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Connecting with families and communities of Pacific learners

It is estimated that Pacific learners will make up approximately 20% of the student population by 2050.

– Tapasā workbook - Teaching Council NZ

The Pacific peoples community is diverse – ethnically, generationally, economically, and in language use. Take these factors into account as you plan to engage with families and communities. 

Strong relationships and links between schools, families and communities are most powerful when they are reciprocal and have a clear focus on student learning.

Parents and families of Pacific learners have high expectations that the school will care about their children, and help them to learn and achieve. They want schools to be open and inclusive places. Parents and families wish for teachers who believe in their children’s potential to learn, and are willing to help them to reach their potential and succeed.

Action plan for Pacific Education 2020–2030

The Action Plan identifies five key shifts and a set of actions needed:

  • Work reciprocally with diverse Pacific communities to respond to unmet needs.
  • Confront systemic racism and discrimination in education.
  • Enable every teacher, leader and educational professional to take coordinated action to become culturally competent with diverse Pacific learners.
  • Partner with families to design education opportunities together with teachers, leaders and educational professionals so aspirations for learning and employment can be met.
  • Grow, retain and value highly competent teachers, leaders and educational professionals with diverse Pacific whakapapa.

Summary version (English)


Tapasā seeks to guide and support teachers and Pacific learners, their parents, and families towards their destination – a shared vision and aspiration of educational achievement and success for Pacific learners. The Tapasā website provides resources, tools, and support for teachers of Pacific learners.

Tapasā: cultural competency framework for teachers of Pacific learners

The resource section on the Teaching Council website contains a suite of professional learning resources to give life to Tapasā including:

Using technologies to support connections with parents and families

Meeting parents, families, and community members face-to-face is an essential part of connecting with the Pacific community. Ongoing connections can be supported and enhanced through the use of technologies.

Turu 2: Collaborative and respectful relationships and professional behaviours

Strong, reciprocal, responsive, and collaborative relationships, partnerships and engagement between the teacher, school and the learner, their parents, families and communities are important.

Tapasā, 2018

Holy Cross School is very multicultural community. Kathy Moy-Low explains how they have consulted with and engaged the parent community in e-learning. One of their initiatives is after school parent technology sessions, which are run once a month. In this video clip, parents explain why they go to the classes – the benefits for their own learning with technology, and how they can engage more with their children's learning.

Coretti and her mother, Fiona Tuffs, discuss how using a mobile device enables more parental involvement in schoolwork. Corretti explains how the iPad is changing the way she learns.

Ariana Williams, Mutukaroa early learning advisor/coordinator at Sylvia Park School, explains why it’s so important for parents to understand assessments and the benefits for them of knowing how to support their child better at home.

Key resource

Mutukaroa – A home-school learning partnership

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

Mutukaroa – Connecting with whānau

Mutukaroa – Connecting with whānau

Project coordinator Ariana Williams explains how and why Mutukaroa works, why it’s so important for parents to understand assessments, and the benefit for them of knowing how to support their child better at home.

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. 

Improving student writing with digital stories

Bilingual digital stories

Primary school teacher, Bridget Harrison talks about using digital stories to support students with English as a second language.

Polyfest as a learning context – English: Create a visual text

Polyfest as a learning context – English: Create a visual text

Mangere College students describe e-posters they designed as part of their visual arts NCEA assessments to reflect their identity and culture.

Polyfest as a learning context – The Arts: Dance

Polyfest as a learning context – The Arts: Dance

Mangere College students value Polyfest as an authentic context for NCEA achievement in dance.

Polyfest as a learning context – Art: Creating the Polyfest backdrop

Polyfest as a learning context – Art: Creating the Polyfest backdrop

Students at Mangere College, Zahra and Chris, talk about how they contributed to the Samoan Polyfest as part of Art.

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.

Student working at laptop

Developing a year 9 Digital Technology course

At Aorere College, all year nine students take a whole year’s course called Digital Innovation and Design as a core subject. The course was developed to appeal to girls, Māori, and Pacific students.

Improving oral language and writing with Photostory

Improving oral language and writing with Photostory

Irongate School teacher, Marion Croad, describes the improvements in her New Entrant students' written and oral language as a result of using Photostory.

Using video conferencing to expand learning options

Using video conferencing to expand learning options

Southern Cross Campus student Shona Unasa takes economics via video conference.

Teaching Samoan via video conference

Teaching Samoan via video conference

Lalaosalafai Tu’ua describes his experience of using video conferencing to teach Samoan at NCEA Level 3 at Southern Cross Campus in Mangere.

Improving student writing with digital stories

Improving student writing with digital stories

Bridget Harrison at Kimi Ora Community School shares how her students are using digital stories to scaffold the writing process.

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Research and resources

Action plan for Pacific education 2020–2030

The Action Plan maps the Government’s commitment to transforming outcomes for Pacific learners and families and signals how early learning services, schools and tertiary providers can achieve change for Pacific learners and their families. The full action plan and a summary can be downloaded from this page.

Supporting Pacific learners

An online guide for NZ educators with culturally responsive strategies to meet the needs of Pacific learners who require additional support.

Tapasā: Cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners

Tapasā: Cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners is a tool that can be used to increase the capability of all teachers of Pacific learners.

Engaging with Pasifika parents, families & communities

The Pasifika Education Community website provides school stories (videos) and resources to support schools.

Listening to and learning from Pacific families: The art of building home-school relationships at secondary level to support achievement

Building inclusive relationships with families to support academic success for Pacific secondary students is important. In this article, Maggie Flavell reviews literature that considers the perspectives of Pacific students, their families, and teachers. An important conclusion is that listening is a key ingredient for teachers when involved in learning conversations with Pacific families. She acknowledges the issue of thinking from a Westernised mindset when working with Pacific people and offers a suggestion on how to build relationships to overcome this.

  • Journal issue: Set 2017: no 2

Making connections for Pacific learners' success (ERO)

This report discusses secondary schools where Pacific learners are achieving at or above the national norms for all students. It includes details of initiatives and good practice and how these work together to get great results.

Literature Review on the Effective Engagement of Pasifika Parents & Communities in Education (PISCPL)

This literature review explores barriers to Pacific Island parent/community engagement and strategies that can support home-school engagement.

The Pasifika way of connecting and collaborating

In this blog post Learning with Digital Technologies (LwDT) facilitator, Togi Lemanu talks about ways to successfully connect and begin to build relationships with the community Pasifika.

Ideas to engage your community

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