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Engaging Pasifika families – Owairaka School builds a fale

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The staff at Owairaka School have explored ways to build deep connections and partnerships with the many cultural groups and families at their school. Principal Diana Tregoweth and her staff went on a professional development trip to Samoa to help them to understand the culture of their Samoan students. This story tells how the community subsequently worked together to bring an element of Samoan culture to the school in the construction of a traditional fale. 

There are five films in the Owairaka school series:

  1. Ideas to engage your community
  2. An open door policy that works
  3. Supporting teachers with community engagement in the classroom
  4. Community engagement - a parent's perspective
  5. Engaging Pasifika families - Owairaka School builds a fale

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Effective engagement

The School Leadership and Student Outcomes BES found that the most effective home–school partnerships are those in which:

  • parents and teachers are involved together in children’s learning
  • teachers make connections to students’ lives
  • family and community knowledge is incorporated into the curriculum and teaching practices. 
  • How could you work together with diverse families to enhance student outcomes?
  • How could you draw on the resources in your parent community to support teaching and learning?
  • What opportunities does your current planning provide for including the knowledge and expertise of our diverse school community? 

Have you seen ...

NZC Update 10 – Engaging with families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
This Update focuses on partnerships between schools and diverse families and communities. 


The teachers and the principal went to Samoa. I believe it was back in 2006. They went and visited some schools in Samoa and, you know, just that whole experience really opened their eyes to how, you know, how the children really - a culture can really make a difference to learning of our children back here in Owairaka School. So Diana took on the reins of having this vision of having her own fale Samoa here at the school and she approached our Samoan support group and we just went, ‘Oh yes!’ We loved it, why not? Why not have some of our culture back home here in our school that our children attend every day?

We looked at how the fale were used in Samoa at the schools. Often they were used for the parents to sit and wait, or some of them were in there all day. We just saw the fale as a real feature of the islands. We also thought that it would represent all of our Pasifika families as well in the school, and be something that they could be proud of. We visited fale over near us in Unitec and we went to some other fale around the Auckland area. Then one class took on the idea of looking and they went out and had a look. They looked at fale gardens as well. We decided we’d have a Pasifika garden around the fale.

So we had to find a designer. We had to find the right person and it wasn’t an easy road. We were very lucky to get Athol Greentree who is of Samoan descent as well and he fully understood the way that you construct a traditional Samoan house, a Samoan fale, because Diana is very particular on authenticity.

So when we begun we had to look for some funding. Our Samoan support group, they were just so behind it. We were fundraising every month. We were getting together and we were having our own little shows to raise money. We were able to contribute a lot of money, a lot of real love, alofa, a lot of real service to it. Just so that we could realise this dream that not only the school wanted, but us as parents wanted to have within our school in our community.

The fale itself, the construction of it is very intricate and so there is a story that is behind it as well. So we use that as well as passing on that learning of how the fale is constructed and the meaning of it. I have seen classes use it as a learning centre where they can go in and they can learn - whether it’s about maths, or whether it is reading, whether it’s to learn songs, and we’re able to invite other schools to come and have a look we can use the fale you know as a meeting place. Many times we’ll bring the children in and we’ll meet, we’ll gather ideas from them as well. Where do we want to go? What do we want to do? What does this mean? Really it’s a powerful house for children to grow in their learning, in their understanding. That’s what we use it for.

The Samoan group designed a Pacific garden to make it all colourful. They also put one of the Samoans’ favourite food, taro leaves, behind the fale. So they planted that as well.
Things I really like in the fale was enjoying playing with my friends and we also have a ukulele group so we play in there. We practice some songs.   

Published on: 27 Nov 2012