Family Engagement in Education: The strategic benefits of family engagement in education.

It’s easy to gloss over the strategic relevance of family engagement, but until we truly embed family engagement into our education system there are many students who’s full potential will simply not be realised.

Recently Verity Leach took the opportunity to invite Dr. Karen Mapp and Jenni Brasington to conduct a three day workshop supporting West Australian educators in building capacity in terms of family engagement.

Participants included a host of schools from throughout Western Australia and was sponsored by the Fogarty Foundation. The three day workshop was opened by the American Consulate General, Rachel Cooke who eloquently spoke of her experiences around the world including Afghanistan. Attendees also included Jennifer McGrath, Acting Director General and Lindsay Hale, Executive Director of State Wide Services, Department of Education and Anne and Caitlyn Fogarty of the Fogarty Foundation, as well as many others.

Engagement activities being designed to link to learning

Where best practice family engagement principles are implemented as part of school strategy students:

Earn higher grades and test scores,

Enrol in higher-level programs,

Are promoted and earn credits,

Adapt well to school and attend regularly,

Have better social skills and behaviour, and

Graduate and go on to higher education. Henderson & Mapp (2002).

Five essential pillars have been found as key to school improvement. Performance gains are significantly less likely without all five pillars in place. As schools develop meaningful and strong community and family bonds, advancement in both maths and reading becomes more likely according to Bryk et al (2010).

These pillars, known as the Five Essential Supports are;

1. Leadership as the driver to change,

2. Professional Capacity,

3. Parent-Community Ties,

4. Student-Centred Learning Climate, and

5. Instructional Guidance.

Each essential support comes together to play out positively in the classroom. When all five supports are engaged schools have seen significant increases in parental attendance at conferences (23% up to 90%), as well as improved student attendance, behaviour and attention.

The challenge for many schools will be first of all sharing a clear understanding of each of the essential supports and of family engagement itself.

Only once this understanding is developed, can the school leadership begin to embed family engagement in strategy. This, in my opinion, was one of the key advantages of the workshop. Participants were able to leave with a clear understanding of and shared language around family engagement and very definitive approaches to implement in their own schools.

To assist schools develop a deeper and clearer appreciation of family engagement, it’s recommended that schools use and adopt the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.

This framework begins with the Challenge faced by many schools, then moves to Opportunity Conditions. The conditions include various Process Conditions and Organisational Conditions. Following on from the conditions are the Policy and Program Goals which look at, 1) Capabilities, 2) Connections, 3) Cognition and 4) Confidence. Finally the framework addresses Family and Staff Capacity Outcomes. An overview of the framework is included in figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnership

Of the 10 Principles and multiple schools throughout Western Australia who attended, many have already began to embed family engagement within their school strategy with clear links to learning.

To further this work the Dianella School Precinct has engaged Verity Leach of the Smith Family to support a whole of school approach to family engagement. This is being achieved by forming an education hub that draws educators, families, organisations, government and business together, creating a community behind each child’s education.

In order for Perth and Western Australia to continue to develop as a global city inclusive of diverse perspectives and communities, we need to ensure that our education system includes families and the wider community. By doing so we’ll continue to develop the best in our future adults and attract the best from around the world.

To find out more about The Hub or how your school could benefit from the same workshop and implementing family engagement as part of the whole of school strategy, visit the web site at or contact Verity Leach.


Anthony S. Bryk et al, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2010))

Anne T. Henderson & Karen L. Mapp, A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement (Annual Synthesis (2002))