Developing a positive relationship with the school

Why is a positive relationship between home and school so important?

1. When schools and families work together they can determine areas of priority and how best to work together. This is more likely to support the child’s skills in all areas of their life.

2. Parents and carers know their child the best. Sharing your knowledge gives school staff a better understanding of your child. They can then build on this knowledge as they learn about how the child reacts to the new and different school environment. See also preparing for transition meetings and a "snapshot of my child" for ideas on how you can share what you know about your child.

3. Shared problem-solving opportunities allow for parents/carers and school staff to brainstorm ideas and learn from each other.

4. When people make decisions together, they are more likely to make a commitment and contribution to following the plan that is developed.

Effective partnerships with schools require effort. Sometimes things may flow smoothly and at other times, it may be more challenging. From year to year teachers will have different communication styles.

Factors that help develop effective partnerships

  • Communication

“In our first year at school, I made an extra effort to build a good communication system with my daughter’s teacher. She said email would work well for her. I felt it was important to acknowledge and thank my daughter’s teacher when she let me know about what was happening at school. It really worked both ways. She would ask what was working for us at home and I would learn what did and didn’t work at school.”

Priya, mother of Shreya

Communication involves at least two active communicators
Remember that communication needs to go two ways. Respectful communication involves both people listening to each other and also having a chance to be heard as they share their thoughts, experiences and ideas.

Communicate openly and honestly
When communicating about your child, it is important to start with their strengths and what they can do. It can also be helpful to share any needs in a solution focussed way for example: “We have found that Jamie responds well to visual communication. When he sees a direction presented visually, he seems to understand it better than when we just say it to him.”

Your role:

  • share your goals – let the teacher know your priorities for your child’s learning
  • try to keep the teacher informed about family priorities as they change and emerge
  • give the teacher:
    • some space and be trusted to do his or her job
    • time to get to know your child as well as all the other children in their class
  • ask the teacher about what might work best in terms of regular ongoing communication with you

The teacher’s role:

  • a teacher’s first responsibility is to teach the NSW curriculum which is set out by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES)
  • in mainstream or regular kindergarten classes, teachers will be responsible for the education of between 20 and 32 children
  • many teachers also have responsibilities outside of their class such as coordinating music or sport for the school

It is important to have realistic expectations of teachers and understand that their time will be limited.

Communication methods
Ask the teacher what might work best in terms of regular ongoing communication with you.

Availability and preferred communication methods may vary from one teacher to another.

Phone can be used to:

  • provide feedback on how things are going
  • let parents know about a particular situation (for example a teacher might use text messaging to advise when they will not be at school). This can help you to prepare your child if they benefit from being prepared for changes to routines.
  • check on progress around a particular goal

Email can be used to:

  • provide feedback on how things are going
  • hear about relevant information such as home life; goals and strategies related to therapy that happens outside of school hours

Communication books:

  • some teachers and parents may like to write in an exercise book which goes with the child to and from school to share important information between home and school
  • time constraints may not always permit regular writing within communication books

Short conversations face to face before or after school:

  • These can work well for brief messages about something that the teacher or parent may need to know about at that time. Teachers usually do not have a great deal of time for detailed conversations immediately prior to and after the school day

Pre-arranged meetings with the teacher:

  • If a more detailed conversation is needed, it is usually advisable to arrange a specific time that suits you both. The teacher will then have time to listen and talk with you. This may be the best option to establish goals, determine strategies and share information about your child’s progress with their teacher. If necessary, it also allows other relevant people such as therapists to attend the meeting.

By planning ahead you can all be prepared for the meeting and it is more likely to be productive.

Provide positive feedback to staff

  • Wherever possible, acknowledge any positive aspects of your child and family’s experiences with the school.
  • Praising any strategies that have been successful can help to let the teacher know what you feel is going well and this may make it more likely to continue.

Becoming involved in the school community

  • Different parents will be able to be involved in their child’s education and the school community in a range of ways based on their:
    • available time
    • personal skills and resources
    • other commitments related to their children and work

See being actively involved in your child’s education for ideas on how.

Share ideas and come up with solutions together

  • When parents and school staff work collaboratively, it is usually easier to come up with ideas and strategies to support children
  • By bringing together knowledge of the child at home and at school there will be more information to help find ways to support them

If concerns arise:
If you raise concerns or questions clearly and without blame or criticism, people will usually respond more positively.
It may also be important to think about which concerns are a priority and whether it is the right time to raise them. See the trouble-shooting guide.

Remember: In Australia it is a requirement for all education providers including schools to comply with the Disability Standards for Education (2005). These standards clearly state the need for all educational institutions to consult with the student or an associate of the student (e.g. parent, carer, or advocate) regarding how a disability affects the student's ability to access education or training. Consultation is also required when determining what individualisation of teaching will be made to support the child’s access to programmes.