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Engaging our community at Sylvia Park School

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Sylvia Park teacher Ariana Williams explains the development of Mutukaroa, a parent centre designed to encourage and strengthen community engagement.

Professional learning conversations

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

Promoting professional conversations

Community engagement is one of the principles that provide the foundation of curriculum decision making as outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum.

"The curriculum has meaning for students, connects with their wider lives, and engages the support of their families, whānau, and communities."

The New Zealand Curriculum, p 9

Research shows that student outcomes are enhanced when links are made between the student’s learning at school and other contexts important to the student, particularly home and community settings.

As schools work with the National Standards, teachers and school leaders need to consider the ways that they communicate with whānau and communities about their children’s motivation, progress, and achievement.

NZC Update 1 - Family and community engagement (Published September 2010)

  • Staff at Sylvia Park School are working with parents to improve educational outcomes for students. Discuss their approach.
  • Are the current ways you are engaging with parents and whānau making a difference to student outcomes? 
  • When you engage with parents, what is the main purpose of the interaction?  Does this need to change?  Be made more clear?
  • How much do your parents know about the assessment processes in the school, and how their children are progressing against those standards or assessments? Is there a need to share more information? Is this information delivered in a range of ways to ensure understanding by all?
  • What does having successful home-school partnerships mean to your school and whānau?  Do they mean the same thing to all participants?


Something to think about for all those people out there doing home-school partnerships at the moment is that we know home-school partnerships are about engaging our parents and our students' learning, so whatever way, means, you’re doing home-school partnership at the moment, you really want to think about, is that really making the difference and engaging your parents more in your students' learning?

My name is Ariana and I am the project manager for Mutukaroa Parent Centre and project and today I'll be just be talking about home-school partnerships and the way of the future.

Mutukaroa is a home-school partnership project that we established and it's just trying to challenge the way that we've done home-school partnerships in the past and trying to find a better fit for our parents and our community. And it's about engaging with parents in more than just the feel good kind of way it's actually working with them and helping them to understand some of the important things that go on in schools. So in the past we’ve had an assessment and assessment tools that all the teachers know about and everything but how much do parents actually know? They actually know not much - so we just want to help parents understand the assessment tools. Because by the time they’ve got the information when it’s gone through the processes, reporting procedures, and things like that, they only get where their child’s at, you know, below or above, we want them to have the full information.

So Sylvia Park School is a really data-driven school. We know what really makes a difference and that’s understanding the assessment tools and understanding the children’s data. So that’s where the next step is for our parents: to understand that data just as much as we do.
So we’ve done the traditional home-school partnerships. I’ve been the facilitator for a lot of those meetings that we’ve had. And having a successful home-school partnership, what does that actually mean? For us, success wasn't just about having a whole hall full of parents there and not really understanding the information that they were given. We knew that there was a lot of questions about the home-school partnerships that we had in the past, so we were looking for an inquiry kind of way of working out: is what we’re doing in home-school partnership really effective? So we’ve had the whole hall full of people but how much do you actually get out of it? So you might have a meeting about numeracy but in a general kind of sense. Whereas we know that the only way that we can make any difference with these parents and with the students in our school if it’s more specific to their individual child’s needs. 

Published on: 23 Aug 2011