'We don't enrol a student, we enrol the family': how schools are trying to win over parents

Iris Isaacs, a jeweller and mother, will be talking about her craft with other parents at Lauriston Girls' School.
Iris Isaacs, a jeweller and mother, will be talking about her craft with other parents at Lauriston Girls' School. Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

In a bid to win over mums and dads, Victorian schools are running excursions, cooking classes and even yoga for parents.

At Lauriston Girls' School, parents have learnt how to master beef rendang and spaghetti carbonara in cooking classes and ambled through art galleries on excursions.

Overseas parents who want to improve their English attend weekly language classes at the Armadale school. 

Iris Isaacs, a jeweller and mother of a Year 8 Lauriston student, will soon discuss how she creates her statement pieces at a breakfast event for parents.  

"It's really nice having these events that bring us together; otherwise everyone is really busy with their own lives," she said.

As competition between schools intensifies, perks for parents are seen as an important point of difference.

Doveton College is at the forefront of the trend, running adult learning programs, a community garden and digital literacy programs for parents. It also hosts weekly sewing and craft groups, playgroups and fitness classes for adults in the school gym.

The innovative state school, which was created through a unique partnership between the philanthropic Colman Foundation and the state government, aims to tackle long-term disadvantage by providing health, education and social services for families.

Parents have created a social enterprise which prepares take-away meals for time-poor families, while others have set up a vegetable buying co-op which buys fresh produce from the market in bulk and then sells it to families at a cheaper rate.

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"We don't enrol a student, we enrol the family," principal Greg McMahon said.

"If we get parents involved in education our young people will see it for what it is, and that is something that is extremely important."

At St Leonard's College in Brighton East parents buy memberships which grant them access to the school's gym and pool. They can attend weekly yoga sessions and if they enjoy singing they can join their own school choir. 

And at Point Cook College, parents from all walks of life attend cooking lessons in the school's kitchen. 

Xavier College in Kew has been promoting its social justice network for parents.

The school links parents who want to volunteer with organisations including the Sacred Heart Mission and St Vincent De Paul Society.

The network's co-ordinator, Bronwen Kellett said the program appealed to parents who wanted to give back in a practical way and build relationships with people in the community. 

"We find it's a point of difference," she said. When a lot of parents enrol their child, they are interested in finding out how they can get involved."

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said she welcomed any initiatives which engaged parents.

"Worldwide research shows that children whose parents are engaged with their child's school and education have vastly improved academic and social outcomes," she said.

"It's imperative that schools engaged families in any meaningful way they can."