Optional reading: Family school learning partnerships

This reading supports Learning Focus Areas (LFAs) 1 and 4. It summarises the evidence base for partnering with families and students to strengthen reporting.

School leadership teams can read it:

  • as part of orienting themselves to the Program, and/or
  • when exploring the educational evidence base during LFA 1.    

Key features of family school learning partnerships

Learning partnerships are collaborative endeavors. They depend on quality relationships within a learning community (Biesta & Tedder, 2007; Jones and Charters, 2019). In the context of student reporting, Family School Learning Partnerships give all an equal voice. Dialogue and listening are at the heart of successful partnering.

Successful learning partnerships:

  • bring together students and people that support their education. This includes family, teachers,
    and community members.
  • are interdependent and fair. The unique perspectives of all contributors are highly valued and nurtured.
  • promote open dialogue and active listening. This enables a deep understanding of student learning
    and well-being.
  • embrace an inclusive and appreciative stance. This supports transparency and openness and strives
    for clarity of purpose and intent. leverage the knowledge, capacities, and socio-cultural capital of families.
    They support the student's learning and well-being at home, school, and in the community.
  • create the conditions for optimal learning. They enlarge family and community capacity to contribute
    to student learning. In doing so, they expand education beyond the school gate (Muller, 2009).

How strong family school learning partnerships make a difference

 "‚Ķpositive family engagement can and does significantly influence student academic attainment" (Emerson, et al, 2012, p.8).

The benefits of Family School Partnerships for students include: 

  • gains in student achievement
  • higher levels of student participation
  • higher rates of graduation from school
  • greater sense of personal competence and efficacy for learning
  • greater engagement in learning and school life
  • better adaptive behavior to challenging situations by students
  • increased social capital by the school community
  • a strong belief in education.  

How schools, families and local communities can work together to better support student learning

Schools need their communities as much as communities need their schools (Hayes and Chodkiewicz; 2006, 2012).

Research recommends:

  • active communication between schools and their communities. Build shared understandings of the nature of learning
  • greater recognition that learning takes place beyond the school. Parents, carers, siblings, extended family, teachers, and community members have a role in student's learning.

Many factors influence learning across family, school, and community contexts. Therefore, successful Family School Learning Partnerships are:

  • responsive to local contexts
  • continuous
  • creative and provide flexible engagement opportunities
  • grounded in relationships of trust, centered on students, their learning, development,
    and well-being (Emerson, et al., 2012).

Reimagining student reporting through family school learning partnerships

Reimagining student reporting can only occur in partnership with families and students.

Committing to partnering to learn with families means co-constructing investigations that get to the heart of meaningful reporting. This includes investigating what families want to know about their children's achievements and progress.

Meaningful reporting supports students to become more knowledgeable about their learning progress. It provides opportunities for discussions that identify new or next areas for development. This process supports teachers to focus on reporting information on the progress of each student.


  • Biesta G and Tedder M (2007). Agency and learning in the life course: Towards an ecological perspective. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(2):132. doi:10.1080/02660830.2007.11661545, accessed 19 July 2022.
  • Charteris J and Smardon D (2019). Democratic contribution or information for reform? Prevailing and emerging discourses of student voice. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(6):1-18. doi:10.14221/ajte.2018v44n6.1, accessed 19 July 2022.
  • Emerson L, Fear J, Fox S and Sanders E (2012). Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research. A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau, from: Parental_engagement_in_learning_and_schooling_Lessons_from_research_BUREAU_ARACY_August_2012, accessed 22 July 2022.
  • Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau (2017a). Fact Sheet: Partnerships. Family-School Partnerships Framework. A guide for schools and families. Department of Education and Training.
  • Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau (2017b). Fact Sheet: Parent engagement in learning. Family-School Partnerships Framework. A guide for schools and familes. Department of Education and Training.
  • Hayes D and Chodkiewicz A (2006). School-community links: supporting learning in the middle years. Research Papers in Education, 21(1):3-18.
  • Muller D (2009). Parental engagement: Social and economic effects. Prepared for the Australian Parents Council.
  • Tennyson R (2011). The partnering toolbook. An essential guide to cross-sector partnering. The Partnering Initiative. https://thepartneringinitiative.org/the-partnering-toolbook, accessed 22 July 2022.