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

How educationally powerful are your partnerships now?

To build educationally powerful partnerships with whānau and iwi that promote valued student outcomes, schools need to:

  • establish a picture of the current situation
  • think about what they would like the relationship to look like
  • consider how they are going to get from where they are now to where they want to be.

The interactive tool for reviewing your school–whānau partnerships will help you arrive at a picture of your current situation, of what school–whānau partnerships look like when they promote valued student outcomes, and of how you might work towards such partnerships.

Education Review Office (ERO) research

Evaluative research by ERO (May 2008) into the situation in 2007 provides further information on the levers for promoting engagement. ERO’s evidence came from:

  • 233 school evaluation reviews
  • meetings and discussion with parents, whānau, and school personnel from around New Zealand, including 34 discussion groups
  • a parent questionnaire completed by 501 parents.

The evaluators report that:

Although all schools have ways of involving and communicating with parents and families, six key factors have emerged as critical to enhancing and strengthening engagement.

  • Leadership: Leadership is crucial in creating meaningful and respectful partnerships. Engagement between schools and their communities works well when there is vision and commitment from school leaders to working in partnership with all parents.
  • Relationships: Supportive relationships both formal and informal are at the heart of effective partnerships. Mutual trust and respect are critical to relationships in which staff and parents share responsibility for children’s learning and well-being.
  • School culture: School culture reflects the values and attitudes that underpin home-school relationships. Schools that are committed to being inclusive enable all parents to be actively involved in decisions affecting their child, and respond to parents’ concerns and questions promptly.
  • Partnerships: Teachers work in partnership with parents, providing opportunities for them to learn about and share in their child’s learning and achievement. Learning partnerships strengthen parents’ understanding and involvement in their child’s education. Parents feel their contributions are valued. Effective learning partnerships can have positive impacts on student outcomes.
  • Community networks: Schools are an integral part of their communities. Parent and community expertise is valued and contributes to programmes and activities in the school. Schools are involved in community activities and events. Consultation is integral to engagement, and there is a shared understanding about the priorities for student achievement.
  • Communication: Schools communicate with parents in ways that are timely, useful and easily understood. Opportunities for exchange of information are both formal and informal and appropriate for those involved. Barriers to effective communication are actively identified and overcome.

ERO’s School Evaluation Indicators (2016) includes indicators you can use to review your school’s current situation against each of these factors.

Questions to consider

A fundamental question that school communities could explore is around the use of the pronoun “our”.

What does it mean to say “our students?”

Is this about shared care and responsibility or about power? And what about the expression “our priorities”?

Whose priorities are being referred to?

Discussion around these questions could be the prelude for exploring questions such as:

  • What makes relationships educationally powerful? What does partnership look like?
  • To what extent are our current interactions and relationships educationally powerful? What evidence is there for this? What’s worked, and what hasn’t worked?
  • What would educationally powerful interactions and relationships look like? What’s the gap between this and what we’re doing? Why does this gap exist?
  • What are the priorities for developing and sustaining educationally powerful partnerships in our school community to support our shared aspirations?

The last question above has been worded carefully to communicate the point that educational inquiry must always be about the students and what will promote their best interests.

Schools can’t do everything at once, so it is important to decide on the priorities for improving relationships.

Those priorities must be determined on the basis of the community’s shared aspirations for students and not on the basis of a few people’s personal interests. This is what makes relationships “educationally powerful”.

One of the fundamental purposes of inquiry is to facilitate conscious monitoring of change and progress. Therefore, it is essential to address one further question:

  • How will the effectiveness of our changed interactions and relationships be monitored?

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