School and Community
A: PARENT AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
P&C Federation supports community participation in all aspects of education. Parents in particular have a right to play an active role in the education of their children and have a responsibility to exercise that right. Since child development takes place within both school and home environments it is essential that a close relationship exists between home and school to provide mutual reinforcement for this development. Communication between parents and teachers is crucial for the sound development of the child and is essential for the health of the school and parent bodies and School Councils should aim to achieve the maximum co-operation between school and parents.
4.1 Community participation provides for the regular involvement of those motivated to play a role in their school's activities and other educational issues and covers at least three distinct but interdependent areas:
(a) participation in educational decision making;
(b) participation in administration and school financial matters; and
(c) participation in controlling the after-hours use of school facilities.
4.2 In response to the changing needs of society, a closer relationship between the community and its schools is developing. While this may cause some tensions between teachers and parents because of differing values and attitudes, it is essential to build on the increasing interaction to strengthen individual schools and public education in New South Wales generally. P&C Federation should encourage and assist affiliates in the development of programs in which parents and the school community is involved in decisions about the aims and objectives of the school, its financial management and the development of the curriculum.
4.3 Proposals for increased parental involvement raise basic questions about the relationship between parents and schools. Successful parental involvement will require an understanding of school processes but will also require a change in the orientation of many schools.
4.4 It is the responsibility of the school Principal and staff to initiate positive actions to encourage parental participation in educational decision-making. If the initiative comes from the parents the Principal and his/her staff should respond in a positive manner. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their role in decision making is recognised and that suitable mechanisms are put in place to allow them to carry out this role effectively.
4.5 In order to ensure that school programs reflect community needs school policies, including aims, objectives and rules should be developed through consultation between Principal, parents, students and school staff.
4.6 P&C Federation is to immediately seek urgent and ongoing discussion with the NSW Councils of Secondary School Principals and Primary School Principals and the NSW Teachers' P&C Federation in an effort to improve communication between schools and parents.
4.7 Where there is evidence of a reduction in parental support for a school, demonstrated by a mass transfer of children to other schools or by representations from parent organisations, the DET must take immediate action to rectify the situation and re-establish community support for the school.
4.8 The aims of P&C Federation and its affiliates as far as community participation is concerned are as follows:
(a) to promote a co-operative relationship between parents, citizens, teachers and students;
(b) to guarantee democratic control of education by real and effective participation of all interested parents and citizens in educational decision making, together with teachers, students and others working in schools;
(c) to create within the community a spirit of social responsibility and awareness of the needs of the school;
(d) to ensure a greater community impact on the education process;
(e) to develop within the school a sense of responsibility toward the community and to promote increasing participation of the school in community activities;
(f) to utilise the social investment in schools' properties, equipment and facilities for additional educational uses and wider social activities;
(g) to encourage tolerance and understanding of the cultures and beliefs of the various racial and ethnic groups existing within communities and to encourage tolerance of all forms of disability, visible or not.
B: EXISTING PARENT BODIES
Existing parent organisations (P&C Associations and kindred bodies) should be the bodies on which the greater involvement by the community is based. It is the responsibility of P&C associations to promote the interests of the community in the school, and to promote the school in the community, by bringing about closer cooperation between parents, students, teachers, citizens and community organisations. This responsibility can best be exercised by campaigning to extend the functions and authority of those already aware enough to be involved in the education process - the parents, teachers, students and other citizens with a genuine commitment to, and interest in, public education.
4.9 The role of existing parent bodies should be enhanced by:
(a) extending the rights and functions of P&C associations on such matters as philosophies, objectives, content and financing of education;
(b) recognising that effective parent participation can only flourish in a school governed by a group (such as a School Council) elected democratically and representing all components of the school community, including students;
(c) allowing the composition and method of election to be decided at school level within broad guidelines designed to prevent abuses; and
(d) where there is not a School Council, establishing a Finance and Resource Committee consisting of the Principal and parent and teacher representatives to consider all financial, funding and resources aspects of school management.
4.10 Teachers at each government school should institute or maintain regular consultation with parents through the P&C Association and with parents of individual class groups.
4.11 Education in schools is part of a life-long process and constructive interaction between all those involved in education at all levels is essential. In particular, P&C Federation and its affiliates should make every effort to achieve co-operation between teachers and parents on a broad basis.
4.12 P&C Federation encourages each of its affiliates to elect a separate office bearer to take charge of dissemination of information from P&C Federation and other sources to the affiliate's members.
4.13 P&C Federation should take action to explain all aspects of its existing policy to affiliates and their members.
4.14 Parent organisations must be represented on all school, region or State committees, councils and other bodies determining the philosophies, objectives and content of education in schools as well as on those dealing with the allocation of financial resources to schools.
4.15 P&C Federation calls on the New South Wales Government to initiate discussions with employer groups, the Trades and Labor Council, appropriate government departments and parent and teacher organisations with a view to developing positive attitudes to P&C Federation's policy on community participation by:
(a) making it possible for employees to act as parent community representatives on the various educational committees without personal financial loss;
(b) calling on their members to support the concept of true community involvement as outlined in the policy of this P&C Federation;
(c) ensuring that P&C Federation is represented on all DET committees and on those Ministerial committees concerned with education, including assessment and selection panels; and
(d) ensuring that representatives receive remuneration from the appropriate authorities.
4.16 The DET and the Ministry of Education and Training should make the fullest possible information available concerning all policies and practices affecting the New South Wales education system. Such information should be widely disseminated and any proposed changes in policies and practices should be discussed in a meaningful fashion with all relevant parent and teacher bodies before implementation.
4.17 As responsibility for decision-making is passed from the Department to Regions, SEA and individual schools, responsibility for parent involvement also passes to regional councils, district councils, and P&C associations respectively.
C: SCHOOL PRINCIPALS
Parent bodies in schools have the right to participate in the choice of new Principals and to receive regular, detailed reports from Principals covering all aspects of the operation of their schools.
Principals play a vital role in schools and hence their leadership and management of the school is a key to the student and school outcomes.
Review and evaluation of the Principal's performance should be undertaken on a regular basis to maintain high levels of student and school performance.
4.18 When there is to be a change of Principal in a school, the parent body should have the right to:
(a) represent their perception of their role and involvement in the school to Regional Office;
(b) prepare a profile of the type of Principal they would like to be considered for appointment to the school; and
(c) be actively involved in the selection of a new Principal.
4.19 Whether by means of a school council or otherwise, each school Principal shall be accountable to parents with children at that school. Parent bodies should be invited to assist in the preparation of school appraisals and the results of such appraisals should be made available to them.
4.20 While not wishing to restrict the Principals' power to delegate responsibility and authority within their own schools, P&C Federation opposes moves to transfer further administrative responsibility and authority to teachers other than Principals.
4.21 The principal's performance should be reviewed and evaluated on a two year basis. The review team must include parents, staff and department representatives, and students where appropriate.
4.22 P&C Federation believes that principals must receive personal development and training to assist them in meeting their accountabilities for the most efficient and effective utilisation of the specialist skills of support staff to ensure the learning needs of students are most appropriately met.
D: SCHOOL COUNCILS
Representative School Councils are desirable in all government schools to give parents a recognised voice in developing school policies. However, they do not replace Parents and Citizens' Associations which will continue to perform valuable and complementary functions. The formation of School Councils should not be imposed on schools, but should be encouraged through discussion and example with parents fully involved in the establishment process. Existing parent bodies must be the groups through which parent representatives are nominated and to which they report, according to P&C Federation's policy on representation [see Policy Items 3.13-3.15]. School Councils must reflect the educational partnership of parents, teachers and students and must enjoy the full confidence of the school community.
4.23 School Councils should be established in as many schools as possible, but parent representatives must be elected by, represent the views of and report to parents through the only officially recognised parent body, i.e. affiliates of P&C Federation.
4.24 School Councils should operate as forums in which representatives of parent, teacher and student bodies join the Principal and community members co-opted by the Council to determine such issues as:
(a) educational needs, priorities, goals and philosophies;
(b) welfare and discipline policies;
(c) budget priorities, plans and expenditure monitoring;
(d) community use of school facilities;
(e) the school's needs in terms of services, equipment, buildings, school transport etc;
(f) liaison with the local community; and
(g) development of an overall school staffing policy.
4.25 It should be left up to the school community to decide whether or not to include community members on School Councils and from where these members should be drawn. Where community members are involved they should have an interest in the school or be representative of community groups with an interest in the school.
4.26 The principle for electing members to a School Council should be one person, one vote.
4.27 A teacher should not normally be a parent representative on a School Council at the school where he/she teaches, but may be a parent representative at any other school where he/she is a parent.
4.28 Where two or more properly constituted parent bodies exist in a school, the membership of each organization should be entitled to nominate members to stand for election to the School Council.
4.29 It is desirable that teaching and non-teaching staff be categorised separately for purposes of representation on School Councils.
4.30 School Councils must be given the necessary financial support to allow them to function effectively. That support must not come from school funds, but should be supplied either from regional funds or from funds controlled by the SEA Director.
4.31 In particular, where School Councils are established:
(a) approved out-of-pocket expenses should be provided by the Department of Education and Training for all Council members who attend meetings; and
(b) the DET should make available an adequate sum of money to allow the Council to obtain stationery and pay for printing and postage.
4.32 P&C Federation should provide adequate information to all persons interested in becoming members of School Councils. Training for all School Councillors should be provided by P&C Federation, working with the DET.
4.33 Any funds raised by existing parent bodies should be used only with the approval of those bodies.
E: COMMUNITY USE OF SCHOOL FACILITIES
Schools are community resources and should be made available to the community in ways which are not detrimental to the normal functioning of the school, providing safeguards relating to fire, security, cleaning and insurance are in place.
4.34 P&C Federation recognises that the most appropriate and effective after-hours utilisation of schools by the community is achieved through continuing educational, creative and leisure programs which provide opportunities for life-long education for all the community. Normal school cleaning arrangements should be adjusted to cater for such after-hours uses.
4.35 P&C Federation supports the establishment and continued funding of Education Resource Centres available to teachers, parents and the community, and particularly supports the involvement of parents and the community in their management and in devising teaching and other innovative programs.
F: EDUCATION WEEK
Education Week is a valuable opportunity to strengthen relationships between schools and their communities and to heighten public awareness of the strengths of public schools.
4.36 P&C Federation fully supports the observance of Education Week as a means of:
(a) fostering within the community an awareness of the public education system at all levels;
(b) encouraging parents and citizens to visit local schools;
(c) assisting development of public interest in, and understanding of, public schools' achievements, problems and needs; and
(d) developing within the community a fuller appreciation of its responsibilities for education and of the vital importance of education for the future of the nation.
4.37 Education Week should be held in the first half of the school year rather than later in the year.
G: SCHOOL CLOSURES
Given that schools are community resources and public property, no government school in New South Wales should be closed without a full and open public inquiry.
4.38 P&C Federation believes that because it is the fundamental obligation of the State Government to provide schools when and where they are needed:
(a) no decision to close a government school should be made without full, proper, open and prior consultation with the whole affected school community over a minimum period of twelve months;
(b) once such a decision is made, a minimum of twelve months notice should then be given of the proposed closure;
(c) there can be no across-the-board criteria for the closure of government schools; and
(d) each case of a school being considered for closure should be evaluated on its individual merits, taking into account:
(i) educational, social, economic, cultural, environmental, community and historical factors;
(ii) school population, including future enrolment projections;
(iii) geographical, transport and safety factors;
(iv) possible alternate uses of the facilities by the community; and
(v) access for students to alternative government schools.
4.39 P&C Federation believes that to ensure schools are provided when and where needed well into the future, that it is a duty of the State Government not to dispose of land which becomes available due to school closures to assist the budgetary needs of the government of the day or for profit to the Crown, but believes that school land ought be retained to ensure the future of public education.
4.40 For the purpose of all policy regarding school closures, P&C Federation holds that all campuses of any college set up by the Minister or the Department of Education and Training each singly fall under the provisions of this section.
H: STUDENT WELFARE POLICIES
It is essential for the local P&C Association, parents and students to be involved in the formulation of each school's welfare, discipline and school uniform policies. Such policies should be reviewed with full parent and student involvement as the need arises. Individual schools should be able to determine their own discipline policies, but such policies should exclude corporal punishment.
4.41 P&C Federation commends the Report on Self-Discipline and Pastoral Care and requests the Department of Education and Training to ensure that its schools and their teaching are conducted so that pupils are perceived as individuals, each with her or his own pattern of abilities, interests and needs. Furthermore, all pupils should receive appropriate pastoral care. The basis for school discipline policies should be Recommendations 1- 20 of the Report.
4.42 There should be parental and community consultation whenever a school's uniform policy is drawn up or revised.
1. That P&C Federation encourages the Department of Education and Training to work jointly with the P&C Federation to develop some training and development programs to support school staff, parents and students in school accountability and plain English reporting with emphasis on self-evaluation and improvement facets. (2004)
2. That P&C Federation calls on the Director-General of Education and Training to direct the Department of Education and Training officers to ensure that parents, local Parents and Citizens’ Associations and the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations of NSW are active participants in all aspects of decision-making and development of alternative models of educational provision. (2004)