Parents Voice in Government School Education

Cost of schooling: Outcomes of Parent Forum

This is a summary of a workshop held as part of the PV/DET Parent Forum in August 2019.

Speaker: Claire Tobin, Principal Health Advisor, Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division

Workshop summary

Family hardship is a sensitive matter and the overarching theme of discussion was geared towards improving school processes that ensure schools preserve the dignity and privacy of families whilst ensuring they receive the support they need. Parents were also receptive to schools that have taken on a proactive approach in providing assistance and information to families. For example, families are provided a information booklet that lists school initiatives promoting co-located services and partnerships geared towards reducing the cost of schooling.

  • Parents discussed how the school administration can identify and interact with families who require financial support. One-on-one interaction is important to maintaining privacy and dignity of families.
  • Parents currently find homework and breakfast clubs a valuable support service.
  • Uniform policy provision needs to be re-evaluated, schools need to consider what uniform
  • requirements are necessary and the policy implications.
  • It was suggested that schools should assess the longevity of educational I.T. devices such as laptops/IPad in order to reduce upfront and ongoing costs.
  • A courtesy bus was raised as a useful option for newly immigrated families where access to personal transport is limited. This could be similar to the model of community buses for local clubs and aged care at agreed pick up points.
  • Schools could do more on reducing the stigma of school camp options, as it can be viewed as a two-tiered system which directly reflects on a family’s financial situation.
  • Schools that have strong partnerships with their communities can utilise this relationship to implement programs focused on assisting families. For example, schools and communities groups have been able to work together to establish yearly book and uniform drives.
  • Parents were provided an information booklet developed by a school in Ballarat which has been used to great effect, it provides a list of community and school-based initiatives targeted at reducing the cost of schooling for families. This booklet received overwhelming support from parents and it was encouraged that this be used as a benchmark to assist schools on how best to engage with families on this sensitive matter.

Speaker summary

  • The health, wellbeing and participation of all students, at all year levels, is the Department’s highest priority. When families need more help, or specialist support, they should be able to get it.
  • The State Schools’ Relief Initiative provides families with support for uniforms and textbooks when they need it. Additionally the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund assist families so students don’t miss out on these programs due to financial circumstances.

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