The Flaxmere Project is about establishing and implementing processes through which the Flaxmere schools collectively engage with the community and caregivers of childre in order to improve the current and long term education outcomes for children. (MOE, 2001)
The Flaxmere Project comprised a series of innovations relating to improving home–school relations within and between the five Flaxmere schools. Although each school implemented the project differently, they shared the goal of engaging with their communities and parents to improve short- and long-term education outcomes for the children.
The HSLPs provided the main link between schools and families; there were multiple benefits from their involvement, and all groups considered this initiative a success.
Computers in Homes was the most visible initiative, and parents were extremely satisfied with it. The computers became a family resource, with families making high use of them (on average, a family’s total use was about 30 hours a week). Parents liked the computers because they not only helped their children, but had benefits for the parents as well.
Computers in Homes was also seen as giving HSLPs an entrée into homes, and providing parents with a positive introduction to the project.
Initiatives such as the homework centres took pressure off parents to help with homework and taught those parents who attended how to help their children with, and talk to them about, schoolwork. The transition-to-school initiative helped parents understand children’s learning, and provided parents with strategies to support their children’s learning.
All groups involved in the project saw changes by the third year. Parents felt they were able to provide greater support for their children in schooling and also that they, themselves, had benefitted by developing new skills. The parents had high expectations and a high level of satisfaction with the local schools and the Flaxmere community.
For students, the major changes related to their behaviour and involvement in schooling. There were also some effects on achievement, but the three-year evaluation period was considered too short to see significant and sustained changes in longer-term outcomes.
The teachers took the longest to see changes resulting from the project but over time they saw changes in students’ belief in their ability to engage and succeed, and came to see changes in the parents’ understanding of schools.
The principals considered there was much evidence of success with the shorter term outcomes of the project but raised concerns that longer term outcomes would be compromised by, for example, uncertainty over funding.
The Flaxmere Project has shown that the Flaxmere schools not only know how to change but, more importantly, they know how to improve. They can engage parents in schooling, increase student attendance and satisfaction with learning, and develop parents’ confidence in and knowledge of schooling and learning. In short, through the Flaxmere Project they have learnt how to evaluate their own success, to modify the methods of innovation, and to develop practice around the notion of improvement.