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Value Of Parent Voice In Schools – Jennifer Oaten

Parents participating in a discussion during Santa Maria College's 'Parent Voice' evening, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in education.

In today’s complex educational landscape, the involvement of parents is more critical than ever. At Santa Maria College, we recently held our first ‘Parent Voice’, providing a platform for parents from various backgrounds and experiences to share their perspectives and contribute to our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

The workshop was a wonderful platform to share the work the College has done and explain the rationale, process and thinking behind our work. We were then able to seek input from our parents, many of whom have lived experience of diversity. Table conversations enabled many great suggestions to be put forward for the College to consider as part of our strategy.

This initiative underscores the importance of actively seeking and considering parent voices when planning, making decisions or considering change. This blog explores the benefits of incorporating parent voice in schools and offers practical strategies for effectively incorporating parent perspectives, ideas and opinions.

Why Parent Voice is Valuable?

Research consistently demonstrates that parental involvement is directly linked to improved student outcomes, including:

  • Better academic performance
  • Increased attendance and
  • Positive social-emotional development

By actively seeking and valuing parent input, schools can experience numerous benefits:

  • Better Decision-Making: Incorporating parent feedback ensures that school decisions are more reflective of the community’s needs and expectations, leading to more effective and accepted opportunities and programs.
  • Innovative Ideas: Parents bring diverse perspectives, expertise and experiences that can spark innovative solutions and improvements within the school.
  • Resource Support: Engaged parents are often more willing to volunteer their time and resources, providing valuable support for school initiatives and activities.

When parents feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be satisfied with the school and engage in a collaborative partnership that benefits the entire school community. Involving parents fosters a sense of shared responsibility and creates a supportive network that extends beyond the classroom.

 

Overcoming Barriers to Parent Engagement

Many parents face time constraints and other barriers that can limit their ability to actively participate in school activities. To address this, schools can implement several strategies to make it easier for parents to provide feedback and stay connected:

  • Conduct surveys: Gather valuable feedback via online methods from parents on various aspects of the school experience.
  • Establish parent committees: These committees provide a platform for small groups of parents to share their perspectives in a more formal ongoing format. However, all members are required to commit to attending for this to be effective.
  • Organise events with speakers: Address topics of interest such as study strategies, use of technology, mental health, or academic support to share knowledge, seek feedback and develop supportive partnerships.
  • Offer multiple methods for feedback: Use online surveys and dedicated email addresses for suggestions or have a contact person to ensure parents have various ways to communicate their thoughts.
Parents participating in a discussion during Santa Maria College's 'Parent Voice' evening, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in education.

Our First Parent Voice Initiative

At Santa Maria, we recognise the critical role parents play in shaping the educational environment. In our continuous effort to engage our parent community, we held our first ‘Parent Voice’ event this week. These gatherings are dynamic discussions about important community matters to which all parents can contribute. Any parent can sign up to be involved in these workshops. To encourage engagement and thoughtful input, we structure these meetings like focus groups with discussion topics shared in advance so parents can determine their level of interest and attend if they choose rather than having to commit in an ongoing way to a group or committee.

This new initiative is part of a broader proposal to revitalise our Parent Council and enhance community engagement. We plan to hold three ‘Parent Voice’ sessions each year during Terms 1-3,

Parent Voice in Term 4 will be focused on choosing projects proposed by staff to fund with the Parent Levy. This democratic process empowers more parents to get involved in spending decisions, ensuring their contributions directly benefit the school community.

Parents participating in a discussion during Santa Maria College's 'Parent Voice' evening, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in education.

Enhancing Parent Engagement

To further strengthen parent involvement, schools can explore additional ways to engage parents and amplify their voices:

  • Regularly communicate the impact of parent feedback, highlighting how parent input has influenced school decisions and programs.
  • Ensure all parents can access important information and participate in school activities.
  • Offer flexible meeting times and remote participation options to accommodate parents with busy schedules and commitments.
  • Continuously evaluate and refine parent engagement strategies and base adjustments on feedback and participation rates to ensure these efforts remain practical and relevant.

The power of parent voice in schools cannot be overstated. By actively seeking and valuing parent input, schools can create a more inclusive, supportive, and effective educational environment. As principals and thought leaders, it is our responsibility to implement strategies that facilitate this crucial partnership and harness the collective wisdom of our parent community.

Together, we can foster a school culture that not only hears the voice of staff and students but also that of parents.

 

Shaping Future Leaders- Jennifer Oaten

At Santa Maria College, we believe that leadership is a journey of learning, not just a title or position. For over 80 years, our Year 12 students have been at the forefront of shaping our school’s culture through their leadership. As one cohort graduates and another takes the helm, the baton of leadership is passed, igniting the potential within each new group of young women.

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