Cairns Hinterland Steiner School: Parent Engagement

Cairns Hinterland Steiner School

Partnering with parents: Cairns Hinterland Steiner School’s parent engagement journey

Parents are students’ first – and ongoing – teacher. This is something we hear repeatedly – and something we know instinctively as parents and educators to be true.

Academic research also shows that when schools harness the power of parents (that is, when they tap into parents’ deep well of knowledge about their child’s experiences, interests, character and strengths and are called upon to use this knowledge as an additional resource to support a child’s learning and wellbeing journey) there are potentially large dividends for schools, parents and students.

Thanks to a ground-breaking research project underway in Queensland’s independent school sector since 2021 – and which my school has been fortunate to join in 2023 – we are starting to shed more light on those questions.

The research project in a nutshell

The research project that is guiding CHSS is called, ‘Engaging Parents in Curriculum’ (dubbed EPIC for short).

It’s being led by internationally recognised parent engagement experts – Griffith University’s Dr Linda Willis and Professor Beryl Exley.

It is jointly funded by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and the sector’s peak parent body, Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network (QIS Parents Network).

What CHSS are doing

For our EPIC project we are focused on the integration and mapping of the Respectful Relationships program into our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum and how we might engage parents in that process.

This school-wide project is a tangible and specific activity that can engage the College of Teachers and parents in ways we expect deliver: more rewarding discussions; an alignment of expectations; improved student and school outcomes with teachers and parents (school and home) working towards the same goals; and better understanding of the students and their backgrounds.

We have completed our initial survey as an engagement tool with families to support a baseline of understanding of parental expectations.

Given that SEL is an area that affords parents a diversity of perspectives, enables us to encourage considered discussions and to educate and align what, where and how CHSS delivers SEL in accordance with child development outlined by the Steiner curriculum.

Data gathered from the survey will help inform teachers about how they can better achieve this alignment between learning and teaching at school and home.

We are excited to be engaging our parent community by strengthening our existing practices and adopting new research-informed pedagogies which regularly call on parent knowledge, ideas, opinions and skills in easy, meaningful ways to deepen and enrich their child’s learning at home and school.