Tuesday, 25 November 2014

What does 'parent partnership' REALLY mean?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of 'parent partnership' and what it really means. It is a term I use often and the idea of partnership with parents is fundamental to my philosophy of leading a school.

However, I have wondered recently whether it is a term and concept that needs clarity- I have always assumed that everyone has the same understanding of what this means and operates within similar parametres as me, but I think I am wrong to make this automatic assumption.

For me, it means a high level of trust, respect and mutual cooperation. Armstrong (cited in Hodge & Runswick, 2008) states that partnership... "implies: mutual respect, complementary expertise; and a willingness to learn from each other."

We have in our care your most precious children, nothing should be hidden from you and we should operate in a transparent way that engenders the characteristics of partnership as above. However, this works both ways, we need the same from parents!

One of the most critical components of partnership in my view is trust. Bryk & Schneider (2003) suggests that there are four components to trust:

  • Respect
  • Personal regard
  • Competence in core role responsibilities
  • Personal integrity

Each of these work together to foster relational trust that is built slowly, day by day. It does not happen overnight. All of you extend to us, as a matter of necessity, a level of provisional trust when you send your child to us on their very first day. As time goes on, this trust is either built on and confirmed or eroded away. Given our strong parent community, the norm is the first!

However, the same applies to us as a school community welcoming parents in and building that relationship. We extend to you, also as a matter of necessity, that same provisional trust, which  is either built on or eroded away as time goes on. Again, at Bradbury, the former is the norm.

This then builds the basis for true partnership, where both sides can rely on the other to act in ways which build relational trust which in turn, builds confidence in the other. This does not mean blind trust- partnership also means constructive feedback and dialogue, working together, through differences to reach solutions and compromises.

To me, parent partnership is an area that is a strength of our school. I feel that we have the trust of our parents in terms of respect, personal regard, competence and integrity. This then acts like both a glue and a lubricant, to use Schannen- Morgan's definition, which I love! Glue because it binds us together, lubricant because it greases the wheels of of our school.

I would be really interested in hearing your views on what 'partnership' in school means to you.

Anthony Bryck & Barbara Schneider (2003) Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform, Creating Caring Schools, 60:6, 40-45
 Nick Hodge & Katherine Runswick‐Cole (2008) Problematising
parent–professional partnerships in education, Disability & Society, 23:6, 637-647

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Things that keep me awake at night...

Last weekend, I attended the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) leadership conference. This is always a great opportunity to learn more about a whole range of things as the quality of the speakers and workshops is always high.

One workshop I attended was on coping in a crisis and ensuring that you are well prepared in terms of knowing procedure and how to respond, including how to deal with the media.

For  principals, this is probably the one thing that keeps us awake at night- all of the potential risks 'out there', what to do when things go wrong...and deal with events that can be out of your control. Of course, the workshop was peppered with lots of real life school examples, which only served to fuel the insomnia as they were very real and quite current.

Lots of very good strategies were given and a clear 'game plan' provided. Things like ensuring the phone list is kept up to date (note to parents: do we have your current contact details?) assigning a media spokesperson, keeping answers open, honest and brief, thorough background checks of new staff and so on.

Preparing for potential incidents is possible to some degree. We do have a  comprehensive critical incident procedure in place (which is now about to undergo a review to ensure that we have covered most broad areas and that our procedures are current and known to those involved!). We are rigorous in completing risk assessments for trips and each of these has a reconnaissance visit completed by the staff involved before the trip takes place. We will continue our current practice of having  new appointees to school undergo a background check as well as  referee checks.

Another workshop that I attended was about the 'To DON'T List' for principals. As you can imagine, my 'To Do' can be quite long at times! However, this workshop urged us to think about eliminating practices that have never worked (I call this 'strategic abandonment' and have used it at times very successfully!) or those that have ceased to work in new contexts, or have such a so low impact on learning that they are just not worth doing. It was a good reminder about constantly reflecting and reviewing our current practice- it is so easy in a busy day to forget to do this.

Talking about reflecting, our focus on teaching our students to be 'mindful' is going well and we are noticing a positive difference in our classrooms. Have you noticed a positive difference at home?