Families make a difference to educational outcomes

When families are involved in their children's school life, everyone benefits, writes Jacinta Janssens, Head of Campus Elsternwick, Wesley College.

You are a living legend. You have a brain that is capable of sheer genius. Think of the smartest person you can think of and know that you have that potential too. You are just as capable, just as creative, just as clever.’

This, according to Andrew Fuller (2015) is the most important message to give your child.

The family is perhaps the greatest influence and makes many critical and significant contributions to a young person’s development and achievements from early childhood through to the end of their secondary schooling. Talking and playing with babies, reading bedtime stories with toddlers, engaging in maths and reading or spelling games with primary students, helping middle school students with their homework and setting appropriate boundaries for teenagers are all setting the foundations for success in school. (Davis, 2000).

When families are involved in their child’s school life, everyone benefits, but none more so than the child. Interest and participation sends the message that school is important and worthy of attention. Studies of families show that what the family does with the child is more important to student success than family income or the education level of the parents. Active participation by parents in their child’s education leads to better grades and results on tests, better attendance and more homework completed, more positive attitudes and behaviours, higher graduation rates and greater enrolment in post-secondary education.

Parent involvement is not just about volunteering or attending events, but rather the support occurring at home through positive parenting, nightly reading, following up with homework and the holding of high expectations.

As children get older, the way in which families are involved and expectations for their involvement changes. Patterns of communication between families and the school change as they enter Middle School. There are multiple teachers and increased independence. Yet, families remain equally as important and needed in terms of supporting progress and achievement. Parents are pivotal in their support through ensuring homework routines are adhered to, providing afterschool supervision and limiting television viewing.

Enhancing learning at home is one of the most promising factors in influencing student achievements. It is important that our lines of communication are strong and that parents are aware of the school’s and teacher’s’ expectations, that they are informed of relevant curriculum related decisions and that they prioritise time for home learning within busy family schedules and the differing family structures that are very much a part of today’s society.

Fuller also highlights that in ‘unlocking your child’s genius’ the message to our young people should also be about the importance of trying and working hard in an effort to improve and succeed. There is great value in the ability to concentrate and parents can apply strategies to assist their child in increasing their concentration skills, regardless of their concentration style.

Educational outcomes are of course not limited to simply the academic program. A school such as Wesley College prioritises the development of the whole person. This is why the breadth of programs and opportunities are vast and reflect the College values. Parent involvement and interest in these areas of school life, whether it be attending school performances or sporting events, also shows interest and support for the whole school experience. The parent’s role in the social, emotional and physical development is significant. Although at the end of the day, we are in partnership as educational outcomes and achievements are determined by the child alongside the parent and school.

This article first appeared in Wesley College’s Glen Waverley Campus newsletter.


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