Evaluation of a pilot parent engagement toolkit and training course for school staff and parents from socially disadvantaged schools

13 May 2020

Deep and persistent inequalities in the educational outcomes of children are of ongoing concern in Australia and as a result, schools are under a great deal of pressure to improve the learning outcomes of students, particularly those from socio-educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Research shows that engaging parents in the education of their children at home and at school has a direct impact on student outcomes, and positive school culture and principal leadership are pivotal to building parent–school partnerships to enable parental engagement. But parents from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to face barriers when it comes to forming partnerships with schools and engaging in their child’s learning.

UQ researchers, led by ISSR’s Dr Jenny Povey, are conducting a feasibility study on the effectiveness of a pilot parent engagement toolkit and training course, developed for staff and parents from socially disadvantaged schools. The research team conceptualised the project and sought funding through the Qld Department of Education’s Horizon grant. This project was one of two projects that received 3-year funding from this competitive funding scheme. 

The toolkit and online training course were developed on the edX Edge platform and comprises of 34 parent engagement strategies presented across four modules.

The project was accepted as part of the Social Interventions Project funding initiative, offered by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Life Course Centre). The overarching goal of this project is to improve schools’ parent engagement culture and strengthen parent engagement in student learning. The key objectives are to establish whether:

  • the toolkit and training course successfully engage school staff and parents,
  • there is uptake of these parent engagement strategies by the school leader and school staff,
  • the intervention is scalable, and
  • the schools’ parent engagement culture improves for these socially disadvantaged communities.

Seven socially disadvantaged schools are currently trialling the course. An additional two socially advantaged schools were also included in the trial to test the fidelity of the course for these schools. Both primary and secondary schools are involved in the trial. School leaders are facilitating the course with staff and parents and adapting and trialling these strategies for their school context. Data will be collected at baseline, post-intervention and three months post-baseline, to evaluate the effects of the newly implemented strategies.

The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2020. Researchers are working closely with Queensland Department of Education to roll this toolkit out across Queensland schools.

Project team:
Institute for Social Science Research: Dr Jenny Povey, Professor Janeen Baxter, Ms Alexandra Gramotnev;
The School of Education: Dr Linda-Dianne Willis;
The School of Psychology: Dr Julie Hodges;
The HASS Faculty: Professor Annemaree Carroll;
The School of Social Science: Dr Emma Antrobus;
and partners from P&C’s QLD, Department of Education, and Queensland College of Teachers