Research shows the crucial need to connect with new parents

| 25 Sep 2019

Subscribe to our newsletter

AMY GRAHAM for Education HQ Australia

Read full article here

Do we truly value their role as the first and forever teachers of their own child, and even if we believe they are important, how do we show them this?

I recently did research with parents of children who were starting school about their preparation for this process, and teachers about how these children were adjusting to the new school environment.

One of the major conclusions that I could draw from speaking to parents was that so many felt disconnected from the process of transitioning. If we lose them at this early stage, what hope can be held for getting them to engage and become involved later in their schooling?

Most parents want to be a part of their child’s transitioning to school, but some lack knowledge or an awareness of what their role should be. We tend to assume that most parents have ready access to people, places and resources.

There is also an implicit expectation that parents will know how to support their child’s learning, yet many do not. Knowledge is power and, as one parent in my project identified, "I think most parents try to do their best, but when we know better, we do better".

 We all know parental engagement matters, and the outcomes for children are greater across every area of learning and life if they have interested, engaged and aspirational parents.

It also makes our job easier if we have parents that want to support their child’s education. But we must also acknowledge that some parents find this difficult, be it from their own negative experiences of school, the challenges of daily living due to poverty, racism, unemployment or other marginalising factors.

The impetus must be on educators to bridge this divide and improve the cohesion for families who are acutely aware that their child is embarking on an important, exciting but sometimes daunting environment that is unfamiliar to them.   

Educators would do well to plan opportunities to understand their incoming cohort of families, and offer families a seat at the table when planning how to support their child now they are at school.

So how can we do it better? These five C’s might help you when working with families. 

  • the need for greater connection with families, showing an interest in understanding them and valuing their beliefs about education and learning.
  • the establishment of consistency of expectations, both in relation to their child’s learning and also the role they can play in supporting this process.
  • more frequent and effective communication, to link the learning between home and school so parents have a valuable and authentic role in supporting their child.
  • collaboration, meaning that we need to work with other settings, such as preschools, and parents to find out what a child has been exposed to prior to starting school.
  • continuity, where possible, trying to ensure that the environment that children receive at home, preschool and school are aligned and the discontinuity is minimised.