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Ideas to engage your community

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Diana Tregoweth outlines some of the approaches in place at Owairaka School to encourage parent, family, whānau, and community engagement in the school. 

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.

Community engagement principle

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

New Zealand Curriculum principles

The New Zealand Curriculum’s teaching as inquiry approach can be adapted by schools planning to develop their community engagement. Just as teachers do, you can ask these questions:

  • What is important and worth spending time on, given where our partnership is at?
  • What strategies are most likely to help us make the changes we want to make?
  • What happened as a result of using these strategies, and what are the implications for the next steps in our partnership?

Listen to parents’ responses and gather data on an ongoing basis to monitor the results and guide future planning.

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. It builds on Update 1 (September 2010), which focused on engaging with whānau and Māori communities.


Diana Tregoweth

Well the principle of community engagement at Owairaka is absolutely vital – we work as a collaborative group. We’re a community, we involve our parents, our students, our teachers, and our wider community and we all work together for the good of the children and the good of the school. 

We’ve used a range of approaches at Owairaka to get our communities involved. We’re lucky we’ve got a very strong Samoan support group and they meet very regularly and are very supportive of the school. We’ve also got a whānau group and they meet regularly as well and not only are our Māori children involved in this but it’s a whole raft of other cultures that are involved. Our children have the opportunity to learn extra te reo in the week, not just the Māori children but quite a range of other cultures just take up on that. When we have our whānau meetings it’s not just the Māori parents that turn up but last week’s meeting there was an Ethiopian and a Somalian and a Samoan and a Tongan and many other Europeans. So there were quite a few other people as well as our Māori that turned up to our whānau meeting.

We’ve got a Tongan support group – well not so much a Tongan support group but we’ve got a Tongan group of parents that come along and we have a teacher aide or two teacher aides that support them. I go along to meetings with them and we teach them maths games and reading and talk to them about how they can help their students achieve at school.

Sometimes I have shoulder tapped members of the community where we haven’t had such a strong community involvement in the school and I’ve said, “You know could you enrol parents to come along to a particular support group meeting?” So targeting of people. Sometimes I’ve actually brought in over the time, perhaps, a Māori kaumātua to come and talk to the parents. We’ve had some role models, for example Nick Tuitasi came and talked to our parents, so I’ve tried to get role models from the community as well.

We did our wonderful trip to Samoa and then another one to India. And those Samoan and Indian parents were very, very pleased that we’d taken the time to visit their country and then teach the children what we’d learned when we came back. We have our race relations day. We have many different activities where we really think about other, all the communities within our school. We have Bible in Schools, but we can’t just have Bible in Schools, we have Islamic studies as well because we’ve got quite a number of Muslim students in our school, probably about twenty percent. We have other opportunities where we have a grandparents’ time and we put a multicultural cookbook together and we had grandparents from many different cultures coming and sharing their recipes with our children and we put together a recipe book. We have a garden to table programme going which is fabulous and we involve members of the community and the parents and they bring sometimes their recipes from their communities, their cultures and the children cook those. They did a lovely one – taro leaves all wrapped up in, they had all sorts of lovely delicious things in the middle I don’t know what they were, but they were lovely.

We’ve got another parent who is from Pakistan and she came and shared her cooking with the children and they made roti and so forth from her culture. We have sharing in the staffroom where teachers bring along food from their culture. We have staff meetings where we learn about different cultures. So I guess I could talk all night about what we do at our school to engage our community.

It’s all to do with achievement, and by valuing all the different cultures, we strongly feel that aids the student achievement. It gives the children a focus on learning but more of a holistic focus on learning. We value all of the different curriculum areas, and we integrate all of the different curriculum areas into our whole school. So we are definitely focused on broadening our children's horizons and giving them a holistic education.

Published on: 22 Mar 2013