Wellington Kindergarten teacher Sonya McIntyre and Peter Dixon (Storypark’s CEO) made a submission as part of a NZ Parliamentary Inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children. This blog post is an extract from the recently released report following the conclusion of the Inquiry. We were very pleased that our submission was recognised and supported within the Inquiry.
A crucial part of parental engagement is providing a clear communication channel for parents and schools. Education providers should communicate with parents in ways that are timely, useful, easily understood, and culturally appropriate, and should view communication with parents as an important part of their role; for example, we heard that some schools ensure that phone calls from parents are returned urgently.
Submitters emphasised that communication needs to be clear, precise, frequent, and use a range of media and formats. Schools should be innovative in communicating with parents, for example engaging with parents face-to-face outside of school hours, and outside of school grounds. Submitters suggested that parents should be asked at the start of the year about their preferred method of communication.
It is important that parents are kept informed of their children’s learning achievement, so it can be reinforced at home. We heard of good examples in the early childhood sector, where educators engage with parents frequently using learning stories, which have become common practice for documenting children’s learning, and often prove a powerful mechanism for engaging parents. Learning stories can be written for individuals or groups; the teacher details the children’s teaching and learning experiences, and shares them with whānau, so that lessons learned at school can be reinforced at home. Their use is becoming more widespread, with some stories recorded and updated online by parents and teachers in private learning communities, allowing extended family to follow the learning experiences of children.
Evidence from early childhood education providers suggests that this narrative approach is effective in helping parents understand and engage in their child’s learning. It also fosters two-way communication between the education provider and the home. The success of learning stories is encouraging, and we would like to see similar results from initiatives in the compulsory sector.”