Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

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We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Àlex Castillo
Àlex Castillo
President of the Catalan Federation of Parents’ Associations

I’m from Raval and I’m the father of two children aged 14 and 11 who study at the public school in this neighbourhood. I am a member of two parents’ associations, one of which I helped re-launch from zero. I am currently the President of the Catalan Federation of Parents’ Associations

The three things I’ve learned

Include families in their educational projects
1

Schools work better if they know how to include families in their educational projects

Although this might be obvious, it must be repeated because good strategies are not always found to achieve this inclusion in practise. And it’s not easy. But it must be done and should be done from the two sides: by the schools and by the families. One very simple recipe is to talk, to discuss the day to day, and establish mechanisms for formal and informal dialogue between families and teachers. It is important to take care of the relationship between the schools and each one of the families through parent/teacher conferences as often as possible (I believe in a minimum of three conferences per course) and also take care of the relationship between the school's administration and the parents' association. We may not always agree but we must respect and acknowledge each other. Placing value on the work of the teachers is essential and it is also essential to place value on the educational work that can be done by families.

2

Students’ learning success is the great enticement for getting families involved in the school

The objective of schooling does not just have to be students’ marks but rather their education. Any mother or father feels attracted to the school when it comes to talking about their child. And even more so if the goal is for them to be successful learners. If we are capable of finding coherent discourse within the schools and the parents’ associations that links this success to the family’s interest in their children’s studies, then we will come out far ahead. And we will have won 85% of the battle if we are also capable of offering them tangible proof. Any strategy to bring families closer to schools must revolve around this and, at the same time, any strategy to improve learning success must be created with the families in mind and in contact with the parents' associations. The parents’ associations are an impressive resource and can play a tremendous role in the fight against school failure. It all depends on how they work and how the administration and schools work with them.

3

Families must have more standing within schools

If we believe family participation improves both how schools operate as well as the students’ results, the conclusion is logical. The idea would be to do what the current legal framework provides for but is not always put into practise: decisive school councils with mixed commissions for important topics such as school lunches. This would be the very minimum. New ways of working together should be explored as regards school administration which gets families more involved and forces them to have a real presence rather than just testimonial presence. The hesitance and mistrust need to be broken down and we need to be capable of building a new organisational architecture for schools based on mutual trust and the presence of families in areas which until now have been reserved to specialists and professionals. We must make it easy and provide incentives for families to get more and better involved in the schools.

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