Professional women’s experiences of parent participation in schools

Year: 2018

Author: Henriksen, Joanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the past decade, the prevalence and importance of parent participation in Australian schools has had a marked growth, stimulated in part by the increased focus in research literature and mandated education policy. In light of the burgeoning status of parent participation in their child’s education and schooling there is a dearth of information on how professional women experience participation in their child’s school.The experience of professional women of participation in their child’s schooling remains relatively untapped; the tensions around a definition of participation and what this means in the context of parent interactions and expectations of schools; the nature of these experiences; the factors that influence those experiences and the schools treatment of the human and intellectual capital of professional women.Through a combination of document analysis of school policies and procedures around parent participation, interviews with the school principals and interviews with professional women with school-aged children, this qualitative, phenomenological research explored how professional women experience participation in their child’s schooling. The research focused on how parents are positioned in or by school policies, documents and practices, the impact of gender on the terms of participation and to what extent schools capitalised on the knowledge, capabilities and skills of professional women. For this research, the parameters for ‘professional’ were informed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.In the context of current trends around the importance of parent participation and partnership, educators, education departments and policy makers have a responsibility to discover the experience of parent participation for professional mothers and respond in ways that may enhance this lived experience. What is highlighted through the research is the identification of robust strategies for parental involvement, and the extent to which schools could better harness and accommodate professional skills and attributes whilst enhancing the experiences of these women. Of note, the co-construction of terms of reference for parent participation, an acknowledgment of professional aptitude and a means by which to enact these skills within the context of the school are of growing importance. The significance of the research findings contribute to a wider appreciation of gender in the roles that parents play in their child’s school. How participatory functions are translated by families and the experience of highly qualified and experienced professional women who are also the mother of a school aged child.