants will explore strategies to achieve more, and deeper levels, of parental engagement, with a particular focus on strategies that are best implemented through a partnership approach. The workshop will also explore how these strategies can be supported by the Partnership Brokers network at a local, state and/or national level. 

David's powerpoint here

Commonwealth Initiatives

Commonwealth Government Initiatives In The Parent And Family Engagement In Schooling Area

Matt Davies

This presentation will provide an overview of the current Australian Government priorities for schooling that parent involvement is critical to. Matt Davies will also discuss recent initiatives being undertaken by the Government to increase parental engagement in schools and in Government policy.

The Australian Government is committed to providing national leadership around what works to engage parents both in their children’s schooling, as well as in Government school’s policy formulation at all levels, including school authorities. Building on collaborative relationships with peak parent organisations representing both Government and non-Government school systems, and with state and territory counterparts, the Australian Government is excited about opportunities that exist to press forward in partnership to

ensure the parent voice is represented consistently in the formulating of schools policy, both at the national and state and territory levels; and
increase the active engagement of parents in their child’s schooling.

Matt's powerpoint here

Churchill Fellowship

Churchill Fellowship — Updates From The Field

Sharon Butler and Danielle Cronin

Danielle Cronin and Sharon Butler will provide examples of tools, strategies and practices they have encountered locally, nationally, and internationally. They will draw on their experiences as Churchill Fellows and on information obtained from the 2012 International Roundtable on Schools, Family and Community Partnerships.

They will then lead a conversation aimed at exploring the implications of these ideas for policy and practice. Audience members will be encouraged to share their experience and knowledge and to incorporate reflections from the symposium presentations.

Sharon & Danielle's powerpoint here

Family School Partnerships on the ground

Family School Partnerships – On The Ground

Hélène Grégoire

Dr. Grégoire will discuss examples of initiatives that support parent and family engagement in children’s learning from Canada’s largest province. Examples will be drawn from the early learning, elementary and secondary levels and will be supported with Ontario-based research.

Particular attention will be paid to initiatives that show potential for reducing inequities in educational outcomes and lessons will be presented for engaging parents who face barriers to participation. 

Helene's powerpoint here

Parental engagement and Partnerships: The reform agenda

Australian Research Alliance For Children And Youth (ARACY)

Lance Emerson
Josh Fear

The Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau commissioned the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) to conduct research on the topic of parental engagement in school education. The purpose of the research was to identify the evidence on the benefits of parental engagement, what works to promote the most effective kinds of parental engagement, and the strategies open to policy-makers wishing to do so.

The evidence reviewed in the report clearly indicates that successful parental engagement requires sustained effort from all parties involved. Learning starts early and lasts throughout school and beyond, and though the nature of parental involvement/engagement may change, the level of commitment required from parents remains the same. For parents to fully appreciate that their role in their children’s education is legitimate and crucial, they need to receive consistent and actionable messages from teachers, schools and other parents before and throughout their children’s school years.

The evidence suggests that the most beneficial kinds of parental engagement involve the modeling of values and expectations, encouragement and a respect for the child-as-learner. From this perspective, parental engagement involves creating a positive home environment for learning, and encouraging communication with children about the value of education.

Gains in learning are most prominent when parents and educators work together. The combined effect of parental support in the home, a positive relationship between parents and teachers, and a quality learning environment at school has been found to make a positive contribution to children’s academic achievement throughout the schooling years. Supporting parents to more fully and consistently engage in their children’s learning is a challenging task.

The education system in Australia is complex, and policy to promote parental engagement needs to take account of the interactions between stakeholders and influences from outside the education system. More thorough, on-going investigation is needed to illuminate how parents, teachers and policy-makers perceive the role of parents in learning and schooling, how each of these parties is currently placed to incorporate greater parental involvement/engagement, and what is required from each to generate the most beneficial kinds of parental engagement.

Lance & Josh's powerpoint here

Early childhood and parental engagement

Engaging Families In The Early Childhood Development Story

Katerina Eleutheriou
Lance Emerson

An increasing body of evidence from neuroscience demonstrates how brain development in the early years, especially from birth to the age of three, can set trajectories for learning and development throughout life. It is therefore imperative that the information on how parents and caregivers can support brain development is universally promoted.

Parenting is the primary influence on children’s development and we need to share consistent, evidence based information with the whole community to enhance understanding of the crucial role that parents play in contributing to children’s development and the behaviours they can adopt during the early years of a child’s life to enhance brain development and overall life chances of children.

This presentation will share some reported findings from Stage 1 of the national project Engaging Families in the Early Childhood Story, led by the South Australian Department for Education and Child Development and the work taking place for stage 2 to implement a range of strategies to share the evidence with parents and the community.

The four reports from stage 1, endorsed by the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee (AEEYSOC) and the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA), are available from the MCEECDYA websitehttp://www.mceecdya.edu.au.

 Home Interaction Program For Parents And Youngsters (HIPPY)

Carmen Calleya Capp
Tony Barnett

HIPPY is a combined home and centre-based early childhood enrichment program that supports parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. The program targets communities that experience various forms of social disadvantage.

Home tutors who have been recruited from the local community work with parents as peers over two years during the critical period of the child’s transition to full-time school. HIPPY aims to ensure children start school on an equal footing with their more advantaged peers, as well as to strengthen communities and the social inclusion of parents and children.


Katerina & Lance's powerpoint
Carmen & Tony's powerpoint