Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 12 Hansard (30 October) . .
former colleague Meredith Hunter discussed this and related topics at great length with all education stakeholders during the term of the last Assembly, and it was a key item at many forums she attended as the ACT Greens spokesperson for education.
I would like to note that when I say "parental" or "parents" I also include other primary carers of school-aged children such as family members, adopted parents and carers. Parental engagement is an issue that cuts across the funding divides of government and non-government systems, and religious and non-denominational schools, and across state and territory boundaries. All carers and parents want the best for their children and want them to receive a safe and quality education, regardless of what schools they attend.
However, it must be acknowledged that not all parents have the same level of emotional investment in the day-to-day operations of their children's schools. There are many reasons for this, but I would like to touch on just a few that may be pertinent to the discussion before us today and the ACT's response to possible barriers.
Some parents may simply have the trust and respect of the school and of the teachers, do not feel the need to be more actively engaged and are happy with their child's outcomes. That, of course, is a good thing. Some may feel disempowered and alienated from their child's school and classrooms through real or perceived barriers to active communication such as cultural, religious, language or socioeconomic factors. Some parents may simply not have enough time to attend open days or school functions or, conversely, be actively dissuaded from engaging too heavily by their own children. We know quite a bit about the benefits of greater parental engagement for both the child and the parent—and, sometimes less tangibly, for the school as a community and the community as a whole.
I note that earlier this year Minster Burch announced that the ACT would be working with the highly respected Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth to establish a definition of parental engagement, a measurement tool to look at levels of engagement across the ACT, as well as benchmarking how parental engagement can improve outcomes. Minister Burch and others would be aware of the existing piece of work undertaken by the research alliance and Dr Lance Emerson in 2012 that looked at lessons from research into parental engagement in learning and schooling and found many benefits in terms of high grades and test scores, more regular school attendance, better social skills, improved behaviour, better adaptation to school, increased social capital and a greater sense of personal confidence and efficacy for learning. The trick is not really in defining the positives of a greater parental engagement but in finding effective, sustainable and replicable methods of achieving it.
It is interesting that Ms Berry's motion talks of both engagement and empowerment. I take that to mean empowerment for parents and children, not the separate but allied area of school-based boards and empowerment in that sense. These are indeed issues of empowerment that need to be considered in this debate, and they need to be addressed in a way that does not create adversarial outcomes between children, parents, teachers and principals.
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