A change of name is not enough.

I notice some schools are changing the name of their Parents & Citizens or Parents and Friends associations to parent engagement associations. On the positive side, it shows that awareness has been raised about the importance of parents being engaged in their child’s learning and wellbeing. However, it must be confusing for parents wanting to be involved in these organisations in schools. A lot more is required to increase understanding amongst teachers as well as parents.

Traditional parent involvement in the school activities included volunteering at tuckshops or fundraising activities that were carried out by the parents and friends associations or parents and citizens associations. In some schools, these associations have seen a change of focus from fundraising events such as fetes to organising community-building activities such as welcome BBQs or Mother’s and Father’s day functions. The distinction is that engaging parents in their children’s learning and wellbeing is something that can be done in the home and does not require parents to be present at school functions or events. Parent engagement forms part of teachers’ pedagogy and practice in the classroom.

Willis and Exley (2022) working with teachers and principals in three Independent schools in Queensland 2022, found that although awareness had been raised about the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement with the teachers, they often had light bulb moments that in lots of opportunities they were still telling parents instead of having a co-generative dialogue with parents to engage parents in their children’s learning and wellbeing. The Epic Report for 2022 is a great resource for schools looking to raise awareness of teachers about the distinction and work on embedding it in the pedagogy and practice of teachers.