Transitions: Re-engaging families at crucial points in the education journey
Do schools recognise and understand the issues for parents and families during transition points? More importantly, how are transitions utilised to build the capacity of families to support their child's learning and wellbeing? Understanding the importance and the need for focussed and continued parent engagement during key transitions across the years of schooling has a high impact on student learning outcomes and wellbeing. It builds on important engagement and relationships that have developed previously.
Transition points are when families need new information and strategies to support and engage with their children in light of their child’s development. As children develop so do their connections, relationships, knowledge and capabilities. A child's learning contexts and environments also become more complex. These key transition points for children include: home to childcare/preschool, home/childcare/preschool to primary school, primary school to secondary school, middle secondary to late secondary, secondary school to post school work/study. Continuity of parent engagement throughout the school years results in improved academic achievement and students with developed social and emotional skills. (1)
The transition to early learning centres and from these centres to schools are an important, generally focussed and part of a quality transition process for families. Both schools and families recognise the importance of forming learning partnerships and engagement through information sharing, building relationships, assessing the needs of the child and family and providing multiple opportunities to engage at this crucial transition point. Equally, the transition from primary to secondary school is usually noticed with families and students provided with opportunities to engage in the new context of the child's developing independence and the changing environment of their schooling. Commonly, this is where a focus on transition points stops.
It is often stated that a parent’s level of engagement with their child's school and learning will drop in secondary schools. The assumption often given is that the child no longer wishes for the parent to engage and parents are no longer as interested. Let’s flip this assumption and ask:
Are focussed strategies for engagement provided for parents at middle school and higher secondary transition points?
Are parents provided with opportunities to engage and be active partners at this stage?
Are students provided with ideas and tools to develop supportive relationship with their families in their final years of schooling ?
With a changing landscape around workplace and careers and a whole new skill set around competencies and how knowledge is used becoming part of success and equity in the workplace, are families being engaged and skilled to support their child through this vital transitional point? More attention to building family engagement and developing strong relationships is needed at these transition points. When schools, families and the community connect to share information and provide support during transition points family engagement becomes a continuous part of a child's learning journey. (2)
1 - 2 H. Weiss, M.Elena Lopez and Margaret Caspe, Carnegie Challenge Paper: Joining Together to Create a Bold Vision for Next Generation Family Engagement, Global Family Research Project, 2018