The Parent/Carer, Student and Teacher Partnership

Louise Wallace-Richards – Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal - Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal - Teaching and Learning

The Parent/Carer, Student and Teacher Partnership

I have had the pleasure of working with a generation of Radford students and their parents/carers at Radford College over the past fifteen and a half years. During this time, I have worked with three Principals, seen different curriculums come and go, including the “Every Chance to Learn” ACT Government curriculum, and then the implementation of the Foundation–Year 10 (F-10) Australian Curriculum and the IB Diploma Programme in the senior years. The Browning Early Learning Centre was being built when I joined the College in 2005, and opened the next year, to join the existing Year 5 – Year 12 College. Then in 2008, a Junior School was added to our Middle, High and Senior schools with a final move to the structure of a Junior School and a Secondary School, in 2015.

Relationship diagram


No matter how the College has been organised, how big it has been, or what curriculum I have been required to teach, one aspect of working at Radford that has stayed the same has been the value our parents place on education and the opportunities Radford has to offer their children. In my opinion, it is one of the key things that makes Radford a great place to work and learn for teachers and students. 

One characteristic of highly effective schools is that they form partnerships to enhance student learning and wellbeing. This includes partnering with parents and families. (Geoff Masters, CEO Australian Council for Educational Research, 2015).


We have a culture at Radford that enables students to achieve their best in all their endeavours. We strive to ensure that the College is a safe place to learn, where individual achievement is celebrated by all. Though we have a positive learning culture at our school, student engagement in learning is not taken for granted. In the Secondary School, teachers are working with teenagers, people who are in a time of great change in their lives, with a growing need for autonomy, and a need to develop self-regulation, one of our key learner traits. As our Secondary School students’ desire for independence grows, the partnership of parents/carers, students and teachers needs to be maintained and strengthened. 

School effectiveness research has identified positive home-school relations as a characteristic of schools with high academic standards, regardless of student background variables. Highly effective schools regard parents as partners in education and promote home-school partnerships. (https://www.education.gov.au/family-school-partnerships-framework-1)

There are many ways Radford’s Secondary School promotes home school partnerships, including the obvious ones of parent/teacher/student conversations, information evenings, presentations by Radford staff and visiting speakers, Radford Online and this weekly publication, the Bulletin. Our Learning Management System (LMS) SEQTA, and our use of Microsoft’s OneNote, have really opened the window for parents to the learning of their students, and provided more opportunities for parents and carers to have real dialogue with their children about what they have been learning, how they have been going at school and how they can improve.

Picture a conversation between a parent or carer with their child at the end of a school day:

“How was your day?”
“Fine.”
“What did you do today?”
“The usual”
.

And there the conversation ends. Sound familiar? I think we as parents or carers are meant to give up then and leave our children to their phones or reverie.

Picture a different conversation, enhanced by the parent or carer who has accessed SEQTA lessons or assessment feedback prior to the conversation with the child:

“I see that you were studying ….this week…..What did you find interesting about….”
or
Did you understand what your teacher said about how to improve in the next task on….?

The discussion about the learning of your child can still be about what they did at school and whether they liked the day or not. It can now also be about how they have been engaging with the learning, how they have been achieving and this opens up a dialogue about you may be able to assist your child with their learning. I have included a screenshot below of the sort of information you can glean from accessing SEQTA lessons. Some teachers provide more detailed information about lessons in Onenote, that parents can only see by their child giving them access.

Lesson material online

SEQTA also enables you and your child to review past feedback for tasks when they receive a new task with some similar criteria. You can have a helpful conversation with your child about how they can improve, what to focus on for revision or in the drafting process. Always with the emphasis being on the child analysing and evaluating. Our job as a parent/carer is to encourage and facilitate. 
 

Image credit: BaysideJournal.comI am not suggesting that you have to have such conversations all the time, and as usual, these conversations will need to be balanced with an eye on respecting your teenager’s desire for autonomy and independence. I am also not encouraging us all to be “helicopter parents”, a term coined in 1990 by American researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay to describe parents who may be over involved and always assessing risk, preventing their children from developing that skill. 

[Image source: https://www.zmescience.com/science/news-science/self-critical-parenting/, credit baysidejournal.com]

Our key role as parents and carers is always to provide a safe and secure stimulating home environment, where our children feel loved and supported, even if at times they challenge whether the decisions we make are in their interests! Radford Secondary School’s Learning Management System helps your children to know what they are learning, how they are going and how they can improve. SEQTA or Class OneNotes also make clear our approaches to learning in the classroom, with teachers providing details for students about learning intentions and success criteria.

The College is happy for parents to view lesson details and to ask their child to show them their class OneNote. Always remember, though, that notes and resources have been produced for students and that there are contexts from the classroom to these. They provide an opportunity for you to enhance your discussions with your child about their learning, and always with a respectful tone about the teaching in the classroom.

The Australian Government’s Family School Partnerships Framework sums up nicely what we are seeking to do at Radford through our parental engagement strategies:

The evidence suggests that parental engagement strategies have the greatest impact when they are focused on linking behaviours of families, teachers and students to learning outcomes, when there is a clear understanding of the roles of parents and teachers in learning, when family behaviours are conducive to learning, and when there are consistent, positive relations between the school and parents (Emerson, Fear, Fox & Sanders, 2012, p. 32). https://www.education.gov.au/family-school-partnerships-framework-1

I hope that my article has identified some of the ways we are making the day-to-day teaching and learning in our Secondary School visible for our students, and how you can use our Learning Management System SEQTA to enhance the conversations you have with your children about their learning. We are a partnership in helping Radford students realise their potential to become thinking, open-minded, resilient, self-regulated and independent young people.

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