Community and Home Partnership
Children move between two influential environments that build attitudes and readiness for learning: the home and the school. Family involvement research clearly demonstrates that children thrive academically when the family and the school agree that they are stronger together than apart. Schools and homes that share philosophies, resources, goals, information, and the hard work of teaching give children the stability, consistency, and encouragement they need for academic success.
Family involvement has proven to work regardless of the educational context, the age of the child, or the family's situation and experiences. From Early Childhood to high school, family involvement accelerates learning, although it takes on different forms. Gateway believes that family involvement can help children transcend the educational barriers. Thus, in Gateway we believe and require family involvement as a core element, as crucial to academic success as an effective curriculum.
Key Dimensions of Family-School Partnerships
Gateway focuses on seven dimensions as guidelines for planning partnership activities. These seven dimensions are:
B. connecting learning at home and at school;
C. building community and identity;
D. recognizing the role of the family;
E. consultative decision-making;
F. collaborating beyond the school; and
A brief description of each dimension is provided below.
This key dimension emphasizes that effective communication:
• is active, personal, frequent and culturally appropriate;
• is where schools go out of their way to make families feel welcome and valued;
• is a two-way exchange between families and schools;
• involves not only an exchange of information, but also an opportunity for schools and families to learn about each other;
• makes clear that families are genuine partners and can help solve big problems;
• needs to take into account cultural and linguistic diversity and not assume that all families communicate in the same way;
• is open to families’ needs and attitudes;
• acknowledges and celebrates the families’ input;
• is multi-dimensional – it may: be formal or informal, happen in different places (both in the school and in other sites such as community centres), and use different methods (oral, written, face-to face,…etc.)
B. Connecting Learning at Home and at School
This key dimension emphasizes:
• understanding by families and schools of the overlap between the home and school environments;
• the connection between successful partnerships and the child’s learning, including the importance of high expectations from both teachers and parents to the child’s success at school;
• families and schools working together to create positive attitudes to learning in each child;
• ensuring families are informed about and understand their child’s progress;
• families and schools valuing and using the skills and knowledge children bring both from the home to the school and from the school to the home;
• families and schools recognizing and using learning opportunities in the home environment;
• parents working with teachers in the educational decision-making process for their individual child; and
• schools becoming a venue and agent for parental self-growth, learning and the development of new skills.
C. Building Community and Identity
This key dimension emphasizes activities that improve the quality of life in a community while honoring the culture, traditions, values and relationships in that community. By including activities that shape students’ sense of identity and culture, schools can build a sense of community in each student. The work of schools includes aspects of the social, emotional, moral and spiritual development of young people. Thus schools have a role to play in promoting both personal growth and cultural renewal. Schools can act as a focal point for communities to come together and engage in capacity-building.
D. Recognizing the Role of the Family
This key dimension emphasizes that as primary educators of their children, parents and families have a lasting influence on their children’s attitudes and achievements at school. They can encourage their children’s learning in and out of school and are also in a position to support school goals, directions and ethos. Parents look to schools to provide secure and caring environments for their children.
Families and schools can reach mutual understanding of each other’s roles and priorities in partnerships by:
• exploring the nature of parent and family’s role in the education of children to develop mutual understanding;
• offering strategies for family support and encouragement of children’s learning at school;
• organizing workshops/discussions/meetings and demonstrations around areas such as literacy and numeracy, home and classroom work, raising resilience and confidence in young people, transitions and careers and so on, depending on local needs and priorities;
• ensuring families understand school goals, curriculum and the social objectives of schooling;
• ensuring schools understand family, parent and community priorities;
• ensuring schools are sensitive to parents’ sensibilities;
• ensuring schools are realistic, patient and brave;
• establishing an environment where schools show leadership which is visible and available;
• helping schools become a place that parents can call their own including creating real roles for parents who come into the school;
• building relationships; and
• developing skills, such as communication, collaboration and conflict management.
E. Consultative Decision-Making
This key dimension emphasizes that parents are entitled to be consulted and participate in decisions concerning their own children.
Parents can play meaningful roles in the school decision-making processes. Training and information to make the most of those opportunities can be provided as part of the partnership activities.
An inclusive approach to school decision-making and parental involvement creates a sense of shared responsibility among parents, community members, teachers and school leaders. In turn, shared responsibility:
• ensures that parents’ values and interests are heard and respected;
• makes the school more accountable to its community;
• ensures that the values and opinions of families are sought outside the formal school structures; and
F. Collaborating Beyond the School
This key dimension emphasizes identifying, locating and integrating community resources. The wider community provides services which can strengthen and support schools, students and their families. Schools, families and students can assist the community in return. Schools are increasingly collaborating with partners such as:
• local businesses;
• after-school care providers;
• higher education;
• foundations; and
• other community-based agencies.
This key dimension emphasizes that families’ time, energy and expertise can support learning and school programs in many ways. This may involve family members:
• working with students on learning activities in classrooms;
• participating in other school activities outside the classroom; or
• participating in activities outside the school itself; and
• supporting and valuing teachers.
Families participate in the school in a wide variety of ways and all contributions are valuable. Participation may involve families having the opportunity to do something that interests them and including activities that are not directly education-related.