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The power of the school-home partnership

Students learn better when the home and school environments form complementary and supportive roles for learning, according to research from the department’s Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation.

Student learning at Whalan Public School

Whalan Public School has open classroom time every morning for parents to speak with teachers and look over their child's class work.

Teachers and parents are the key sources of support for learning – and greater levels of support are associated with better student academic and wellbeing outcomes.

The Supporting students' learning - insights from students, parents and teachers publication presents findings from the 2016 Tell Them From Me school surveys completed by primary and secondary students, parents, carers and teachers in NSW public schools.

Students provided feedback on how much support they received from their teachers and their parents and carers, while responses from teachers and parent and carers indicated how much support they provide in school and at home.

The publication is accompanied by practical strategies for schools to help boost parental confidence and understanding of their child’s schooling in light of research showing that parental involvement in schools declines over school years.

The research shows that students and teachers report different levels of advocacy and support in school depending on the stage of schooling. Students’ perceptions of teacher support start to decline in the final years of primary school. Secondary school students perceive teacher support to dip in the middle years of school, before improving in Years 11 and 12. Teachers report that they increase the amount of classroom support they provide to students in key schooling years (Years 5-6 and Years 10-12).

The NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022 includes the commitment to ensure that every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools. School advocacy and support for learning are necessary components for happy and successful students.

Whalan Public School, studied during the research project, attributed its success in increasing parental engagement to committed staff who focus on students’ interests and wellbeing, which then fed engagement and perseverance in the classroom.

The school has scheduled open classroom time every morning where parents can speak to the teachers and look over their child’s class work before the start of school. Parents are supported to help their children develop literacy and numeracy skills and these measures are welcomed by an increasingly engaged parent community.

The principal of Whalan Public School, Michelle Gallop, said the use of the expert learner framework, ‘The Whalan 5’, was an important part of the school’s support for student learning in every classroom.

The Whalan 5 is based on ‘The Power of Five Questions’ by Lyn Sharratt and Michael Fullan, which aims to check for mindful learning. Sharratt and Fullan found that students who can accurately describe their learning, and how to improve, are more likely to show greater progress in their achievement.

The Whalan 5 was implemented to focus teachers and students on learning intentions, success criteria, goal-setting and feedback.

The Whalan 5 version:

  • What are you learning today?
  • Why are you learning this?
  • How will you know you’ve learnt it?
  • How can you improve?
  • How are you an expert learner?

“The five questions posed to students makes learning intentions clearly visible so that every student in every classroom understands the purpose of the lesson and the significance of the lesson in their lives,” Mrs Gallop said.

“It also allows students to self-evaluate and realise what they need to do to achieve or improve so that they can reach the learning goal.”

The school has a myriad of activities to encourage student engagement. A typical day offers free dance lessons before school, clubs at recess and lunch (coding, cooking, chess, handball and football) and performance groups.

“All of these activities have significantly increased student buy-in to school life and worked effectively to engage, empower and strengthen students to develop a value for lifelong learning,” Mrs Gallop said. “They realise the benefits for their futures because they make choices to join these activities.”

The partnership between home and school has been pivotal to student engagement at school.

“We recognise the important role that both parents play in developing positive attitudes towards learning and education for children,” Mrs Gallop said.

There are regular forums with parents, assemblies to celebrate student achievement, coffee chats, monthly P&C meetings, welcome barbecues and lunches with the school leadership team, which students prepare for parents.

“We encourage and engage with our parents daily with the aim to build, strengthen and nurture partnerships which nurture and encourage student motivation and their confidence as learners,” Mrs Gallop said.

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