IMPORTANCE OF PARENT ENGAGEMENT
Parent Engagement involves cooperation and collaboration of all people within a student/child’s learning environment. At any level, it is critical for ongoing and lasting relationships between schools and families. For parents, it means becoming an active participant in daily routine to promote and support the three-way connection process between school, home, and community. For schools, it includes ways to work in partnership with families to assist with active parent engagement opportunities.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY
For all of this to work, we need communication. As school marketers, our role is to provide the channels of communication that tell stories and connect schools and families around daily activities and events. We know that parent engagement affects what children achieve, how they experience school, and assists in the transition to school and into post-secondary education ( Aracy, 2018). Therefore, developing strong emotional connections and relationships with parents and families are essential. Marketing research has long identified that relationship quality has a strong link with service quality and satisfaction. School marketers need to focus on building personal and social relationships through communication.
By building good relationships, a school can create a strong community connection that allows members to have a sense of belonging. Building community takes a holistic approach from the top down. School marketing departments need to convey information and experiences to the community around more than just the educational benefits associated with the school. A student’s journey encapsulates the school environment, the on-campus learning experience, interactions with the teaching and administrative staff, school spirit/culture and community. Therefore, documenting and communicating the interactions between students, parents, and families in schools is very important and helps in developing a sense of community connectedness (Foster and McLelland, 2015). There is mounting evidence in the previous research to support the positive effects of communication on building community and quality school perception.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ENHANCES ENROLMENT
It is essential for the enrolment and retention cycle of schools to develop trusting relationships before registration; this connection is then nurtured and maintained throughout the student’s educational journey. Marketing your school requires constant and consistent communication around your programs, student’s experiences and how your school encourages partnerships in practice with families.
SIMPLE WAYS TO BUILD COMMUNITY
I have some strategies that work on engaging with parents to build community and enhance connectedness. If you have an engaged parent, you will have an increased likelihood of successful student outcomes and wellbeing. The following ideas revolve around developing a sense of shared learning experiences with families. Listed below are some simple examples to show how your school can build community:
- Information nights on community issues: Wellbeing, Drugs and Alcohol, Transition to high school and Parenting Adolescence to name a few: this is open to any interested families – increases school awareness in the community, develops trust and engages parents not just involves parents. The school provides expert advice, tips and shared experiences with parents. Marketers record the attendees and follow up, thanking them for coming. This will develop new contacts within the community and create avenues for community promotion.
- Parent Representative Programs: aimed at providing a link for year levels within the school and creates a social connection and voice for parents. It is also an avenue for two-way communication around concerns, events, and activities for each year level.
- Passport to Year 7 or Prep: an engaging activity that requires parent support to fill out a passport during the holidays connecting the community to the school before the commencement of Prep or Year 7. Creating meaningful relationship links with the community and fun.
- Proactive Parenting P & F Committee: Create a committee within the P & F that focuses on initiating opportunities that connect parents and teachers in the education of students. Developing the mindset that parents have a shared knowledge of their children’s development is an important concept. This committee provides opportunities for the community to attend sessions and workshops around the latest educational programs, ways to support student learning, assessment, and feedback.
These are only a few strategies around building school community and engagement, by improving student, parent, and school relationships. As school marketers, we have a fantastic opportunity to communicate around all the amazing things happening within our schools. The greater your internal and external communication around positive shared experiences the greater the sense of belonging and connection to the school community. It also provides you with unique selling points and differentiation to your competitors while creating awareness, strong positive word of mouth within the community, promotional opportunities and strategic positioning of your offer.
Trust and customer satisfaction are found to be dimensions of relationship quality, built and developed through well-planned communication strategies.