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    Personal Story

     Partnerships 

    Katrina Powell
    Teacher
    St Gabriel's School, Reservoir.
    Katrina was part of the Community Classrooms program in 2014.
     

    As a classroom teacher in a small school with a strong community, I’ve learnt a lot about partnership in education in the past year. Most of what I’ve learnt hasn’t come from a manual or a guide book and I haven’t used Google once in my search to discover what good partnerships look like. Instead, I’ve been open to learning and giving things a go.

    I’ve learnt from my own experiences, good and bad, like failing to initially realise the importance of a parent approaching me with questions about their child. I’ve learnt from others who have been in this business for longer than I and ‘borrowed’ some ideas along the way!

    But most of all, I’ve learnt from those I should be in partnership with – the children I teach and their families. I now approach partnership in a way that means each child, their families, myself and my school have an equal share in the learning experience.

    Last year my class and I, together with their families, learnt how to make a video clip about superheroes. This year I’ve had parents coming into the classroom suggesting activities and ways of learning for the children. Others might feel intimidated by this, after all, aren’t we supposed to be the teachers?

    Personally, I’m grateful for the help, the inspiration and the support. And I’ve seen changes in the students too – they are more willing to share their own ideas and reflections on their learning, because they know that it’s a journey we’re all in together!

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    Wellbeing and Community Partnerships

    General Overview

    Family–school partnerships are a significant education strategy for all Catholic schools. The Wellbeing & Community Partnerships (W&CP) Unit continues to lead and support partnerships within school communities, between schools and across the CEOM, to improve learning and wellbeing outcomes for all children and young people. The Family–School Partnerships initiative was the main driver of this work, connecting and building upon key initiatives to increase the active engagement of parents in their children’s learning and to develop schools as core community centres.

    In 2014 partnerships between families, schools and communities centred on:

    • supporting targeted schools to work collaboratively through family–school partnership clusters
    • supporting Cluster Engagement Leaders to build local capacity
    • building the capacity of leaders, teachers and families across the system, including supporting the planning of new school communities (2016–19)
    • connecting schools and communities to support families and strengthen partnerships for learning
    • introducing family–school partnership approaches to schools through a suite of resources and professional learning program.

    Main Activities

    Community01
     

    Clusters

    Seventy-eight schools worked together in Family–School Partnerships (FSP) and Schools as Core Social Centres clusters to improve student outcomes by building and strengthening links with parents and the local community. In 2014 a new co-contribution model supported the leadership of FSP clusters through the local employment of eight Cluster Engagement Leaders. An additional network of nine secondary schools across the Northern and Western regions actively engaged in learning together and to develop and share effective practices for family and community engagement.

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    FSP Advisory Group

    School leaders are a vital voice in the leadership of family, school and community partnerships across Catholic education. In 2014, there were 10 principal representatives who partnered with the CEOM – through the FSP Advisory Group – to create a framework that would guide strategic actions in schools, between schools and across the CEOM. The framework centred on four themes, to:

    • lead
    • create a culture
    • build capacity
    • allocate people and resources for family–school partnerships.

    Parent Voice Project

    As part of the Sacred Landscape renewal project, parents from Catholic schools advice engaged in a series of animated community conversations to explore what learning and teaching looks like for their children in a Catholic context. This partnership between the W&CP and Learning & Teaching teams provided families with an authentic voice to share their beliefs, aspirations and expectations for learning now and into the future.

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    Community Classrooms

    Thirty-five teachers from 17 schools developed and shared a range of practical strategies for family engagement through intensive professional learning and participation. Participants engaged in a 12-month program of peer-to-peer learning, joint practice development, action research and reflective practice.

    Teacher participant feedback: ‘The biggest impact is my own shift in how I think about parent engagement in learning. It’s always on my mind now when I’m planning.’ 

    Community-Classrooms
     

    Parent Engagement in Action

    Over 190 school and system leaders engaged in professional learning opportunities to support the implementation of the Parent Engagement in Action resource across Catholic education. The resource provides a practical guide and toolkit for schools to work through a process of reflection and evaluation for school improvement, focusing on parental engagement across four key areas: Relationships, Learning, Leadership and Reflection.

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    Other Initiatives

    • Cluster and system leadership professional learning and Masterclass for school leaders, led by internationally renowned education leader, Maggie Farrar.
    • Development of a Leading Family–School Partnerships resource to assist schools to understand and strengthen the role of leadership in facilitating effective partnerships between schools, families and communities.
    • Provision of consultancy to support principals and parish priests to establish school boards.
    • Support for primary and secondary school boards through professional learning opportunities, the quarterly Board Business newsletter, and online resources.
    • Launch of the FSP twitter handle @fspmelb to promote the work and share resources across the education community locally, nationally and internationally. 
    • The ‘Good Practice to Common Practice’ project developed a tip sheet, resource materials and support network for school leaders and education support staff working with children from EAL backgrounds.
    • Sponsorship for teams from targeted schools to participate in the Leading Communities Course in partnership with Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership.
    • Participation by school leaders in the Learning Better Together study tour to Santa Fe.
    • Production of key resources for school leaders and teachers including the Family–School Partnerships newsletter and poster provocations.
    • Development of Community Conversations: changing relationships through changing conversations, a resource to guide schools in the art and practice of community conversations for family and community engagement.
    • Engaging Families in Maths professional learning program for 250 mathematics leaders, focusing on engaging families in mathematics.

    Participant feedback: ‘Family engagement in learning leads to increases in learning outcomes so cannot be overlooked as a learning leader.’  

    ‘Having all curricular areas talking the same way and emphasising the same issues in regard to their specific area makes a significant difference, helping everyone from the CEOM, schools and school communities to be on the same page.’ 

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