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Harnessing parent power to boost students’ engagement with maths

The Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network was a key resource Maths teacher Tim Huppatz relied on when setting out to better understand the concept of ‘parent engagement’ and how it can boost student outcomes in the classroom.

Tim, a mid-career teacher at The Lakes College on Brisbane’s north side, and his head of Department Stephen Williams came to the realisation in 2019 that while they were involving – or telling – parents what was going on at school, parent engagement was a further, powerful step worth exploring.

That light bulb moment coincided with the school introducing the popular teaching and learning model Maths Pathway for year five, six and seven students, which features personalised learning for students as well as a parent portal.

The portal allowed parents to log in and find out in real time what level of learning their child was at, and also provided families with optional follow up activities to build understanding.

“We realised parents were now getting a huge amount of information via the program and we didn’t just want to tell them to ‘go to the portal’,’’ Tim explains.

“We wanted them to use the information correctly and actually engage with it and talk to their children about what they were learning.’’

Getting back to basics

But there was another essential step that had to happen first – and that was to educate themselves and their parent body about what parent engagement in education was and why it made such a big difference to students’ academic outcomes.

The Lakes College was successful in applying for funding for an action research project through ISQ’s 2019-20 Research in Schools program, with additional funding support from the Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network.

Accessing research papers and resources on the Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network website helped their research and allowed them to explain the core concepts of parent engagement.

During 2019 and 2020 they have held parent information sessions, explaining the importance of parents talking to children about what they are learning, and value adding to their school education where they can.

Encouraging a positive mindset about learning was another important role they encourage parents to play.

Inviting parents closer

Tim says the College’s parents have always been very supportive and involved in the life of the school and have responded positively to the new information.

The Semester 1, 2020 information night was moved to an online platform due to COVID-19, and the recorded video session reached almost 100 views.

“I think in the past in education, what happened at school tended to stay at school, where as now parents are being invited into the classroom and we know from the research that when that is done well, students’ academic results and well-being improve.

“We want to do parent engagement well.’’

Find out more about Parent Engagement!

Read more about Parent Engagement in our most recent story.

Download our one-page factsheet on parent engagement.

Read about the partnership between Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network and Independent Schools Queensland to develop an overarching Parent and Community Engagement Strategy for member schools.

Read in detail about parent engagement and how schools can implement effective strategies in the recently released report The Parent Engagement Implementation Guide by Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

There is a rich well of information and research about parent engagement on our website.

There are also many wonderful websites with tips and advice for parents who want to connect school learning with life at home, which we have compiled on our website.