Barbara Alaalatoa, principal of Sylvia Park School, shares the vision behind the Mutukaroa project. Great teaching, evidence-based data, and a tailored approach to the way they share data with parents, all making for meaningful impacts on children's learning.
Well here at Sylvia Park School, one thing that we’re really clear about is our mission, and that is to get great outcomes for our children.
We have a really strong belief about what will create that. One of them is great teaching – every day in every single classroom. The second part of it is being evidence based, so you know, we use data – kids' data.
One of the things that we found in those two parts is that you need to be very tailored and targeted if you really want to make a difference.
When it came to working with parents we are far more generic in our approach. We tend(ed) to do something for them as a whole hall full of people, or a library full of people, and talk(ed) to them about literacy and numeracy. Mutukaroa has been the response to that, really.
Now we have a very tailored and targeted approach to the way in which we share data with each of our parents of our children in the junior school, so that they can go home that night and they can make a meaningful, authentic impact on their child’s learning.
It’s been really powerful because parents have been able to get all of the stuff that they need. They understand what assessments mean. It’s grown their language around the sort of language that we use at school, so suddenly school’s this very doable kind of place where we’ve got a shared language where they can participate in their children’s learning.
The projects been running now for about five years and I’ve been here for about nine years, and we’ve collected data, you know, over that whole period of time. We have seen spikes in the student achievement data like we’ve never seen before, really.
But, I guess, some of the other things that we’ve been trying to achieve is the nature of the engagement from our community.
So, we run three-way conferences with parents, and they come along, and they hear the child talking a lot, and they hear their teachers talking a lot. And often it’s hard for parents to be able to engage in that three-way conversation because, you know, the language of school can be quite foreign when kids are talking about learning intentions and success criteria and stuff.
For lots of our families Tongan is their first language, so we’ve had to be really careful about making sure that those learning conversations are available to them in both Tongan or English, whatever they choose. So, when we know that we’ve got people that need to hear it in Tongan, we have a member of our community and she sits in, and she’s able to do those meetings with the parent, but with Ari beside her as well. And they’re really comfortable with that and they ask questions back in Tongan.
One of the things that we have been watching very eagerly has been the nature of the questions and the nature of that engagement from our parents in those learning conversations, and that’s been remarkable too. So they are far more targeted about the questions they ask in terms of their children’s learning, about levels, about expectations. You know, if you are prepared to go out to people's workplaces, or meet them at home, or vary the school day so that you can meet them at half way, people will turn up.