Services

Parent and Community Engagement

Introduction In January 2014 the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet funded Papulu Apparr-Kari (PAK) Aboriginal Corporation to extend its Parent and Community Engagement (PACE) Project until 30 June 2019.  The PACE project was trialled in four schools in the Barkly region, including: Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Epenarra. The purpose of the project was to assist families develop individual solutions to maintain their child’s school attendance during periods of sorry business, ceremonial leave, sports carnivals and cultural events.  This report provides an overview of the projects:
Governance arrangements;
Parent and community consultations; 
Partnership arrangements;
Engagement activities;  
Outcomes;
Success factors; and
Barriers.

This report should be read in conjunction with the PAK/University of New South Wales discussion paper titled ‘Let’s Make It Better For the Future’ (PMC File) which provides a detailed analysis of parent’s perceptions of the high absenteeism levels of school children in selected sites and analysis of if these perceptions are consistent with the assumptions on which current NT school engagement policy, program and practice are based and the likely social and economic impact.   

Background
In June 2014 PAK were funded to engage parents and community members in activities to reduce child absenteeism and assist families develop individual solutions to maintain their child’s school attendance during periods of sorry business, ceremonial leave, sports carnivals and other community events impacting their child’s education. Parents, carers and community members in Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Epenarra were invited to participate in a four part strategy to improve child absenteeism in selected sites and enable authentic engagement with schools. 
The strategy included:
raising awareness of absenteeism issues in selected schools throughout the region;
conducting parent and community engagement activities to assist parents and carers become engaged in their children’s education;
educating parents about their roles as first teachers and the importance of education on a child’s future life choices; and 
developing Individual Family Agreements to assist parent/carer’s maintain children’s school during periods of sorry business, ceremonial leave, royalty meetings and sporting events. 

 
Community Consultations
From 1 January to 30 June 2015 PACE consulted with 49 organisations and approximately 1121 community members in the Barkly Region to raise awareness of individual school attendance issues in selected sites. Community awareness raising activities included:
 
Information Sessions of the impact of school absenteeism;
Community events and parent/school activities;
Individual parent training on Parents as First Teachers Kits;
Intergenerational Trauma workshops;
Parent/School conferences; and
Parent workshops/forums.    

 
Partnership Arrangements To support the outcomes of this project PAK developed partnership agreements with key stakeholders (Table 1 Partnership Arrangements) to provide wrap around services for parents and children requiring:
Cultural Safety; 
Advocacy Support;
Behaviour Management Assistance;
Specialist Medical Services;
Mentoring;
Counselling Support; and
Money Management Assistance.  

Other partnerships were also developed to support:
Academic research;  
Resource sharing arrangements;
Child safety; and
Cross promotional activities. 

 
Parent Engagement
Over 436 parents/carers of the students enrolled in schools in selected sites participated in the PACE project.  The focus of PAK’s parental engagement activities involve engaging parents in their children’s learning and breaking down barriers between parents and schools to enable the parent/carer to participate in their child’s learning.  Targeted strategies were delivered to help parents understand how their behaviour impacts their child and to assist schools create a more supportive home environment for children to learn.   As part of this project PAK developed a range of communication materials in both English and local languages to educate parents on school policies, promote school events and activities, raise awareness of the impact of absenteeism on a child’s future life choices and assist primary aged students achieve learning benchmarks.   
 
PAK staff communicated with parents on issues involving their child on a regular basis using the following methods:
Face to face consultations,
Parent notices;
Newspaper articles;
Community education sessions; and
Phone calls. 

Parents and community members also participated in a range of school and community incentives aimed at encouraging children to attend school on a regular basis.   
PACE Responses to Parent Survey PAK conducted 436 personal interviews with parent/carers of children in selected sites to help them develop individual solutions to challenges impacting their child’s school attendance and education.  Responses were designed to assist parent/carers address a range of neglect, health and school challenges impacting their child’s attendance including:  
Health Issues;
Malnutrition;
No clothing;
Bullying in Schools;
Counselling Issues;
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FaSD);
Missing the school bus;
Behavioural issues; and
Moving Communities.  
 

PAK’s response to each challenge identified by parents through this project is included in the table below.  Individually targeted strategies for non-attenders were implemented in partnership with parents, families and communities on a daily basis.  Parents of children moving communities whose attendance was below 60 per cent were also given assistance to get children into a routine of attending school each day and were monitored on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.   A joint discussion paper developed by PAK and the University of New South Wales titled ‘Let’s Make It Better For the Future’ provides a detailed analysis of PACE parent perceptions of the high absenteeism levels of school children in selected sites and analysis of if these perceptions are consistent with the assumptions on which current Indigenous children school engagement policy, program and practice are based.  It also provides an overview of the ongoing issues impacting absenteeism in selected sites and includes parent suggestions on how these issues need to be addressed.