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Engaging with parents, whānau, and the community

Community engagement

Community engagement is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. It is about establishing strong home-school partnerships where parents, whānau, and communities are involved in and support learning. This requires deliberate action to connect and build relationships to:

  • design a local curriculum that meets the needs of the community
  • enable parents to engage with their child's learning.

Productive partnerships

Partnerships with whānau/iwi and the wider community can be enhanced by the use of technologies. Technologies facilitate on-going reciprocal two-way communication between students and parents, giving parents anywhere, anytime access to their child's learning. This leads to improved learning outcomes for students through blended, culturally inclusive, and sustainable practices.

Principal, Dave McShane, teacher Susan Lee, and kaumatua from Te Kura o Kutarere discuss how technologies have helped to engage the local community to support and share students' learning.

Connecting home and school

Digital technologies can enable:

  • a more seamless transition of learning between home and school
  • parents to engage in learning
  • collaboration between students, teachers, and parents/whānau.

Promoting two-way communication between home and school is the most relevant aspect of home–school partnerships.

Bull, A., Brooking, K., and Campbell, R. (2008). Successful home-school partnerships. Ministry of Education p.15

Supporting parents to use technologies

Supporting parents to engage with their child's learning through technologies strengthens home-school partnerships.

Some parents will need support to use the tools and technologies in use. Consider providing support in ways that work for your parents, for example through:

  • face-to-face technology sharing sessions
  • information in the school newsletter or on the school website
  • video clips to show parents how to use the tools and technologies in use.

Finlayson Park is a decile 1 school with many families that do not have access to the internet. The school provided free lunchtime teaching sessions for parents on how to use computers and access the internet. Benefits included improved engagement for students, and the development of a strong partnership with parents.

Enabling e-Learning community discussion 

Join the discussion group – Connecting home and school

Using digital technologies to facilitate deeper engagement with parents, whānau, and the school community

There has been recognition of the importance of reciprocal two-way communication to enhance the understanding of student backgrounds and learning needs; to consult with parents, whānau, and communities on school priorities; and to engage in collaborative goal setting.

Mutch, C. and Collins, S. (2012). Partners in learning: Schools’ engagement with parents, families, and communities in New Zealand. School Community Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1

Discussion starters

Use these discussion starters in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework  to identify your current practice and some next steps in developing the use of digital technologies to engage with your community.

How are you using digital technologies to connect with parents and whānau? Consider this in terms of supporting parents to:

  • understand how the school works – for example school vision, policies and procedures, uniforms, timetables, lunch orders, board of trustees meetings. How accessible is this content on your website?
  • contribute to developing the local curriculum – for example, are community meetings both physical and virtual so parents can participate from their homes
  • engage with their child's learning – for example using real-time reporting, e-portfolios, class blogs, streaming school assemblies
  • access and engage with the technologies you are using or planning on using for learning and communication
  • share their questions, ideas and points of view, aspirations for the school – what tools could you use to do this, for example using Google forms, Survey Monkey, email, Facebook discussion group.

To what extent have you implemented strategies to inform and consult with the wider community about cybersafety, and digital citizenship?

How are you using digital technologies to support teachers and students to connect and collaborate with relevant groups from the local community and wider world? 

What digital technologies do you use to interact with your community? How do you use these technologies to build relationships and support communication?

What steps could you take to engage your parent/whānau community so they interact and participate in their child’s learning?

What technologies could you use to open different channels of communication to meet the needs of your parent/whānau community?

Are you supporting students to use digital technologies to connect with outside experts as part of their learning?

Practical steps for using digital technologies to engage with parents and whānau

Use these e-learning examples and resources in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework

Survey your community and collect information on their:

  • wants and needs for communication 
  • understanding of tools being used.

NZC online | Tools  – Tools you can select from to survey your community and gather information.

Use this information to inform your communication planning.

Identify ways you can use digital technologies to connect with parents and whānau to:

Consider your approach to using social media – use the online guide, Using social media to connect with your community

Plan ways to help parents understand and use the tools their children are learning with – explore, Digital citizenship and online safety in the community .

Identify ways you can engage with Māori learners, whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori communities to understand their views and what they can offer to support learners. Te ika unahi nui wānanga – A marae-based learning programme  illustrates a learning partnership between the local marae and Coastal Taranaki School, where traditional skills and learning through digital technologies were merged.

  • When parents come into the classroom at the end of the day, invite them to look at their child's work online and leave a comment or talk about it with their child.
  • Find out what kinds of technology parents use/have access to.
  • Provide deliberate support/training to show parents how they can engage with students’ work – both face-to-face and through technology.
  • Create and promote online spaces that invite parent participation and feedback, for example, blogs.
  • Establish on online space for parents to access, and contribute to, student learning or specifically designed e-portfolios designed to inform future steps in learning.
  • Consider using multiple channels to make connections with the community, for example, social media tools, real-time reporting tools, emails and text messages, the school website.
  • Gather feedback on how interactions between home and school have had an impact on learning – share the success stories.

Building communication with parents and whānau

The engagement of whānau/iwi and wider community networks are enhanced by the use of digital technologies. A deeper level of engagement can lead to improved student achievement through culturally inclusive, and sustainable e-learning practices. 

Use digital technologies to:

  • build two-way communication
  • increase parent engagement in student learning.

Hillcrest Normal School teacher, Michelle Macintyre shares how technology has enabled parents to be involved in different ways with students' learning. She explains, at their classroom learning celebrations they have been engaging parents with technology in practical ways. Creating videos of learning experiences facilitates discussion between students and parents, particularly for English as a second language families. The class blog has become a portal for parents to interact with. It's become an e-portfolio where student progress is shared.

Key resources

Community engagement tools

Digital resources, and examples to support schools as they consider community engagement.

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau (November 2015)

Useful examples of practice are described in this report from ERO and the Ministry of Education.

More information »

These pages include examples of schools making use of digital technologies to connect with their communities, and describing the benefits to learning and teaching.

Technologies suitable for different types of communication

e-Portfolios

e-Portfolios provide anywhere, anytime access for family/whānau and the wider community to view and comment on students’ learning.

More information »
  • e-Portfolios  – further information and school stories on setting up and using e-portfolios in the classroom. e-Portfolios are a type of real-time reporting.
  • real-time reporting  – explores how real-time reporting can foster genuine home-school partnerships, and raise student achievement.

Renee Strawbridge (DP Mt Biggs School) explains how they use Seesaw to connect parents and whānau with student learning. She comments, "One of the parents in my class said to me that she really loved looking at the videos on Seesaw and she could see all of the learning that the kids have been doing on Seesaw. She was just amazed by the standard of the filming and how professional it looked."

Staff and parents from Kimi Ora School share the benefits e-portfolios provide for engaging families with students' progress and for transitioning students from the school to a day base.

The benefit for students, staff, and parents of using e-portfolios to communicate and collaborate are shared in this video from Kimi Ora School. An important outcome has been improved teacher practice as a result of reflections and information shared.

Electronic school newsletters

Electronic school newsletters are a common and effective way for a school to communicate items of interest to its community. They are intended to form only one part of your overall communications strategy.

There are many ways to create and publish a newsletter including:

  • sending a PDF by email
  • using your Student Management System
  • using an electronic mail marketing service such as Mailchimp

Keeping an archive of newsletters on your website could be useful for your community.

Russell Street School used a blog post format within Google docs to create a paperless newsletter. Deputy principal, James Rea explains the process they went through to set it up. The school admin team is responsible for overseeing the newsletter. It is set up so that the school principal and teachers can post directly to it. Students are invited to post as well. 

The school community response has been positive. Including pictures and videos creates a more engaging view into the school news.  The newsletter is searchable, and hyperlinks to sports draws and other notices makes accessing information easy. 

Social Media

Social media provides a rich opportunity for schools to engage with their community.

See the Using social media to connect with your community page for further information and school stories on setting up and using social media to engage your community.

Rosin Lamb, Communications Manager at Pakuranga College, explains how they use social media to connect with the community. They use a number of online tools to manage their various communications channels. This has become an opportunity to work with parents to help them understand how social media can support community engagement.

School apps and parent portals

Parent using app.

School apps and parent portals are available to keep the community informed about dates, times, events and notices.

When integrated with the school’s student management system, they might also enable the timetable, assessment, and achievement information to be made available to parents and students through a secure log-in.

Some apps and portals enable parents to notify absences, update contact information, provide permissions for trips or make payments.

A school app should be integrated as much as possible with the school website and social media so that information is consistent across each platform.

These snapshots provide a window into each school's experience of using technologies to engage with parents/caregivers, whānau, and the local community.

Mutukaroa – A home-school learning partnership

Originally developed at Sylvia Park School, the Mutukaroa approach is designed to foster the development of fully engaged whānau who understand early years school assessment and how to use that information to support targeted learning.

Tags: Home-school partnership, Primary

A marae-based learning programme

Te Ika Unahi Nui is a marae-based wānanga (learning programme) that was developed and trialled with students from Coastal Taranaki School at Puniho Pā, Tarawainuku marae in Okato, Taranaki. 

Tags: Distance learning, Home-school partnership, Tikanga Māori

Distance learning at Cobden School

Cobden School successfully used digital technologies to build on student learning during New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Tags: Distance learning, Home-school partnership, Communication, Primary

Distance teaching and learning at Newbury School

The COVID19 pandemic in 2020 meant that schools had to adapt quickly to students learning from home. At rural Newbury School, 5km from Palmerston North, this challenge presented new opportunities for teachers to engage with their students and community using technologies. 

Tags: Distance learning, Home-school partnership, Communication, Primary

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Use the filters to find videos that relate to your specific needs. More than one filter can be applied.

Online resources supporting te reo and tikanga Māori

Online resources supporting te reo and tikanga Māori

Te Kura o Tiori Burnham School principal, Rob Clarke talks about setting up Taha Māori @ Te Kura o Tiori as part of their school website. 

e-Portfolios in the classroom

e-Portfolios in the classroom

Associate Principal and Senior Team Leader at Te Kura o Tiori Burnham School, Linda Sweeny, explains the process for setting up Blogger for students to use as an e-Portfolio. 

e-Portfolios - the benefits for student learning

e-Portfolios – the benefits for student learning

Deputy Principal Miranda Makin explains the benefits of using e-portfolios for students participating in the Impact Projects .

Sharing learning using the class blog and e-portfolios

Sharing learning using the class blog and e-portfolios

Teacher, Jacqui Innes from Russell Street School describes how students individual e-portfolios and the class blog serve different purposes but work in conjunction with each other. 

Using e-portfolios to record the learning process

Using e-portfolios to record the learning process

Russell Street School teacher, Jacqui Innes, describes the process and benefits of planning explicitly for what students will share on their e-portfolios.

Te Kura o Kutarere

Connecting with the community

Principal, Dave McShane, teacher Susan Lee, and kaumatua from Te Kura o Kutarere discuss how technologies have helped to engage the local community to support and share students learning.

Connecting teachers, students, and family

Connecting teachers, students, and family

Students and teachers talk about how they share their work, the ease with which they can do it, and the different tools they use.

Home–school partnerships

Home–school partnerships

Finlayson Park school has set up a computer lab and fund a teacher aide to provide teaching on how to use computers and the Internet for parents. 

Study centre

Study centre

Finlayson Park School work with the philosophy of doing more for many with less. They have set up a free after school study centre for students to allow them access to computers and the Internet as many families don't have Internet access from home. 

e-Competencies in action at the KidsCan Film Festival

e-Competencies in action at the KidsCan Film Festival

At the KidsCan film festival in Nelson 70 students were put together for three days to create films. Kellie McRoberts describes students' development of e-competencies within this project. 

Using technologies to connect with the community

Using technologies to connect with the community

Principal Jane Danielson explains the different applications they are using to connect with their community. 

Developing a paperless newsletter

Developing a paperless newsletter

James Rea, Deputy Principal at Russell Street School, explains how they setup their online newsletter and the benefits of using a blog post format within Google docs.

Using e-portfolios to share students learning

Using e-portfolios to share students' learning

Rob Clarke principal of Burnham School describes the benefits of using e-portfolios in the school community to connect with parents.

Engaging your school community using technologies

Engaging your school community using technologies

Rob Clarke, principal of Burnham School, explains the importance of face-to-face meetings in terms of successful whānau and community engagement with e-learning tools.

Sharing a mihi

Sharing a mihi

Students at Burnham School found the process of creating and sharing a mihi, which involved engaging with their families and the community to research into their past and using technology to share that with their parents/whānau for feedback, was valuable.

Using Ustream to share assemblies

Using Ustream to share assemblies

James Rea, DP at Russell Street School, shares how they are using Ustream to live stream their school assemblies.

Using blogs to communicate with the school community

Using blogs to communicate with the school community

James Rea, DP at Russell Street School, shares how students are using their library blog to post book reviews and character profiles.

Maximising technology to support learning between home and school

Maximising technology to support learning between home and school

Technology enables access to the Internet and removes communication barriers for Wadestown School student, Renée Patete.

Stop motion animation to promote literacy

Stop motion animation to promote literacy

Sue Martin uses stop motion animation with her students to promote narrative skills, particularly sequencing and retelling. 

Improving written and oral language with multimedia

Improving written and oral language with multimedia

Sally McDougall and her students explain their process for writing book reviews and creating QR codes to share them with the wider community.

Engaging parents in learning through technology

Engaging parents in learning through technology

Hillcrest Normal School teacher, Michelle Macintyre shares how technology has enabled parents to be involved in different ways with students' learning.

Using mobile devices to improve communication

Using mobile devices to improve communication

Parents from Holy Cross School explain how they are able to connect easily with the school, using mobile devices and different forms of digital media.

Mobile devices at home

Mobile devices at home

Holy Cross School student, Coretti and her mother, Fiona Tuffs, discuss how using a mobile device makes access to schoolwork easier. Corretti explains how the iPad is changing the way she learns. 

Parent technology sessions

Parent technology sessions

Holy Cross School principal, Kathy Moy-Low explains how they consulted with and engaged the parent community in e-learning. Parents explain why they attend the after school parent technology sessions. 

Introducing digital technologies to the community through student voice

Introducing digital technologies to the community through student voice

Staff and students of Ruawai Primary School used student voice to share with their parent community the ways in which digital technologies are used to support learning, and to share what students are learning with their families.

Bringing the classroom to the community

Bringing the classroom to the community

Staff at Mahurangi Christian School discuss how the school connects the classroom to the community through digital technologies.

Using the eLPF to inform strategic planning at Waerenga o Kuri

Using the eLPF to inform strategic planning at Waerenga o Kuri

Principal, Richard McCosh explains how they used the e-Learning Planning Framework to identify strengths and areas needing development within their school.

Developing a framework to support Māori achieving success as Māori

Developing a framework to support Māori achieving success as Māori

The board of trustees, parent community, and school leadership team at Waerenga O Kuri School explain the collaborative process they used for developing their Māori achieving success as Māori (MASAM) framework.

A student’s perspective of inclusive education

Inclusion

Waerenga o Kuri student, Herepo Wynyard talks about how the involvement of her whānau both online (through her e-portfolio), and face-to-face at school has encouraged success with her learning goals.

Benefits of the MASAM framework for the school community

MASAM framework

Motu School community share their perspectives on the partnership that has been built based on the Māori achieving success as Māori (MASAM) framework they developed together.

Seamless learning facilitated by BYOD

Seamless learning facilitated by BYOD

Connor Fitzgerald-Mansell, a student from Hillcrest High School, describes the benefits of bringing his own laptop to school.

Connecting with ICTs

Connecting with ICTs

e-Learning teacher Mervyn Cook and student Connor Fitzgerald-Mansell, from Hillcrest High School, discuss the benefits of being able to connect via ICTs during outside of scheduled class time.

Māori achieving success as Māori – setting up a framework

Māori achieving success as Māori – setting up a framework

Motu School principal, Paul Cornwall explains the process they went through to setup a framework for Māori achieving success as Māori (MASAM).

Parents engaging in student learning

Parents engaging in student learning

Motu School community talk about the positives of parents engaging in their children's learning.

Creating MASAM – Collaborating with the community

Creating MASAM – Collaborating with the community

Parents, BOT, and teachers from Motu School discuss their collaboration around whanaungatanga to create their Māori achieving success as Māori (MASAM framework).

BYOD – Information and support for parents

BYOD – Information and support for parents

Teacher and e-learning leader, Kate Friedwald explains the information provided for parents at Wairakei School to introduce a BYOD trial for Year 5/6 students in 2014.

Setting up BYOD in the classroom at Wairakei School

Setting up BYOD in the classroom at Wairakei School

Kate Friedwald describes step-by-step the process she went through from researching BYOD to setting up a classroom learning programme using BYOD at Wairakei School.

Outcomes from the BYOD pilot at Wairakei School: Parents reflect

Outcomes from the BYOD pilot at Wairakei School: Parents reflect

Parents from Wairakei School describe the benefits that being in a BYOD class has had for their children.

Improving student writing using blogs

Improving student writing using blogs

Wairakei School teacher and her student explain why blogging encourages students to produce better quality work because it is being seen and commented on by an authentic audience.

Building connections with parents and whānau

Building connections with parents and whānau

Wairakei School principal Shane Buckner explains the benefits of using digital technologies to build connections with parents and whānau.

Māori succeeding as Māori

Māori succeeding as Māori

Chris Luke, teacher at Coastal Taranaki School, talks about the Te Ika Unahi Nui initiative, using digital technologies, and the benefits this has had for Māori students.

Strengthening Māori identity, language, and culture

Strengthening Māori identity, language, and culture

Students and parents from Coastal Taranaki School talk about the difference marae-based learning has made to their engagement, motivation, and confidence.

Marae-based learning Puniho Pā

Marae-based learning Puniho Pā

Coastal Taranaki School teacher, Chris Luke explains how he connects students' learning at the marae with the learning in the classroom.

Teaching and learning with Māori tradition and modern technology

Teaching and learning with Māori tradition and modern technology

Te Ika Unahi Nui is a wānanga (learning) partnership between Tarawainuku marae, Coastal Taranaki School, and the local community.

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Halswell School principal, Bruce Topham explains key steps in planning and building an innovative learning environment that is part of the community.

Connecting with the community through social media

Connecting with the community through social media

Rosin Lamb, Communications Manager at Pakuranga College, explains how they use social media to connect with the community.

Sharing student learning

Sharing student learning

Staff and students from Apiti School discuss the benefits of using e-portfolios to share student learning with parents and the community. 

Connecting learning and the community

Connecting learning and the community

Teacher, Nicki Fielder and students from Apiti School explain the different social media tools they use to connect with parents and the wider community.

The Katote cluster – working together

The Katote cluster – working together

Graeme Barber, Principal at Woodend School, discusses the ways in which the Katote cluster works together to create a seamless transition for students moving from primary to secondary school.

Engaging with parents

Engaging with parents

Parents from Hampden Street School share how the school’s open door approach gave them confidence that their children’s learning needs were being met in an innovative learning environment.

BYOD – Consulting with your community

BYOD – Consulting with your community

Pakuranga College deputy principal, Billy Merchant explains their ongoing community consultation process, which includes how and why students devices, and digital citizenship. 

SMS – Connecting parents, students, and teachers

SMS – Connecting parents, students, and teachers

Michael Malins, Konini School principal, talks about the app they use within eTap to record children's progress and achievement challenges being met and engage parents and students in learning.

Learning partnerships with parents

Learning partnerships with parents

Parents of Hampden Street School students explain how blogging and e-portfolios help them stay connected with their children's learning.

The Leamington learner

The Leamington learner

The Leamington Learner concept, or dispositions, is the school’s strategic focus and foundation for enhanced achievement. Owned by the school community, technological capability is an integral component.

Community consultation on the iPad initiative

Community consultation on the iPad Initiative

Parents of students at Leamington School explain how the school prepared parents and the wider community for BYOD implementation.

Kōrero tahi me te whānau image

Māngātuna - Kōrero tahi me te whānau

E whakaatu ana tēnei ataata i te hononga a te hapori, ka tahi, mā te whakapapa, ka rua, mā te ipurangi, arā ko Pukamata.

Children Skyping

Making connections globally

Teacher at Newmarket school, Virginia Kung, talks about how they have made connections with people across the world through Twitter and Skype.

Children using iPads

Home school partnerships

Teacher, Reubina Irshad, explains how they create home school partnerships by helping parents to support their child’s learning at home.

Whanaungatanga

Whanaungatanga

Newmarket School teacher, Reubina Irshad talks about how they connected with whānau during their Matariki celebrations.

Teacher working

Setting up the Kaikohekohe Trust

Lee Whitelaw, Convening principal at Ohaeawai School, explains why they set up a Trust for the purchasing of their Chromebooks and the process they went through to do that.

The entrance to a school. A girl stands at the fence of the school reading a book.

Setting up and establishing the flipped approach at Ashhurst School

Ashhurst School Principal, Heath Chittenden, explains how they got teachers and parents prepared before rolling out flipped learning in their school. “Flipped learning is really important to be a school-wide focus because it actually is a pedagogical change to how you approach teaching.”

Mentor with students at laptop.

Working with a mentor from the industry

David Fox, software developer, talks about his mentoring role with Frankley School.

Aorere College student.

Pathways for young Māori and Pacific women in technology

Aorere College student, Nikki shares her passion for more Māori and Pacific females undertake study and careers in the digital technology field.

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Resources

Assessment online logo

Assessment online – Reporting to parents and whānau  

Resources on reporting to parents and whānau , which support schools to share information with parents and whānau.

Virtual Learning Network
Join these online community groups to participate in discussions. You can access resources shared without joining. 

Ruia – School-whānau partnerships for Māori learners' success
A resource guiding principals and senior leaders to work in partnership with whānau.

Community engagement
A collection of tools, ideas, stories, and resources to support the community engagement principle from NZ Curriculum online.

Te Mangōroa
A resource for English-medium schools with stories, reports, statistics, and reviews that reflect effective practices supporting Māori learners to achieve education success as Māori. Te Mangōroa contains practical illustrations of what Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia means for teaching and learning. In the productive partnerships section you will find resources, including video, reflecting the principles of productive partnership and examples of this from schools across New Zealand.

Te Kāhui Māngai
Te Kāhui Māngai is primarily designed to provide information on iwi (tribes) in New Zealand, including their rohe, hapū, marae, and representative organisations. It also includes certain national and Māori organisations.

Engaging with parents
Resources from the Educational Leaders website.

NZC Online

Strengthening local curriculum
Support for school and curriculum leaders with the process of curriculum design and review. It includes information, research, tools, suggested areas of focus, and inspirational stories to help schools make decisions about how to give effect to the national curriculum.

Information sharing and building learning partnerships
Guidance, review questions, activities, examples, and resources to enable deep discussions in your school about information sharing and learning partnerships. These discussions will help to maintain a clear focus on equitable and positive outcomes for all your students.

Early notification
Early Notification is a text (and email) messaging service that allows schools to customise messages to groups of parents/caregivers to quickly inform them of the unexplained absence of their child/children. It also provides a return path to the school's register to update the reasons for a student’s absence.

Research and readings

Key resource

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau (November 2015)

The Education Review Office (ERO) evaluated how well 256 schools worked with parents and whānau to respond to students at risk of underachievement. Of particular interest is the Focus on the use of technology  in the Findings section, which gives examples of schools working with parents and whānau to accelerate and support progress and improve achievement using technologies.

Educationally powerful connections summary

Educationally powerful connections summary

A two-page PDF summary of the Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau report. This includes key findings, quotes from students, parents, teachers, and leaders, and an inquiry framework that teachers and leaders may find useful when thinking about how to improve learning partnerships with the parents and whānau of students who are not achieving.

Education for Māori: Relationships between schools and whānau

This report brings together information about relationships between families and schools. It gives examples of practices that build effective relationships and highlights the importance for Māori to know who the people behind the school gate are, as well as what those people do. Whānau, primary, and secondary schools were surveyed to find out what they thought about their relationships.

  • Author: Report for the controller and auditor-general Tumuaki o te Mana Aratoke
  • Published: 2015

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