Chris King is committed to building a culture of engagement at her school where parents and the community share and enjoy the responsibility of educating and raising all children to reach their full potential.
Northern Bay College was formed in 2011 as a result of a merger of nine schools in the Geelong area into one multi-campus college. Shifts in school leadership and the responsibility for over 2000 students from a predominately low socioeconomic background have meant that engaging parents and the community in student learning has been challenging.
As the leader in student wellbeing and engagement across all campuses, Chris King has made it her mission to create closer connections with families through a college-wide culture of engagement.
“I see parental engagement and involvement as crucial if we are to have an impact on student learning,” says Chris. “It is the responsibility of every staff member to help parents understand how important they are and the role they play to deepen the learning from the classroom to home.”
Chris firmly believes that taking advantage of “parents’ skills, experience and connections to additional resources, as well as historical and local knowledge” is the ideal way to build the capacity of all students and reinforce the learning that occurs in and out of the classroom.
When looking for ways to extend engagement and parent support strategies that she had already implemented, Chris enrolled in the Bastow Leading Communities course in 2013.
“The idea of the online discussions, project work and the opportunity to work with the colleagues I had met at the previous Bastow course was really exciting and challenging,” says Chris.
Leading Communities gave Chris the perfect opportunity to study the latest, most relevant research and presented her with some genuinely practical ways to promote community engagement.
“The learning at Bastow is different from university in that you can enjoy the study and reading, but it’s really hearing about the professional practices and experiences of colleagues that gives you a sense of direction and confidence, as well as the ability to stand up for what you believe in,” says Chris.
“It was also the conversations I had with my colleagues and Bastow staff and considering how we might integrate the theory into practice that created an exciting opportunity for myself and the team.”
Promoting the school’s website to parents and the wider community was one idea Chris immediately implemented.
“Technology means we all have access to information like never before,” says Chris. “The development of the school website provides our community with links that they can use to build their capacity to support their children through their education.”
This strategy of providing tools to parents is all part of Chris’s belief that parents do want to be involved, but they simply don’t know how or what is expected of them.
Chris, together with the members of the Northern Bay College team who attended the Bastow course, now all hold a Community Engagement and Involvement portfolio.
“They use their skills and knowledge to encourage community engagement and involvement within their campuses,” says Chris. “This information is then reported back to a Community Engagement Group, which is made up of parents who represent our five campuses.”
Inspired by her Bastow experience and the positive results achieved so far, Chris is now on the lookout for more opportunities to work with parents and the community and to improve the wellbeing of students. However, she also understands that a collaborative approach to leadership and an understanding of the limitations of those involved are crucial to success.
“I am driven to ensure that we have the right people doing the right work, and we are making inroads, but we still have a way to go … it’s an important journey!”