If you’re a parent at Brisbane’s St Peters Lutheran College, you are already considered a “partner” in your child’s learning journey.

The leadership team at the large Brisbane independent school (they have 2760 students across two campuses at Indooroopilly and Springfield) are champions of “parent engagement” and are now leaning heavily on their parents’ input as they analyse the lessons from 2020’s period of home learning.

Head of College Tim Kotzur (pictured below) has just finished conducting six focus groups with parents and plans to repeat them at the end of term three and four.

The common themes from families’ feedback will then be folded into the school’s future strategic planning, in a bid to further enhance school-home partnerships.

“I said very clearly to our parents at the start of every focus group that it was an opportunity for me to listen so I could understand their experiences,’’ Mr Kotzur said.

“We were asking them: ‘what did they value about the home learning experience’, ‘what would they like to see continue’, and also ‘what do they value more than ever about a face-to-face education at St Peters?’.’’

An elevated respect for each others’ individual roles

Overall, the home learning period – which for St Peters included a two-day trial towards the end of term one and up to five weeks of home learning in term two (depending on the child’s year level) – was considered a positive experience.

“Increased empathy” between all parties – parents, teachers and students – was one of its best outcomes, Mr Kotzur said.

“It enhanced the teacher-student relationship in that kids saw teachers in a different light and teachers saw students in a different light. Some students who struggled in traditional classroom settings flourished and thrived which was a really positive experience from home learning.

“I think it also reinforced that the teacher-student relationship is important and can’t be replaced.”

Increased respect for teachers was also another common theme in the feedback, as was a strengthening of the parent-teacher partnership.

“A lot of feedback from parents was they didn’t know how a teacher manages 25 kids all at once!,’’ Mr Kotzur said with a laugh.

“But on a serious note, I think the home learning period gave parents an insight into how their child learns and interacts and probably opened some parents’ eyes up to the feedback a teacher may have given in the past.

“As teachers we also took our hats off to parents for the way they rose to the challenges of that period: I don’t know how any [working] parents of Prep, Year One or Year Two students got any of their own work done because young children aren’t independent learners.’’

Other common feedback from the focus groups included:

  • parents of primary school children said their children liked the flexibility of the home learning day, in that they could work at their own pace and dive deeper into things they were passionate about;
  • families appreciated the additional time they had with their children because they weren’t “running around doing co-curricular activities”;
  • children of all ages were observed to grow in independence;
  • the feeling of community provided by physical schooling was missed by parents and students during the lockdown period.

‘Thank you’ goes a long way

Mr Kotzur said he received lots of thank you notes and emails from parents during the home learning period which had boosted staff morale.

“That feedback showed teachers what a great job they were doing and how much they were valued and appreciated by our families,’’ he said.

“It’s amazing how those little things make such a difference.’’

Find out more about the research into 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.

Listen to parent engagement expert Dr Linda Willis speak about parent engagement on Independent Schools Queensland’s The School Bell podcast.

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.