Parents Voice in Government School Education

Collaborating on mental health issues

This is a summary of a workshop held as part of the PV/DET Parent Forum in August 2019. The workshop covered many issues related to mental health, including the vital role of parent/school partnerships in addresssing mental health issues.

Speaker – Todd MacBeth, Director, Inclusive Education Professional Practice

Discussion summary

Parents requested a more collaborative approach from Student Support Services. Parents currently feel the methodology is too prescribed and directive. The discussion circled back to strengthening the parent/teacher relationship and having parents as partners in the school environment. Encouraging a strengths-based approach for students with special needs was a common theme.

  • Alternative classroom structures were discussed as not all students work and learn in the same way.
  • The need for cultural representatives to be more active in the school community was raised, this would improve relationships between community groups, the school and the broader Department of Education network.
  • Parents highlighted a need for greater support for high functioning students with special needs, with the objective of maintaining enrolments of high functioning students within mainstream education.
  • Providing parents with simple to understand factsheets on how funding is distributed to schools would be helpful, and how that funding specifically relates to each child, e.g. their own child.
  • Parents requested greater transparency regarding the decision making process on how schools select specific supports services and programs, e.g. are they based on best practice, a response to a tender etc.
  • It was also suggested that schools provide parents with an information pack regarding the support services available.
  • Alternative wellbeing practices for students were discussed, for example expanding the curriculum to include subjects such as meditation and yoga.
  • The possibility of schools providing annual assessments on a child’s wellbeing and health was raised.
  • Parents requested regular access to the Year Level Coordinator to gain a better understanding of what teachers overall challenges the entire year group faces and how parents and schools can better partner together to achieve outcomes and improve support.
  • Additionally it was raised that circulating student behaviour support plans to all would improve overall visibility.
  • Carer sensitivity training undertaken by school leadership and education staff would improve the level of student support delivered, and ensure empathy to enhance parent teacher relations.
  • Student mental health and wellbeing issues are starting much earlier and primary schools require additional supports to improve outcomes.
  • Improving facilitation and communication between families and school staff in the sharing of student specific information, including on enrolment or when transitioning to a new school.

Speaker summary

  • Health Wellbeing & Inclusion Workforces and Mental Health Practitioners provide critical and necessary support across schools in Victoria.
  • The Department is developing a new Health Wellbeing and Inclusion Workforces (HWIW) Practice Model.
  • The HWIW Practice Model will bring together school staff, parents/carers and students to set new goals for service, focussing on what they identify students need and how best to deliver support services.
  • The Mental Health Practitioners Initiative will provide every government secondary school campus with a suitably qualified mental health professional within their school. Additional funding over the next 4 years will also expand mental health and wellbeing supports to secondary schools.

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