Communication strategies for schools
- Ensure communication is a shared process. For example, as well as providing information about school or classroom activities, teachers seek input from parents about the needs and aspirations of their children and their expectations for their children.
- Use effective communication to build trust between school staff and parents. This includes clear and respectful messages, effective listening, following up on commitments and providing opportunities for 360 degree feedback.
- Ensure communication is focused as much as possible on student learning. Develop clear and proactive advice about school policies, routines and other operational matters so that more time and effort is available for communicating about students' needs and progress.
- Use home-school liaison personnel to teach parents the language of learning, including the nature of today's classrooms, how to speak with teachers and how to talk to their children about their schooling experiences.
- Build parents' capacity to communicate about student learning by:
- providing questions and conversation starters they can use to discuss learning with their children
- assigning homework tasks that allow parents to contribute and participate
- hold parenting workshops focused on the role parents can play in providing a home environment that supports learning (Emerson, 2011)
- use of a wide range of communication tools and channels, including newsletters, websites, e-mails, assemblies, parent/teacher interviews, P&C meetings, web conferencing and text messages. See online resources for more information about selecting and using online media and spaces.
- Use language that is clear and accessible to parents and the community. Avoid or explain confusing educational terms.
- Develop a school calendar outlining key points in the school year where engagement of parents and the community is vital and the specific activities to be used to engage them.
- Provide access to information in other languages and forms to meet the diverse needs of parents and community members. This may include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and parents, carers, and next of kin for whom English may not be a first language.
- Provide professional development that helps teachers to communicate effectively with parents, particularly improving their capacity to develop a common language of learning.
- Share consistent and ongoing messages of high expectations for all students and their learning.
- Select communication strategies that are appropriate for parents of students of different ages and stages of development, for example:
Maintain a regular stream of communication with the child's family through 'keep in touch' books.
Offer 'ready-for-school' checklists (e.g. start of the year, weekly, daily) that parents can use to prepare their child for attending school.
Actively use school diaries/text messages/e-mail/telephone to communicate with families of students.
Encourage students to reflect on their learning through learning logs or student blogs.
Provide parents with helpful learning strategies, as well as opportunities to provide feedback via online media including email or Virtual Classrooms.
Be explicit when using the language of learning with students and parents. Consider using glossaries, guides or examples to support understanding.
Communicate with parents about the value of their engagement in their child's learning particularly through adolescence.
Create a single point of contact in the school for each student and their parents (e.g. year level coordinator or home group teacher) and establish strategies for proactive communication.
Publish an assessment and events calendar to plan ahead for exam blocks, sports carnivals, music performances, etc.
Persistently communicate the school's high expectations for every student.
Specific strategies to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Woodridge North State School - a place for community and parents
Staff at Woodridge North State School describe how the school has successfully engaged with parents and the community to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to succeed (FLV, 2:03mins). Click through to YouTube to learn more about Woodridge North State School.
- Engage with parents and communities early to establish a relationship characterised by knowledgeable respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures.
- Make informal contact a deliberate part of parent and community engagement. Spend time with parents and community members in informal and social events so that school staff and family/community members can get to know each other and build respect and trust over time.
- Show that the school is genuine in its desire to build understanding by explicitly creating respectful spaces and opportunities for community members to share their stories and perspectives.
- Consider every aspect of communication including non-verbal cues, the design of physical spaces in the school (especially the school office) and the processes used by staff to make parents and community members feel welcome and valued.
- Make communication positive, meaningful and respectful, so that a shared belief in high expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can be nurtured.
- Build the capability of staff to communicate respectfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and community members.
- Consult key staff for advice on engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, carers and communities, such as Regional Community Education Counsellors, school based Community Education Counsellors (CECs) or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teacher Aides.
'Teachers probably weren't trained in this kind of communication, but we know it can be done. It's a challenge, but the necessary qualifications aren't rare:
- goodwill, sincerity and a willingness to learn
- a confident and firm belief in the value of what is being done
- a certain amount of energy, courage and persistence
- a commitment to success
- a focus on long term goals and the will, and ability, to find a way to get there'
(National Curriculum Services, 2011a)