Families are the first educators of their children and have a key influence on their learning and development. Schools also have an important responsibility in teaching and shaping the lives of young people. This is why it is important for families and schools to work together in partnership.
Schools can facilitate the development of partnerships by:
- proactively building collaborative relationships with families and communities to create a shared understanding of how to support student learning, safety and wellbeing
- developing strategies to sustain culturally respectful partnerships with families and communities that are welcoming and inclusive
- building partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and community organisations to ensure a culturally safe environment and a two-way reciprocal exchange of knowledge on wellbeing issues
- building links with community organisations, services and agencies to assist schools in the early identification of need and to collaboratively plan targeted support for all students and families, including those from vulnerable groups
- regularly monitoring and reviewing school capacity to respond to specific instances of student and family need to protect their safety and wellbeing within the context of the school’s urban, regional, rural or remote location.
Whole of community partnerships are important in supporting the development and wellbeing of young people. This is reflected in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians 2008. ‘Partnerships between students, parents, carers and families, the broader community, business, schools and other education and training providers bring mutual benefits and maximise student engagement and achievement.’
Partnerships with families and community organisations can help to create a consistent and supportive approach to student safety and wellbeing. Preventing and responding to bullying behaviour is a shared responsibility between all staff, students, families and the wider society. All members of the school community contribute to the prevention of bullying by modelling appropriate behaviour and respectful relationships.
Research of school-based anti-bullying policies by Ttofi and Farrington (2011) found a significant reduction in bullying when intervention programs included parent and carer involvement. Strategies that support parental and carer involvement include regular communication such as newsletters, parent consultation on policies, programs and approaches and after-school clubs to support parents of at-risk students (Thompson & Smith 2011).
The Family-School Partnerships Framework encourages sustainable and effective partnerships between all members of the school community, including teachers, families, and students. The Framework identifies seven dimensions as guidelines for planning partnership activities. It also provides practical guidance to school communities and school systems in implementing and fostering family-school partnerships based on existing good practice.