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IN 1962 a protest over a toilet block saw 600 students taken, by their parents, from a Catholic school in Goulburn and placed in public schools nearby.
The toilet blocks desperately needed an upgrade, so parents banded together to raise awareness of the state government’s lack of funding.
After just a week it was over and Our Lady of Mercy Primary School received its new toilet block.
Stories such as this highlight the importance of parent advocacy within schools says APFACTS president Hugh Boulter.
In fact, Hugh says: “It takes a village to raise a child and I choose to be in that village.”
APFACTS is the peak, non-government-school, parent voice for the ACT, built by parents for parents to have an active voice in education issues.
“Being engaged with the community helps you understand what’s going on in your children’s lives,” Hugh says.
The executive officer of APFACTS, Linda Fleming, says she sees the importance for parental contribution to the school community, by either being on a Parents & Friends committee or assisting in projects and providing learning assistance.
“It gives me a connectedness with the school and when my children come home talking about things I understand and can contribute,” Linda says.
It’s been particularly helpful with one of Linda’s children who, like an increasing number these days, struggles with anxiety.
“On a communication level, if a teacher doesn’t know they’ve only got half the picture,” she says.
“If you’re open and respectful with teachers, they’ll help the ‘average kid’ that just plods along grow into a more confident person.”
Linda says she has witnessed her child transform from battling with homework to happily making a habit of the daily process.
“For me, my underlying philosophy is developing a good relationship in the community,” Linda says.
“The ways you can extend this is talking to your children, volunteering on school barbecues and talking to the teaching staff in a respectful way.
“We don’t have a four-year degree in teaching, we need to respect them.”
A recent win for APFACTS was its contribution to fixing a bus issue at Daramalan College.
“APFACTS set up a survey on school bus services for member schools and as a result Daramalan ended up with the times altered for four bus routes,” Linda says.
TAMS had the wrong start time for school, so children were running late.
“It was a difference of five minutes,” she says.
“If we focus on buses and all the extra stuff that schools are burdened with then that gives the school more of a chance to focus on education issues.”
A typical Parents & Friends committee meets once to twice a term but, Hugh says, because of today’s society, they’ve made it more flexible to be a volunteer.
“With changes in society, we have two parents working because of the costs of living in Canberra,” he says.
“Volunteers don’t even have to come to meetings, there’s other things they can do.”
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