Un/satisfactory encounters: Communication, conflict and parent-school engagement


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The policy and educational ideal of parent-school engagement rests on assumptions about effective communication with parents about children's educational progress and well-being. Yet communication between school and home varies, and can be a source of parental satisfaction and frustration. Here we consider perspectives of Australian parents whose encounters with schools – both satisfactory and unsatisfactory – are shaped by the everyday communicative practices and conflict management strategies of teachers and principals. Our findings show that a wide range of parents of children in Australian schools report similar experiences, concerns and frustrations. Informed by cultural and post-structural theory, we consider how approaches to communication and conflict are implicated in disciplining the family and keeping parents 'in their place' outside schooling's structures of power. Participants in our research reveal the intensity of affective investments in education as a 'high stakes' endeavour. We argue that the rationality of education policy that is being embedded in the everyday social configurations of schools and their interaction with parents is predicated on the neoliberal project of producing the autonomous, self-governing individual. The communication practices used in disciplining the family by conscripting parents into this project, we suggest, is a significant contributor to un/satisfactory parent-school encounters. Copyright © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-162
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number2
Early online dateJul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Saltmarsh, S., & McPherson, A. (2022). Un/satisfactory encounters: Communication, conflict and parent-school engagement. Critical Studies in Education, 63(2), 147-162. doi: 10.1080/17508487.2019.1630459


  • Parent engagement
  • Home-school communication
  • Conflict
  • Michel de Certeau


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