The term 'parent engagement' has become the buzzword for governments, federally and locally. However, the terminology has changed in a subtle way, writes Tim Smith in The Sydney Morning Herald.
We now speak about parent 'involvement' in schools as different from parent 'engagement'. Engagement indicates being a strong part of a child's learning - being engaged with the whole process and influencing how the learning will occur.
Parent engagement has always been a strong ethos of the Catholic school. The Church tells us that parents, as the first and primary teachers of their child, have the responsibility for their education. While several Catholic schools assist in promoting this engagement with parents, there is still work to be done to ensure strong collaboration, interaction and partnership exist with all of those who make up the education community throughout all sectors.
Not since the famous 'Goulburn strike' have Catholic school parents throughout Australia united to ensure their voice will be heard. While the events in 1962 may have been more dramatic, the passion of parents in the Catholic sector for their views to be heard by all forms of government has never been stronger. With government policy mandating parental engagement in Australian schools, the timing has never been more opportune.
This groundswell has led to the formation of Catholic School Parents Australia, a new parent body that for the first time in the history of Catholic schooling in Australia will represent a 'distinctly Catholic voice.'
Two nominees from each state and territory Catholic parent body form CSPA, which represents the parents of more than 730,000 students in Catholic schools in Australia. At the launch of the body in October last year, Brian Croke, the executive director of the Catholic Education Commission of NSW and noted historian, said: 'People will not ask why this parent body has been formed - they will more likely ask why it has taken so long.'
The formation of a national Catholic parent body has had an immediate impact in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Parents and school principals representing more than 25,000 students in Catholic schools in the region gathered recently at a forum in Canberra to unite and launch Catholic School Parents Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.