Ngā hononga kura-whānau e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Support for the principles from the best evidence syntheses

The Ministry of Education’s series of best evidence syntheses (BES) were another key source of evidence for developing the principles of educationally powerful partnerships.


The syntheses identify key leadership, professional learning, and teaching practices that were found to have a positive impact on some of the educational outcomes that many New Zealanders value for young people. Here you can read about some of the findings from three syntheses in particular.

The Family and Community Influences BES

Biddulph, Biddulph, and Biddulph (2003) found a substantial relationship between effective home–school engagement and student success:

A key message emerging from the New Zealand and international research is that effective [early childhood] centre/school-home partnerships can strengthen support for children’s learning in both home and centre/school settings. What is remarkable about such partnerships is that when they work, the magnitude of the positive impacts on children can be so substantial, compared to traditional institutionally-based educational interventions. The benefits can not only enhance the well-being, behaviour and achievement of children and young people, but can also persist into adult life and civic participation. Some studies have also demonstrated considerable benefits for the parents and whānau involved in constructive partnerships.

page 143

Biddulph et al.1 identify the following factors as key to working with families in ways that achieve real and lasting improvement in children’s learning:

  • programmes that treat families with dignity and respect and add to family practices (rather than undermining them)
  • suggestions that are structured and specific rather than giving general advice
  • supportive group opportunities as well as opportunities for one-to-one contact (especially informal contact)
  • the empowerment of those involved by:
    • fostering autonomy and self-reliance within families, schools, and communities
    • building on the strong aspirations and motivation that most parents have for their children’s development
    • adding to (rather than undermining) the values, experiences, and competencies of parents and children.

The Quality Teaching BES

Alton-Lee (2003) highlights the importance of supporting students to make connections between their learning experiences in different settings, including between home and school. She cites McNaughton (2002):

For some kinds of families and communities, there is already a high degree of this kind of continuity with schooling in place. In these, as it were, ‘spontaneously’ well-matched families and schools, the knowledge and activities that are habitually part of the home life are already relatively well tuned to those activities at school; or, if you like, the school is well tuned to the activities of the home. 

This is the meaning behind the idea of ‘cultural capital’—the term contemporary sociology uses for the storehouse of experiences, knowledge, and attitudes a child can capitalise on when going to school, given the practices of schooling (p. 21).

page 33

Alton-Lee cites research showing that the mismatch between experiences at school and at home (or in the wider community) is greater for some students than for others.

Often, that mismatch has led to disparities in the achievement of students whose ethnicity, culture, or social class do not match that of the school or, more particularly, the staff.

This need not and should not be so. It is the responsibility of teachers and school leaders to ensure that mismatches between the cultures of home and school are not a barrier to learning. Instead, students’ cultural capital should provide a foundation for further learning.

The Leadership BES

A dimension of effective leadership identified by Robinson, Hohepa, and Lloyd (2009) is “creating educationally powerful connections”. Educationally powerful connections have an explicit focus on student learning. They support students to experience continuity as they move between settings, including between home and school.

The purpose of school-home involvement is to connect in-school and out-of-school learning in ways that will support valued outcomes for students. If effective connections are to be developed, teachers need to value the educational cultures of their students’ families and communities, and parents need to learn about and value the education culture of the school. The principle of ako – reciprocal learning and teaching – is therefore fundamental to developing connections that work.

page 150

Robinson et al. (2009) conducted a meta-analysis to identify the relative impact of various types of home–school linkages that impact on student outcomes.

The first five findings illustrate the dramatic impact on student outcomes when the relationship between whānau and school is focused on the core business of teaching and learning.

The results are presented in the table below. 

Findings of a meta-analysis of research on the educational impact of making connections between schools, families/whānau, and communities2



  1. Note that this summary is taken from the Ka Hikitia booklet on key evidence (Ministry of Education, 2008).


  3. The term 'effect size' is used to measure the effect of an intervention on student achievement. It shows the extent of student progress in relation to a starting point and allows for comparison with expected progress.

Return to top