Building and maintaining a good parent-school relationship is one of the best ways to support your child’s education. Communicating with school staff and getting involved in the school environment are great ways to start.
Benefits of a strong parent-school relationship
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 is working together in the best interests of your child, she’s likely to reap academic and social benefits, like:
- 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 there’s a problem, either at school or in your family.
How to build a strong parent-school relationship
You can go about building a parent-school relationship in several ways:
- Talk informally with teachers at school drop-off and pick-up times.
- Go to parent-teacher interviews.
- Do canteen duty.
- Go on class excursions.
- Help with school clubs, programs or coaching.
- Go to school concerts and other events.
- Go 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 – for example, barbecues, cultural or music events and school fairs. These are all opportunities to get involved, and to respond, comment, ask questions and build on your relationship.
Establishing a 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 parent-school relationship might change as your child gets older, or when things change at work or at home.
Parent-teacher interviews at primary school, parent-teacher interviews at secondary school 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. If you need to discuss topics that aren’t appropriate for your child to hear, you could set up a meeting for another time.
You don’t have to wait for a parent-teacher interview, especially if you need to talk about something that affects your child’s wellbeing. For example, it’s important for the teacher and school to know if your child has a health condition, if you’re concerned about bullying, or if there has been a change in your family, like a death, separation or divorce.
School support options
Every school offers 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 and anti-bullying education
- drug or life education
- counselling and school guidance services
- links to community organisations and associations.
You can usually find out how to access these services by reading information from the school, checking the school’s website, or contacting the school office.
You can also try contacting people with different positions at the school – for example, the principal, school welfare officer, year 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 – for example, helping with classroom activities like reading groups or in the school canteen
- working in school governance – for example, school councils, parents and citizens committees, or building and maintenance sub-committees
- talking with your child’s classroom teacher, including informal chats before and after school depending on what suits the teacher
- working on school fundraisers and events – for example, school fairs and raffles
- doing social activities with other parents and families, including fundraising and other school support activities
- using the 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 positive relationships.
Who do you talk to first?
The best way to start is 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 coordinator(s) and individual subject teachers is also important. Speaking to student wellbeing or support staff like counsellors or asking for a referral to an educational psychologist might help if you need extra support or expertise.
Attending school information nights can 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. Your child might be able to take more responsibility for communicating with her teachers.
But you can still have a relationship with your child’s school that fits 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 his future goals.