The importance of family and community engagement in children’s learning is undisputed. How to deliver this effectively in diverse school communities is less clear-cut. Schools Plus’ Fair Education program develops the capacity of teachers and school leaders in communities facing disadvantage to help them address this very issue.
Since launching in NSW in 2016, Fair Education has supported over 140 schools in three states: NSW, Queensland and Victoria, with 40,000+ students benefitting from the program.
The Fair Education program comprises coaching for school leadership teams, funding for school specific projects, ongoing project management and evaluation, over a 3-year period. Schools can apply to join the Fair Education as a standalone school, or as part of a community of schools in an area.
“You never know the impact of one thing over everything else, but over the three years of the project, we have got double the number of kids getting in the proficient bands [in our NAPLAN results] than we did in 2016…it is not a direct relation but things are aligning.” NSW School Leader
Now that the program has been running for over 5 years, there are some great stories emerging from schools that have benefitted.
Hassall Grove Public School is just one example. This primary school in Sydney’s west was finding that many children were beginning kindergarten unprepared to start school. The children lacked key skills in areas such as social interaction, play, language, emotional development, physical skills, early literacy and numeracy and fine motor skills. It is widely acknowledged that children who start school behind, struggle to catch up, and as many as 1 in 4 children will not be earning or learning at the age of 24 if they miss out at key educational milestones at a young age.
Hassall Grove launched a parent involvement program to build a school community, and help teach children, and their carers, essential skills for emotional and behavioural development. Parent participation in the school increased from 45% to 99% and parent participation in learning increased from 30% to 84%.
Granville East Public School launched ‘connected conversations’ between teachers, parents and students. For example, it has introduced an app which allows real-time communication between the classroom and home, and has replaced written reports with three-way Learning Conversations that involve the student, teacher, family and often interpreters.
The number of parents interacting with the app usually exceeds 80% for each class. The school also held a range of parent learning opportunities (open classrooms, communications via online platforms, and some workshops) and provided them with resources to continue the conversations about learning at home.
“It has given us a successful and multi-faceted approach to connecting with our community. Having the opportunity to use online tools such as the app, Class Dojo, has enabled us to have real time discussions, collaboratively reflect and celebrate the success of our students with all parents.” Amanda Delvecchio, Relieving Assistant Principal – Granville East Public School
Australian Schools Plus is a national charity and was founded following a recommendation in the Review of Funding for Schooling (Gonski Review) to deliver philanthropic support to help children facing disadvantage succeed at school. Schools Plus works with teachers and school leaders to help close the education gap caused by disadvantage.
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