Engagement as close as your phone

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18 July 2019

It’s a long way from Sunshine to the United States, but a group of Melbourne teachers have taken their ideas for family engagement to the other side of the world.

The Sunshine Family School Partnership (FSP) Cluster (St Bernadette’s School, Sunshine North, St Paul’s School, Sunshine West, and St Peter’s School, Sunshine South West) presented at the 2019 National Family and Community Engagement Conference in Reno, Nevada. ‘We’re in our 10th year of this work now, so it was a good time to share some of our achievements with a wider audience’, said St Peter’s School’s FSP Leader Grace Frazzica. Organised by the Institute for Educational Leadership, the conference brought together leaders from across the United States to share ideas about improving learning for students through schools having positive relationships with families.

The Sunshine Cluster, the only international group at the conference, presented the findings of a project they undertook in 2018 with Deakin University using social media to promote conversations at home about learning. ‘It’s no longer just about having our families physically in the classroom. We know our families are busy, but being engaged in learning can be as close as their phone’, said Grace. The project used social media to create visual and written prompts for families to have meaningful conversations about the learning that was happening each day. ‘We don’t make assumptions about what parents need to know. We ask open questions to empower them to be part of that dialogue and for their children to be the best learners they can be.’

‘It was encouraging to see how our Melbourne schools are leading this work’, said Grace. ‘Our American colleagues have the passion and drive to use family engagement to make a difference, especially in breaking the cycle of disadvantage, but their funding and structures are much less generous than they are here. Presenting our social media project showed them that there are ways that require strategy and enthusiasm rather than large amounts of funding to change the culture.’