Schools are increasingly recognising the importance and value of parent engagement and involvement – participation that can directly benefit not just students, but the entire school community. We spoke to a few parents to see what kind of role they play at their children’s schools.
We’ve been at the school for four years now. I’m a member of DAAPA and part of the Executive Committee, which is a small group of parents that creates an agenda and organises all the events for the students for the year ahead. It’s been fabulous. I’ve met amazing people who are truly engaged. Everyone has the school’s and the kids’ best interests at heart, so that’s what keeps us going.Sophia Hatzis is Vice President of GEMS Dubai American Academy’s Parent Association (DAAPA). She has two boys at the school – a senior who recently graduated, and a seventh-grader.
As soon as we arrived, I signed up for the school’s parent association and became its treasurer as they didn’t have one at the time. I found it really rewarding, because my belief is that when your kids are at school, you can really influence and have a positive impact. So, getting involved at school, discovering how it works, and having a real impact on what your child is doing and on their well-being. It’s truly a teamwork between the teachers, support staff, and parents.
As part of DAAPA, we organise events for the kids, such as the Winter Carnival, the Autumn Festival, and the International Food Festival, where all the different cultures at the school come together. This year, we had more than 35 countries showing their folklore, culture, and food, so it was a great sharing experience. We don’t get involved in the academics, but we do get involved in the fun part by organising events, and hopefully we can do more for parents as well in the coming years.Marie Collomp is President of GEMS Dubai American Academy’s Parent Association (DAAPA). She has three children at the school, in Grades 8, 9, and 11.
For me, the school’s community feel was very important, especially in terms of parent involvement. My husband was a member of the Parent Council for a year and both of us had the chance to be involved and participate in the school. The Khaleeji Parent Ambassadors are a group of ladies who educate students about the UAE. It’s not only what you see, but also our traditions and our culture. There are children who have been here for a long time but who don’t know anything about UAE traditions. And then there are children who have just arrived from abroad. In both cases, we teach them through events including National Day, Martyrs Day, and Hag El Laila. We also organise a lot of cultural speakers, and the kids get very excited about these.Soulmaz Abdul Aziz Al Awadhi is Chair of the Khaleeji Parent Ambassadors at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis. She has a daughter in Year 2 and a son in Foundation Stage 2.
We joined in September 2011 when the school first opened. As Parent Council, our role in the school is to be the voice of parents. We look at the development of policies and procedures, we take parent concerns that affect the whole school and the trajectory of the school, and we consult with the ELT [Education Leadership Team]. We have twice-termly meetings to develop all the ideas, and we are the sounding board for the Leadership Team, who come to us when anything significant is going to change. We then give a parent’s perspective on it. So, we’re very much the critical friend of the Academy, and you hear that a lot from the ELT. I’m very proud to have been on the journey with the school throughout its eight-year history.Sue Percival-Simmons is Chair of the Parent Council at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis. She has three sons, one of whom has just graduated from the school, with the other two in Years 9 and 11.
I’ve been with the Parent Council for six months and I can see the work that they do. It’s all the background stuff – the things that make the school friendly and familiar to other parents and children. I’ve supported the school’s Parent Ambassadors by being their MC on International Day, which was a good, fun day. In addition to that, my background is in engineering and I’m quite happy to analyse and breakdown problems and look at things in detail, so I hope I’ve been able to do that in terms of the policy assessments that we’ve been involved in to support the school.”Rowan Arnott is a member of the Parent Council at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis. He has two daughters at the school in Year 5 and one in Year 7, who is about to go into Secondary.
In my first year as part of the governing body, I observed classes, teachers, and students. I also shadowed a student for a day, which was a great experience because you sit with the child. You’re not judging the teachers or the student, but rather thinking of yourself as a student and trying to evaluate how classroom teaching is different now compared to when I was at school. I also sit on committees, where I help decide plans for the school and was in charge of curriculums. You have meetings that include teachers, members of the staff, and students. It’s like a 360-degree evaluation of a subject, and that helps because you get a variety of viewpointsLakshmi Jayasankar has been a member of the Governing Body at GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail for the past two and a half years. Having moved to Dubai from Singapore, her son joined the school in June 2015 and is currently in Grade 7.
FORDS is a party of parents. We meet once a month and are involved in any sort of event that happens in the school. We plan those events, attend the events, and then discuss how we can improve them. I love the fact that we’ve got a FORDS family who work tirelessly to make all the community events even more fantasticShazia Bharuchi is a member of the FORDS parent council. She has a son in Year 1 and has been with GEMS Royal Dubai School for three years.
I’ve been a member of FORDS since the day my kids joined the school. FORDS is very important, as it helps you get closer to the community. We are involved in all kinds of events and always work to make things better. We participate in events throughout the year, like National Day, International Day, Mother’s Day. We also do decorations for Christmas.Roula Kobrossi has two children attending GEMS Royal Dubai School, in Years 2 and 3, and is involved in the school’s parent council, FORDS (Friends of Royal Dubai School).
It’s been an amazing experience, especially getting parents involved in the school. That’s one thing about RDS – they have an open-door policy, which makes it easy for us parents to support the school. FORDS is made up of parents that are really invested in the school and their children. We do charity events, which are at the forefront of FORDS’ motto and our plans for every year. We support RDS in most events that take place. Our close involvement helps to unite the school.Lalita Reddy sent both her sons to GEMS Royal Dubai School (RDS). One has already left for high school, while the other is in Year 3. She has been involved in FORDS for six years, five of which were as the parent council’s Co-Chair and Chair.