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A Word from our Principal - Leadership and Parental Engagement

Today we held our Primary and Secondary Investiture ceremonies, acknowledging those of our girls who have made a commitment to the challenges of leadership. It was very special to me personally to be commissioned as the 25th Principal of Girls Grammar on the same day we celebrated our student leadership.

Leadership isn’t a right. And it isn’t a prize. Leadership is an incredible honour and one that must have its foundations in humility, empathy and service. A good leader has to believe that they want to be of service to others, that they want to enable and empower others to achieve their goals. Being a leader today means looking for others’ needs and valuing others over your own personal interests.

In my interactions with our school leaders, I’ve already seen the hallmarks of great leadership. I’ve listened to our leaders talk of their service to others, ways they can contribute this year and ways they will build community. One of the reasons they’ve been recognised as leaders is because, throughout their time at the school, they’ve upheld the values of leadership and of our school. They have been inclusive, honest, respectful, involved and compassionate. In doing this, they’ve not just led at their best, they’ve lived at their best. They have understood that to lead others effectively, they first have to lead themselves effectively.

Every one of us, at some time, is called upon to be a leader. When we are in leadership, we are called upon to self-reflect, to show insight, to listen. At times, we will need deep perception, we will need to accept that others have different ideas or opinions, and we will have to advocate respectfully. At all times, we must prioritise respect, and care and compassion so that we continue to build upon the rich history and ethos of this great community.

I genuinely thank all the girls who were acknowledged today. By basing their leadership on self-reflection and self-awareness, on listening and teamwork, they will build community and make a substantial difference at Girls Grammar. By seeking to involve others in decision-making, and by dedicating themselves to the personal growth and wellbeing of other students, they will build a school that continues to be inclusive, highly-responsive, caring and compassionate.

I thank all of our 2020 leaders for their strong leadership and for the positive influence they will have on our community. From every interaction I have had so far, I have every confidence that our 2020 leaders, both primary and secondary, will be great role models and that they will approach their leadership with an attitude of caring, service and compassion, with commitment to the growth of themselves, their peers and all Girls Grammar girls. As a community, we wish them every success and all our support as they undertake this very important role in the school.

Parental engagement

In last week’s newsletter I introduced January’s Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) report that outlined the difference between parental engagement and parental involvement. I also raised this topic at last week’s P&F Association meeting. Evidence collected over more than 50 years shows that parental engagement makes an extremely valuable contribution to the academic outcomes and wellbeing of our students.

  • The parent engagement effect is the equivalent of adding an extra two to three years’ education over a student’s life (Hattie’s as cited in ARACY, 2017).

  • Schools would need to increase per pupil spending by more than $1000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained by parental engagement (Houtenville & Smith Conway, 2008).

  • Students whose parents spend time simply talking with them were two thirds of a school year ahead in science learning. The benefit is still one third of school year even after accounting for socio-economic status (PISA, OECD, 2017).

Parental engagement is a key tool that can help close the achievement gap. When parents are engaged in their child’s education and learning it can lead to:

  • Improved school readiness

  • Higher retention and graduation rates

  • Enhanced cognitive development and academic achievement

  • Higher motivation and greater ability

The research has shown the quality of the home learning environment is “more important for intellectual and social development than parental occupation, education or income. What parents do is more important than who parents are” (Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford, and Taggart (2004).

I would like to learn more about parental engagement and seek ways that we can authentically engage parents in their daughter’s learning. By doing this, I hope to provide tangible examples and opportunities for our school and our parents to work in partnership to support our girls.

The Parents Network of Queensland Independent Schools has published a fact sheet on parent engagement “Five things you can be doing right now to help your child do their best at school”. The fact sheet is available at:

  1. Read together – not only does this improve literacy skills, it fosters enjoyment of reading and builds confidence. It can also contribute to a lifelong love of reading and learning.

  2. Have lots of conversations with your daughters – Ask them what they are learning, what they think their teacher wanted them to know by completing their homework, discuss current affairs, topics of interest, family stories.

  3. Have high (but realistic) expectations and aspirations for your daughter – Believing in your daughters will help build their self-belief.

  4. Create a positive and productive environment for your daughter to complete her homework – allocate a space that is conducive to learning and match your rules to the school’s expectations.

  5. Immerse your daughter in a cognitively stimulating environment – encourage reading, view documentaries that build scientific, cultural or historical understandings, visit galleries and museums. Find interesting and stimulating experiences that will encourage a love of learning.

I am looking forward to working with our teachers and parents to find ways that we can engage parents in their daughters’ learning. This will not only enhance our girls’ academic and wellbeing outcomes, but will continue our commitment to providing the highest quality learning environment for girls.

Deanne Johnston




Enrolling your daughter at Girls Grammar has never been easier. Contact us today to find out how. 

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