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Parents matter


Key content

When partnerships between schools and parents are directly focused on student learning, the links to learning outcomes are much stronger. Parental and family involvement in Pasifika students’ learning is crucial to improving their outcomes. Research indicates that home-school partnerships are dependent upon the actions of educators, their ability to avoid deficit or stereotypical characterisations of parents and caregivers and their willingness to initiate links, respond to and recognise strengths within the diverse families of their Pasifika students. Schools need to take the lead in making parents feel welcome and find ways to encourage, scaffold and enable teacher-student-parent dialogue around school learning.

“Research evidence shows that particularly strong and sustained gains in student achievement have been made when schools and families develop partnerships to support students' achievement at school... However, as is also apparent in the available New Zealand research, unless the focus on student learning is central to the partnership, positive impacts on student achievement are smaller or do not occur.”  Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis, pages 38–39


Thanks to the principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School, and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.

Things to think about

  • What kind of relationship do you have with the parents of your Pasifika students? What kind of relationship do you want? Why is this important? Are there steps you need to take to make this happen?
  • How does your school respect and celebrate the notion of partnership with Pasifika parents, students and teachers working positively together to support academic learning more successfully?
  • Would you describe your school as a welcoming and supportive environment for Pasifika parents? How can you tell? Is there anything your school could do to make it more welcoming?
  • To what extent do your Pasifika parents care about their children’s learning and achievement? On what evidence do you base your response? Do you think you need to find out more?
  • How do you involve the parents of your Pasifika students in their learning? How effective is their involvement? Could you make it more effective? How?


Melanie – student
Sometime our parents ask questions about what we need to work on, and how they can help us achieve our goals.

Jan Bills
Pasifika parents in particular have very strong pathways for their children. They want their children to succeed in life. They want their children to be a generation that does more, better, greater. I think sometimes they don't know quite how that works in a different culture. I think that it’s the role of the teacher to help them to understand how their child can make progress to get there.

Shyamala Papa
In the mornings you find little ones, who know showing parents, this is what I do; come and have a look here. You know showing them stuff on the wall. I think definitely it helps them to take ownership of their learning. And they are definitely more enthusiastic.

Jacinta – student
Parents and caregivers are really involved in what we’re doing at school.

Esther – student
Parental advice is really important to us.

Tom Brown 
Pasifika students relate to their parents, their parents are the head of the household. Unless we are talking to the parents then we only have a minor impact on the students. We need the parents on board, we need to talk to the parents, we need to develop the programmes of the parents. More importantly we need to let parents know what’s going on inside the school. Once the parents know that, then they can help us with the students. Until the parents are fully aware of what is happening in schools then they tend to leave it to the school and that’s not enough. We need to develop the role far far more than we currently have done.

Jacinta – student
We have alot of meetings and alot of family events so they come along and just see how we’re going and one on ones with the teachers.

Anne Miles 
This is my 7th year. When I first came here I called a parent meeting and two parents came. And so what happened was that I got a teacher who was doing her masters, and for her thesis she took on the project of investigating how parents would feel comfortable to come into school. They like to be welcomed, they like the formality of invitations. They like to being able to sit in groups – which is comfortable. You didn't feel, you had to sit in the back row when you were sitting on a circular table. They like the fact that when they did come there were some refreshments, because some of them had come straight from work or were on their way to work. They like the fact that there were translations available if they needed translations of written material or translators if they needed translators. And they enjoyed the fact that they were treated with respect.

Ana Manu
The most important thing is welcoming them, even learning the simple hello greeting in that language or even asking if they’re pronouncing the kid's name properly. Little things like that can go a long way in getting that relationship.

Anne Miles
We also use some of the parents to talk, so we’ll get a parent to talk about how she learnt that she had to make time for homework, that she had to make sure her daughter was at school, that you can’t use the cheaper airfare time to go to Tonga for a holiday just because during school time the fares were cheaper. You know so it was little practical things that parents could convey and that students could convey backed up with the support of the teachers.

Inna – student
When Mum is involved I feel like she, what do you call it, supports me. That she cares, and that she’s interested in what I’m doing. And for me that means alot. Like even if it’s just coming, turning up to parent interviews, coming to watch my games if I’m playing in a sports team, I really admire if my mum has the time to come watch her own daughter like perform or do something good or even come to prizegiving. That’s my favourite part. And they give all the olas, and the lollies.