Exploring the Practices and Experiences of Family-School Partnerships: An In- Depth Case Study
The value of family-school partnerships (FSP) has been recognised by the Australian government and educational sectors, and their effectiveness and implementation have been studied both nationally and internationally. However, these studies focus on the role of partnerships to increase students’ academic success and reduce problematic behaviours. Discrepancies between parents’ and teachers’ perspectives have not been fully understood in current conventional family-school relationships. Therefore, partnerships are often embodied in sporadic interactions of attending parent-teacher meetings and programs in which parents are expected to support their children’s learning at home. This unilateral approach has limited the reciprocal nature of FSP. Moreover, the parent-teacher dyad in current partnership models has largely dismissed children’s perspectives.
This study addressed these gaps by adopting a case study methodology, whereby FSP were explored in-depth in one primary/secondary school site. Data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews with 18 parents, 10 children, five mentors, five teachers, and four executive staff and school documents were also examined for what enabled and constrained enacting and supporting FSP. Using Boundary Theory (Guile, 2011), the Relationship Styles Framework (Karcher & Nakkula, 2010), and the Systemic Model (Keller, 2005), analysis of the data identified the collective roles of the school, parents, and third persons (mentors) as key to build family-school relationships for FSP with children as a whole-school approach. Diverse roles, personal and relationship attributes, and multiple pathways for communication between parents, children, and school staff enabled the school community to create and sustain effective FSP. The analysis identified lack of face-to-face interactions and a positive approach and some inconsistent practices as constraints to building FSP. Recommendations for policy and practice at the government and school levels are offered, along with a call for further research on a triadic children-centred model of partnerships involving parents, teachers, and third persons for more practical and sustainable FSP.