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

Partnership actions: What it might look like


This section includes brief experiences from schools that participated in the Ruia exploratory study and a variety of stories from other schools that have had successes in building school–whānau partnerships.

Hamilton Girls’ High, Hastings Boys’ High, Kakapo College, and Western Springs College provide extracts from Rangiātea case studies with links to the Rangiātea website.

The Rangiātea project consists of case studies and exemplars from five secondary schools, each of them on a journey towards realising Māori student potential.

The case studies look at the strategies used by the school leadership team and report on the key factors that contributed to lifting Māori student achievement.

Partners in Learning: Good Practice

Partners in Learning: Good Practice is an ERO report, the companion of two others published in 2008 that investigated schools’ engagement with parents, whānau, and communities.

This report includes case studies from eight schools where the engagement was successful.

At all the schools except one, a significant percentage of the students are Māori.

The case studies exemplify the six key factors that ERO identified as critical to successful engagement: leadership, relationships, school culture, partnerships, community networks, and communication. However, the ways in which the schools exemplify these factors are unique to each community.

The schools are:

  • Aranui School – takes the CARE approach (co-operation, attitude, respect, and effort) to building responsive relationships
  • Pakuranga College – the principal and senior managers prioritise promoting community engagement
  • Forbury School – the focus is on building an inclusive school culture
  • Napier Boys’ High School – the principal seeks to share leadership with the school community
  • Taihape Area School – seeks to work in partnership with iwi and the wider community
  • Linwood School – the focus is on strengthening learning partnerships
  • Kaitao School – working to increase parent involvement
  • Rowandale School – supporting parents as learners.

Te Mana Kōrero: Relationships for Learning

Te Mana Kōrero is a series of professional development packages.

Three key learnings from Te Mana Kōrero are:

  • Teachers making a difference
  • Strengthening professional practice
  • Relationships for learning.

Te Mana Kōrero draws on the evidence that show what is working for Māori students, from programmes such as Te Kotahitanga and Te Kauhua

It includes perspectives from experts: whānau, teachers, principals, and other educators.

The quotes below are intended as tasters of some of the rich insights shared by these experts. 




Whānau involvement through learning opportunities

Hiruharama School found that parents and other whānau members were keen to learn to use computers so made them available to the community.

“It’s about creating spaces and opportunities within the school for Māori to participate 'cause often we’ve got systems set up already and expect Māori to participate in that, but Māori might want something totally different.” –Benita Tahuri


Celebrating success 1

Opunake Primary provides opportunities for whānau to celebrate their children’s success. Students present their own work, which has proven more informative for whānau than written reports and which has increased student motivation to learn and succeed.

“I think now that when parents come in the school we are focusing on curriculum and education and learning and teaching, and they’re quite positive conversations with people. It’s no longer sort of like you get a phone call from the principal because your kid’s been playing up and that’s all you get; you get that communication. I think I now see people for lots more positive reasons.” –Lorraine Williamson


Celebrating success 2

At Hiruharama School, the teachers have worked hard to make the learning process transparent to students. The students then take responsibility for communicating their learning to whānau through digital portfolios and through the school’s ‘pānui, pukapuka, pjs, and purini’ night.

“For me it’s a link into my daughter’s education. Because I can see the strategies that the teachers are using to teach them so that when she comes home I know where she is at.” –Paula Walker, parent at Hiruharama School

Active partnerships in the community

The annual Nati Awards on the east coast of the North Island are a response to a regional priority – the importance of developing students’ communication skills and literacy.

“We’ve put in a lot of effort and time as parents into running children around, taking photos for movies, and other such mahi that they’re doing. The parents get to come. Their reward is coming along and getting to see how their children have done and other children that are related – as you know Ngāti Porou, we’re all related from one end to the other, so when you see something done really well you can take credit for that as well as for your own children in another school.” –Karen Pohe


The school in the community

At Hiruharama School, students are learning through going out into the community and participating in delivering meals on wheels to local kuia and kaumātua.

“The risks of not being able to engage with whānau and with their community are two parallel pathways that don’t intersect and somewhere caught in the middle of those pathways is a learner. And I think that can lead to a bad outcome, a bad learning outcome for someone who is in the middle of two expectations and two realities that never seem to come together.” –Mason Durie


Ōpunake Primary: Integrating the curriculum and engaging the community

Following extensive consultation, Ōpunake Primary School decided it was time to do things differently.

Together the board, staff, and community wanted to create a vision for the school with meaningful goals, where students and teachers would be immersed in purposeful learning and which would, where possible, involve the whole community.

The first part of this digital story describes Ōpunake Primary School’s use of student inquiry to develop key competencies in an integrated way.

The second part is about community engagement, focusing on the school’s open days.

The purpose of the open days is to provide an authentic audience for student work while engaging the community in the school. According to the principal, whānau love seeing the students’ work and are now very keen to help in classrooms.

They have asked for homework assignments that are aligned to what they see and to have them included in the open day.

It’s no problem to get helpers for trips, because parents can see the purpose for them. The quality of student work has increased because they have been given an authentic audience.

The open days now involve the local kindergarten, which has made presentations in the school foyer.

The story is accompanied by review questions to prompt discussion on community engagement.

Ōpōtiki College

Ōpōtiki College is a state secondary school in the Bay of Plenty. Over 80 percent of the students are Māori. The school is a participant in Te Kotahitanga. The principal, a teacher who is the school’s Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and a parent were interviewed for the Ruia project.

The Māori teachers’ forum holds regular hui where teachers and whānau ask questions and make comments that are passed on to the principal.

The principal’s response to these questions and comments has led to visible change.

For example, a timetabling change was made after parents of students in the year 10 bilingual class expressed their concern that their children had to choose te reo Māori as one of their two optional subjects. The students and their parents felt they were missing out on the opportunity to take other options, and so the timetable was reorganised to enable the students to take te reo as a core subject. 

There are other ways in which the principal leads engagement with whānau.

At hui held regularly to hear parent views and share information about student learning, whānau are asked what they want for their children and what they expect of staff. The interviewed teacher believes this provides an opportunity to let whānau know that staff will not give up on their children.

At one of the hui, the principal presented data to whānau about the importance of students being at school for five years. He gave a visual presentation about the implications of staying at school and the success all learners would have regardless of their learning capabilities.

At another hui, the principal presented the idea of implementing a restorative justice programme. This was seen as an opportunity to link relationship pedagogy to a Māori way of doing things. Whānau agreed, and the programme was implemented in 2005.

You can access the Rangiātea: Ōpōtiki College, which was developed as part of the Rangiātea project.

It describes how a restorative justice approach to behaviour management has helped to transform the school culture, with positive relationships leading to significant improvements in Māori student achievement.

The school has a good relationship with the local trust board, and members are often invited to see and celebrate the success of tamariki.

The interviewed teacher expressed her belief that it is important to identify regular times to deliberately focus on and acknowledge success in this way.

This belief is shared by parents.

When preparing for the school’s current Strategic Plan, parents said they wanted regular acknowledgment and celebration of student success. One way in which the school meets this need is by issuing certificates to students that they can take home whenever they pass an internal assessment.

Likewise, the parents of students who receive three “reddys” (slips from teachers acknowledging positive behaviour) are sent letters sharing the good news.

Read the full Ōpōtiki College Ruia case study.

Aorangi School

Aorangi School is a decile 2, year 0–6 school in Rotorua. It has 140 students, 88 percent of whom are Māori. The principal, deputy principal, and a parent were interviewed for Ruia.

The teachers and leaders at Aorangi School were concerned about the low turnout at parent interviews, so they decided to take a new approach.

Twice a year, the school has student–led conferences that focus on the students’ achievement books.

These are books that the students take home each term as a report of their progress. They contain examples of their work that have been either self- or teacher-assessed.

The conferences follow a set protocol.

The students show their parents examples of their work in writing, reading, mathematics, and the visual arts. They then introduce their parents to their teacher for a chat.

This isn’t a formal interview, and the teachers said that they have to restrain themselves from making it into one. However, the teachers were pleased to report that most of the parents did talk about their children’s progress, their goals for the future, and the things to work on with them at home.

Following the first round of conferences, the parents are invited to write a letter to their children responding to the work that they have seen. The parents are provided with the paper, an envelope, and a sample letter.

After the second round of conferences, the parents are also invited to make their children a certificate. The school supplies all the glue, glitter, paper, and other materials required.

Afterwards, the school holds a big assembly, where the children read their letters out and parents come to celebrate their achievement.

The school also reports student achievement in the school newsletter so that the parents are aware of how their children are achieving in relation to the National Standards.

Read the full Aorangi School Ruia case study. 

Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi

Te Ara Whānui is a decile 3 kura in Lower Hutt, with students in years 1–10. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the tumuaki, deputy principal, a senior teacher, and a parent.

‘Kāinga and kura books’ are a mechanism for providing more intensive, targeted support for students whose progress is of concern.

From the moment a child wakes until the time they go to bed, the adults they engage with keep a record of what they notice:

  • what the tamaiti does
  • how the tamaiti responds to different events and opportunities
  • any successes, concerns, challenges, and queries. 

This rich, ongoing record is used with analysed achievement data to allow close collaborative monitoring of student progress. Patterns can be quickly identified and a response put in place at both kura and home.

The shared aim is to support students to become self-managing learners.

A priority of the kura is to support whānau by bringing community services to the parents of the kura in person. 

As a result, the kura invites a range of service providers to set up information tables at goal-setting hui. These include both local community service providers and public service representatives, but the emphasis is on Māori service providers.

Visitors have included:

  • representatives from marae-based hauora services
  • local educational providers
  • the public health nurse
  • speech and hearing advisors
  • Group Special Education services
  • the Inland Revenue Department
  • Work and Income New Zealand
  • Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Heartbeat.

Read the full Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Kōhanga Reao o Te Awa Kairangi Ruia case study. 

Randwick School

Randwick School is a decile 3, year 0–8 suburban school with 207 students, of whom nearly half are Māori. The principal, teacher, and parent/BOT member asked to be interviewed together for Ruia, reflecting the way they usually work.

At a meeting with whānau, the principal used a Powerpoint presentation to explain what:

  • Randwick School’s new writing programme looked like
  • Randwick School’s writing assessment looked like
  • the Māori children’s data looked like (graphed)
  • the Māori children’s data should look like (graphs of expected levels).

The principal went on to explain that this was the type of information the whānau would see at the parent–teacher interviews, and she carefully unpacked what the graphs were telling them. She suggested that they might want to ask the following types of questions during the interviews:

  • What level is my child achieving at now (with reference to graphs or data)?
  • Where should they be achieving?
  • What are you doing to support them in the classroom?
  • What can I do to support them at home?

The principal also showed the whānau some examples of children’s writing books with teacher feedback. She explained what this meant and what they should look for and discuss.

Read the full Randwick School Ruia case study. 

Sylvia Park School

Sylvia Park School is a decile 2 suburban school with a diverse student population of 320. Around a quarter of the students are Māori, and over half are Pasifika. The Ruia interviewer met with the principal, two teachers (the teacher in the bilingual unit and the teacher who is the project manager of the parents’ centre), and a parent.

Mutukaroa– a fresh approach to home-school partnership and engaging parents tells how Sylvia Park School developed the Mutukaroa project.

The aim of the project is to get schools to look at how they communicate with parents and to create home engagement opportunities apt for their community.

Ultimately, Mutukarao sets out to “shift the emphasis from the school to the child and their learning, focusing on student achievement and fostering the active engagement of parents through a learning partnership” (Mutukaroa participants and Frances Hancock, November2010).

In 2009,the school received funding from the ASB Community Trust to implement a School and Community Learning Partnership called Mutukaroa.

The funding has enabled the school to release one of the interviewed teachers to manage Mutukaroa, the parent centre, for three years.

The project manager works alongside a Pasifika Liaison Officer, who is a parent and board of trustees member.

The project manager’s main role is to help parents understand the assessments that students undertake, primarily through one-on-one review meetings that take place every ten weeks and can last up to an hour.

The process begins with the project manager sharing School Entry Assessment (SEA)results with new parents, to engage whānau at the beginning of their child’s school life.

The project manager checks with the child’s teacher about issues for discussion, before making time with the parents for their first session.

At the meeting, the intention is to have learning conversations with parents about the assessments and specific ways they can help their child to progress.

The project manager reminds the parents that they have knowledge of their child that is important to contribute to the discussion. She also builds their inquiry skills so that they can learn to ask demanding questions.

The parents work with the project manager to identify ten-week targets for their child, which the project manager passes on to the teacher. After ten weeks, the teacher informs the project manager of progress, and the project manager then reports back to the parents.

The interviewees talked about the need to be specific, to make it easy for parents to be involved, to go where parents are, and to do business in the parents' time.

The meeting venues and times are decided by the parents, and the focus is on learning only– behavioural issues are directed back to the classroom teacher.

The project manager is clear that she does not take a role away from the teacher. Rather, the intention is to shape a school where parents are empowered to ask the right questions about the what and why of student learning.

You can download the full text of the research project read Mutukaroa,School and Community Learning Partnership: Enhancing Student Outcomes.

Read the full Sylvia Park Ruia case study. 

Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou

Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou is a well-respected wharekura on the east coast of the North Island. Its current principal led the breakaway of the kura from the local primary school in the early 1990s. He was interviewed for Ruia, as was a teacher of four years and a parent who has been part of the Te Waiū whānau for 13 years.

The care and support for students at Te Waiū is a lifelong commitment. One student showed all the hallmarks of becoming a negative statistic. Straight talking turned this around. His parent was asked to:

  • ensure the child got to school each day
  • support the child to complete homework.

The kura support for this student did not end at year 13.

When the student had some difficulties in coping with university life, other Te Waiū graduates informed kura staff, who then had a conversation with the university liaison person. As a result, changes were put in place to support the student.

At least three times a year, wānanga are held where pakeke (elders) are given a topic to speak on and the students capture this history on video. Having pakeke from different parts of the rohe is seen as an important strategy in exposing students to quality reo and a range of dialect and mita (speech patterns).

Whānau hui are held once a month.

Most agenda items are derived from the principal’s monthly report to the whānau. They include a focus on student achievement.

The principal knows there is high trust due to the nature of the questions and the range of issues raised.

The kura holds planning hui each term at which it decides what will be assessed and how it will be assessed. Whānau are informed of what will be covered in the term’s reports, and at the end of each term they receive a report on staff achievement against the goals that were set at the beginning of the term.

Features of the reporting system:

  • Every term, parents receive written reports that are focused on the achievement objectives decided at the term planning hui.
  • In term 3, there are face-to-face meetings where students’ test results and portfolios are shared.
  • Students know what they have to do based on a 1–5 system, and they are aware of how they can progress to the next level.
  • There is close monitoring and ongoing opportunity for parents to discuss student progress.
  • Many assessment techniques are designed by the principal.
  • An Excel programme designed by the principal is used to analyse results and guide staff where to apply a sharper focus.
  • Pre-tests and post-tests are completed, and additional resources are sought as required.
  • All reports go out in te reo Māori, and while some parents don’t understand the words, they understand the numbers.

The parent interviewee at Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū stated that the kura’s open door policy encourages whānau involvement. For example, a parent who began as a teacher aide went on to train as a teacher when their child finished in year 13. 

And for homework, the initial findings of a survey were that 50 percent of whānau had the capability to support their students. By the end of the term, 80 percent were able to capably support students, and this grew to 90 percent in less than 12 months.

The teacher organising the survey believed this was because he had clearly explained his intentions and followed up with support as required.

The interviewees feel that the ongoing encouragement from staff and the building of a Puna Reo (Māori language nest) onsite will capture parent interest early and increase their involvement in the kura.

Read the full Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou Ruia case study.

Waverley Park School

Waverley Park School is a decile 5, year 0–6 suburban school with 255 pupils, of whom a third are Māori. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the principal, the teacher who leads the whānau group, and two parents.

A new Māori teacher leveraged much-needed change in whānau engagement by re-establishing the kapa haka group that the school had previously initiated.

Initially 20 strong, the kapa haka group now has over 160 participants, with 40 of them in its performance group.

The teacher used this involvement to start building relationships with the children’s parents, and she then invited the parents to the first official whānau meeting, kanohi ki te kanohi.

At the first meeting, the principal played the guitar and the deputy principal and other staff supplied and served the food while the new teacher ran the meeting. This let the whānau see that the Māori teacher had the full support of the school leaders and teachers. The meetings are now always run this way.

The first meetings were simply about the kapa haka group, but over time the teacher introduced other content. She asked whānau what they wanted for their children educationally. Initially, it was difficult for them to think of educational outcomes, and she had to gently steer them in that direction.

One of the first things the whānau requested was more Māori signage around the school.

The teacher had designed a Māori logo for the kapa haka group. The board of trustees sought her permission to adapt it to become the new school logo. This is now on all the school’s signage, its letterhead and its uniform.

The school also adopted a whakataukī that strongly reflected the school’s core values: “Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui.”

Subsequently, the school’s three classroom blocks were respectively renamed Kia kaha, Kia māia, and Kia manawanui in a ceremony performed by a kaumātua.

In 2008, thirty departing year 6 students designed and executed their own kōwhaiwhai panels, all of which are installed in the school’s reception area. All but two of the students returned for the launch and blessing ceremony during the first term break of the following year.

The whānau group wanted the children to know basic te reo Māori, marae protocol, karakia, and pōwhiri processes.

The school proceeded to introduce all these things into their curriculum via noho marae and the teaching of tikanga in programmed rotations around classrooms.

The teacher reported back to the whānau group on how they were progressing.

Read the full Waverley Park Ruia case study. 

Hamilton Girls' High School

A Rangiātea project school

I found myself in whānau. It is our own community, and with the support we can do everything, anything we put our minds to. 

(Senior student)

The Rangiātea: Hamilton Girls' High School shows how three initiatives have helped create a whānau environment within the school that supports Māori students to achieve educational success as Māori.

These three initiatives were initiated, designed, and developed in collaboration with whānau and Māori students:

  • Whānau tutor groups – This early approach gave senior Māori students the opportunity to come together in daily tutor groups where they could ‘be who they are’ and use te reo together.
  • Vertical whānau tutor groups  – The whānau tutor groups were opened to year 9 and 10 students to provide an environment where they could experience a sense of belonging and the support of older students in a tuakana–teina relationship.
  • Mentoring – This programme provides a way to build relationships between whānau, students, and school; share expectations; and monitor progress.

Hastings Boys' High School

A Rangiātea project school

Hastings Boys’ High School is an old school with long-established connections with its community. Current teachers, including a number of Māori teachers, are former old boys, and the Māori old boys, along with the whānau group, are key mechanisms for seeking whānau input about the school and boys’ learning.

The school is strongly committed to maintaining strong partnerships between home and school. The school’s Rangiātea case study describes a range of strategies for achieving this, including:

  • a series of events, such as a father-and-son breakfast and a whānau barbecue
  • expectations that all teachers will participate in extracurricular activities that provide opportunities for whānau engagement
  • the provision of a health centre that is open to students during the school day and to whānau on Thursday evenings
  • considerable emphasis on ensuring whānau understand the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

An important feature of the school’s engagement with whānau relates to the school’s pastoral and careers education initiative (PACE), which is the focus of the Rangiātea: Hasting Boys' High School.

A key goal of the school’s careers education vision is to involve parents in their son's course selection and careers planning.

This happens every year and is warmly welcomed:

In terms of Māori, we’re getting the opportunity for parents to make informed decisions about what their sons are doing … and with that we’re getting more and more parents happy to come back to the school. So our engagement with parents is not always negative; [on this occasion it’s] ‘Can you come in and talk about his course selection?’ Sometimes the boys are going home and saying, ‘Can you, me, and mum and [my teacher] sit down and talk about my course selection for next year?’ 

(Assistant principal)

Kakapo College

A Rangiātea project school (The school chose not to use its real name; the pseudonym Kakapo College is used here.)

Rangiātea: Kakapo College describes a number of ways in which the school demonstrates and builds its commitment to educationally powerful partnerships with its Māori whānau and community.

These include:

  • ensuring Māori are in positions of authority where they can positively influence school–whānau relationships, including on the board, in the senior management team, and in the pastoral support team
  • treating the school’s kaumātua with real respect and accepting his guidance on culturally appropriate behaviour in a range of contexts
  • using a range of approaches to communicate meaningfully and inclusively with whānau (for example, holding a Māori careers evening every second year)
  • making it easier for whānau to communicate with the school (for example, using an online booking system for parent–teacher interviews)
  • exploring ways to share real time information on student progress through trialling a parent online portal
  • building relationships through establishing positions (such as the Māori dean and student support worker), systems, and processes to support teachers in relationship building (for example, the students’ form teacher and dean move through their schooling with them).

A specific issue that the school had to address was the tension between the principal's need to speak and show leadership and the possibility that this would not be appropriate at pōwhiri because she is a woman.

The school's kaumātua resolved the matter. He advised:

  • the principal should sit in the front row
  • he or a male member of staff should speak before she did.

It’s an important process coming up with a solution for each individual and school. I would encourage [going through the process]. I understand it’s a precious relationship [between the school and our kaumātua] and therefore important that we find a respectful solution. 


Western Springs College

A Rangiātea project school

Western Springs College is a decile 8 coeducational college in West Auckland with higher than average Māori–student retention and achievement for NCEA Level 2.

The school offers Māori students the opportunity to attend either the long-established Rumaki or "mainstream" Māori classes.

The principal and senior management team are strongly committed to partnership with parents and whānau.

However, the Rangiātea: Western Springs School for the school describes differences in the nature of the relationship with the whānau of Rumaki students and the whānau of mainstream Māori students.

The Rumaki operates along the lines of a kura kaupapa and demands a strong commitment from whānau, including supporting homework centres, weekend wānanga, kapa haka rehearsals, and sporting events.

The case study describes how the Rumaki has led the way in providing continuous engagement with whānau through participation in Rumaki routines, holding hui, and having whānau representation on the board of trustees:

The long-term and continuous investment by whānau Māori of the school needs to be recognised and understood. The school has continued to build on and develop since the earliest initiatives. I would say that everything for and from mainstream Māori has been a drop-down approach or adaptation from what has been initiated in the Rumaki, Reo Rua, whānau classes, and marae committees over the years. 


As part of the school’s commitment to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi, the principal ensures that most decision making is done by consensus to ensure that a Māori voice is always represented, even when it is in the minority.

For the parents of mainstream Māori students, that voice is heard through a parents’ group and representation on the board of trustees.

The maths department’s scheme of work emphasises the Treaty of Waitangi and details the teachers’ obligations to Māori students and whānau. The exemplar describes how the maths department’s reporting processes build partnerships between school, students, and whānau.

Generally, two face-to-face meetings per year, written reports, email and telephone … If something is not happening, they will get in touch with me so I don’t feel out of the loop at all.


Also, people in key positions in the school are responsible for working with parents and whānau to support Māori achievement, including a senior manager who meets with the mainstream parent group once a term.

The Rangiātea materials provide considerable evidence of whānau satisfaction with the quality of the home–school relationship:

It’s a balance between home and school, but they really do have such a good sense of who [my son] is and where he is in his learning. 


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