Fostering an engaged and supportive school community

Year: 2014

Author: Melanie, Baak, Anna, Sullivan, Bruce, Johnson, Larry, Owens, Bob, Conway, Bill, Lucas

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In fostering an engaged and supportive school community, schools and their leadership are directed by national and local policy initiatives as well as individual school policy and the contexts in which they are situated. A number of national policy initiatives such as the Family-School Partnerships Framework (Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008) and the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs, 2008) aim to improve partnerships and engagement of families in schools. The schools involved in this research were also governed by their strategic plans, site improvement plans and school values. In local school policy documents, as well as in interviews with school leadership and staff, the five participating schools clearly acknowledged the importance of an engaged and supportive school community. School staff described how having a supportive school community resulted in improved engagement of students and less behaviour issues in the school. It was also recognised that having a supportive school community made it easier to deal with issues when they arose. School staff described how, through building relationships with students and parents and involving and including them in school activities and decisions, a stronger sense of school community was built. This, in turn, resulted in improved engagement of parents and students with the school and a stronger sense of connectedness and belonging. The schools had multiple strategies which were used to enact the policies to improve engagement with the school community. The strategies varied across the schools, but included; building partnerships with families and the wider community, regular, meaningful and considered communication with families which aimed to build relationships to ensure the best outcomes for students, fostering school values which focused on building a supportive community, engaging students, teachers and families in activities outside the school classroom, engaging and including all families represented in the school community, encouraging and enabling parent involvement and employment at the school, promoting a positive profile of the school. These strategies were enacted at different levels throughout the school. At some schools the leadership focussed on building a supportive community, with the leadership taking on entrepreneurial roles to bring about change in their school communities. These leaders frequently recruited enthusiasts among teaching staff and parents who recognised the importance of a supportive school community. These teachers and parents were instrumental in enacting strategies and practices that fostered a supportive community.