Addressing issues of engagement, wellbeing and challenging behaviour requires schools and parents and carers to work together in order to achieve the best outcomes for the student. Ensuring behavioural expectations are upheld is a shared responsibility between schools and families.
When working with parents and carers, it is important to recognise that families come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, familial compositions and educational backgrounds and that these differences can leave them feeling alienated from the school and its operations.
The willingness and ability of parents and carers to participate in the education and discipline of the student can be impacted by how they are approached and engaged by the school. It is therefore important to ensure that school staff are mindful and respectful of this diversity and implement engagement strategies and adjustments that help to ensure that all parents and carers feel empowered and supported to advocate for the student and confident that their concerns will be heard.
Below is a list of things to consider when meeting or engaging with parents and carers:
- Have the parents and carers been provided with accessible information about the purpose of the meeting (including advance copies of documents to be discussed and a list of who will be present)?
- Has the meeting been scheduled at a mutually convenient time and place to accommodate parent and carer needs and commitments such as work or childcare?
- If childcare isn’t possible and young children are present at the meeting, is the meeting located in a safe and appropriate space (e.g. provision of toys or a safe, supervised area for them to play)?
- Have all key personnel been invited and briefed on what is required of them (this may include outside support agencies)?
- Has the parent and carer been encouraged to bring a support person who can assist them in advocating for the student (e.g. it may be appropriate within some cultures for a community leader or Koorie education coordinator/Koorie engagement support officer to be present to support and advocate on behalf of a family)?
- Have you ensured that the meeting is free from interruptions, including from phone calls, other students and staff?
- Have you ensured that parents and carers are informed about the roles of all participants in the meeting, including those who have not previously been involved?
- Have you made accommodations for cultural needs, sensitivities and protocol? Consider contacting your Koorie education coordinator or Koorie engagement support officer for Koorie familes. You can also seek advice from your local migrant resource centre, or from the family or community about respectful cultural practice prior to the meeting.
- Have you arranged interpreters (including for AUSLAN) if necessary, before the meeting?
- Have you ensured a record of the meeting is made and distributed to all participants (including key discussion points and areas for action)?
- Have parents and carers been informed in a timely manner when immediate action needs to be taken?
The relevant person
Due to the seriousness of suspension and expulsion, Ministerial Order 1125 requires that students who are subject to suspension and/or expulsion processes have a ‘relevant person’ to participate in the process to support and advocate for them.
For most students this will be a parent or carer.
In situations where the parent or carer is unavailable or unwilling to act as the relevant person for their child, they can nominate an alternative relevant person. For more information on this role, see: identifying a relevant person
In the case of the Koorie community, KESOs and KECs are available, to act as the relevant person where desired by the family or carer: a list is available from regional offices.
Students with separated parents
For students who have separated parents, it important to remember that suspension and expulsion are serious disciplinary measures and therefore all parents and carers are entitled to be notified of the intention to suspend or expel the student.
In circumstances where there is more than one parent or carer who would like to participate in the suspension and expulsion process, it is important to involve all of them in the process.
If the principal of a Victorian government school needs advice and assistance on how to proceed with the suspension or expulsion in these circumstances, it is strongly recommended that they contact the Department’s via (03) 9637 3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org