Benefits of a strong relationship with your child’s school
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else does. Your child’s teachers will want to get to know him too. When you have a strong and respectful relationship with your child’s school and teachers, you’re in a good position to give them the information they need to help your child get the most out of his education.
When everybody’s working together in the best interests of your child, she’s likely to reap academic and social benefits, such as:
- attending school regularly
- achieving at school
- having a positive attitude towards school
- finishing school
- going on to some form of post-secondary education.
You can help your child get the most out of school by communicating and building relationships with teachers, other parents and students from the very first day. This is better than having contact with your child’s school only when something goes wrong.
How to build a relationship with your child’s school
Direct, regular contact with your child’s teacher, and visits to the classroom and school, are the best foundation for a strong relationship. This contact can take many forms. For example:
- talking informally at school drop-off and pick-up times
- going to parent–teacher interviews
- doing canteen duty
- helping in the classroom with weekly reading, writing and maths programs
- going on class excursions
- helping with school clubs, programs or coaching
- going to school concerts and other events
- going to school council or parent association meetings.
As well as everyday contact, you might also be able to learn more about the school through its annual report, school performances and other events (barbeques, cultural or music events, school fairs). These are all opportunities to get involved, and to respond, comment, ask questions and build on your relationship.
Establishing the relationship with your child’s school is a two-way process. For example, you can ask the school and teachers for any information or feedback you need. But you can also keep yourself up to date with what’s going on at school by reading school notes or emails, checking the school’s website and watching the school’s noticeboard.
Not all parents can be involved in school as much as they’d like, but you can still let your child know that school is important to your family. Talking about school with your child, being warm and friendly at school events, and being positive about the school and its staff sends the message that you value education and are interested in what’s happening for your child at school.
All parents will have a different relationship with their child’s school. This relationship isn’t just about direct contact with the school, but also includes relationships with other parents, your child’s friends and teachers. The relationship might change as your child gets older, or when things change at work or at home.
Parent-teacher interviews and student reports are the main contact for lots of parents to find out how their child’s education is going. They can be a great way of getting all the important people – you, the teacher and your child – talking together.
By including your child, you’re helping him negotiate learning tasks and get involved in monitoring and reflecting on his achievements and progress. For more tips, you might like to read our article on parent–teacher interviews.
School support options
Every school will offer different support and information options (and might call them different things). Options at your child’s school might include:
- parent seminars
- student health services
- safety policies and procedures
- personal development
- resilience and mental health support
- behaviour management
- anti-bullying education
- drug education
- school guidance services
- links to community organisations and associations.
You can usually find out how to access these services by reading information sent home from the school, checking the school’s website, or contacting the school office and asking.
If you’re finding your first or main contact at the school is difficult or makes you feel your involvement isn’t welcome, you could look at options from the list above as different ways to approach the school. You can also try contacting people with different positions at the school – for example, the principal, school welfare officer, year level coordinators and so on.
Getting involved at your child’s primary school
There are often lots of opportunities to be involved in primary schools, because they tend to be smaller than secondary schools. Some ways to get involved at your child’s primary school are:
- volunteering at the school (reading activities, school canteen)
- working in school governance (school council, parents and citizens committee, building and maintenance sub-committees)
- talking with your child’s classroom teacher (including visits to the classroom, informal chats before and after school)
- working on school fundraisers and events (school fairs and raffles)
- social activities with other parents and families (including fundraising and other school support activities)
- school website or other online communication activities.
Getting involved at your child’s secondary school
Secondary schools are larger and more complex systems than most primary schools, and your child will probably have different teachers for different subjects. This can make it more difficult for parents, teachers and students to develop and maintain productive relationships.
Who do you talk to first?
The best place to start is by finding out who your child’s home-room (or home-group, pastoral or form) teacher is. The home-room teacher is usually the person responsible for tracking your child’s overall progress at school, by monitoring your child’s attendance, behaviour and academic progress. Knowing the year level coordinator(s) and individual subject teachers is also important. Speaking to student wellbeing or support staff, such as counsellors or education psychologists, might be helpful if you need extra support or expertise.
Attending school information nights could help you work out who in the school is responsible for different aspects of your child’s care and education. If the school has a website, this is another way of keeping in touch with what’s going on at school. It might also let you directly email or message your child’s teachers.
Changing relationships as your child grows
Most parents will be familiar with the ‘you’re embarrassing me’ stage, even if their child hasn’t reached it yet. Your child will start developing more independence, which might change the way you communicate with each other. These changes might also affect the way you communicate and connect with your child’s school.
But you can still have a relationship with your child’s school that fits in around your child’s changing social needs. Even if you have less physical involvement with the school, one of the best ways to continue helping your child is to create a supportive environment for education at home – an environment that values education.
This might involve simply talking about schoolwork together, discussing your child’s career plans and ambitions, or talking through the links between your child’s schoolwork and her future goals.