- Tuesday, 28 November 2023 at 10:00 pm
Having an inclusive and welcoming school atmosphere where parents or carers feel comfortable and respected goes a long way in creating positive relationships within a school community.
To learn more about building positive school relationships between school staff and families, we spoke to Victorian Education Excellence Awards 2023 finalist Elaine Hazim, principal, Victoria University Secondary College (VUSC), who kindly shared her insights.
For Elaine, open and honest communication is the key to promoting respectful behaviours in the school community.
Elaine encourages her staff to listen to parents' concerns, questions and feedback with empathy, and address their concerns without interruptions.
‘We share a commitment to, and a responsibility for, creating positive relationships with students, parents and carers and the wider school community by being approachable, transparent and open to discussion,’ she said.
Elaine and staff at the school support relationships with their school community by:
- scheduling regular in-person parent and carer meetings
- delivering school newsletters in 10 different languages
- maintaining regular communications through the Compass parent portal, emails and phone calls.
Modelling respectful school behaviour
Under Elaine’s leadership, VUSC has implemented a whole-school approach to modelling positive behaviours that create a culture of respect.
‘Although primarily aimed at students, our staff, and parents and carers are also expected to model these behaviours, creating a culture of respect, and an open, responsive management system,’ Elaine said.
Their approach is underpinned by the Respectful Behaviours within the School Community Policy in conjunction with the School-wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS) framework.
Elaine said that professional relationships with parents and carers can last for several years, so staff need to approach building positive relationships with genuine commitment and ongoing effort.
Elaine’s top 5 strategies for building positive relationships are:
- approaching parent and carer relations with a positive, empathetic and welcoming attitude
- encouraging informal parent and carer interactions at school social events to understand your school community context
- deliver consistent communication on their child's progress, activities, upcoming events and seek their input on student-facing challenges
- undertaking face-to-face engagement to develop a deeper understanding of their child’s needs and progress
- understanding that when you commit to something, you must follow through on promises through action to build trust.
Refer to these resources for more support with building an inclusive community at your school:
- Communications toolkit: Respectful behaviour within the school community
- Guide for parents: Building a positive relationship with your child's school
- Family engagement in learning (PDF) (staff login required).
Managing unacceptable parent, carer and other adult behaviour
While most parents, carers and community members positively engage with their child’s education and school community, unreasonable and disrespectful behaviour towards school staff can occur.
Parent and carer behaviour towards school staff that is violent, aggressive or otherwise unsafe is a recognised occupational health and safety risk.
The department has supports available to mitigate challenging parent and carer behaviour, including:
- suggested speaking points (staff login required) to help you prepare for challenging conversations with parents and carers
- the Conflict resolution in schools intranet page (login required), which has videos and training to manage conflict, address aggressive behaviour, unpack concerns and communicate firmly
- access to a mediator or further advice on preparing for and chairing meetings with parents, carers or advocates through Converge International.
If your dealings with a parent or carer are harmful, threatening, abusive or seriously impacting your physical or mental health, speak to your principal about whether a School Community Safety Order may be needed.
Find out more
For more information, refer to:
- Respectful behaviours within the school community Policy
- Work-Related violence in schools, including Managing parent and carer behaviour.
For further enquiries, contact the Respectful and Safe Workplaces team by email: email@example.com