Connecting with families

Published: 04 Sep 2017
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


There is a clear emphasis on showing the learning and recognising achievement.

A deliberate approach engages family and whānau in learning centred relationships. This approach expands and strengthens the community of learners so that more active support and opportunities are provided for all the children.

Key messages:

  • The school has a commitment to making learning visible for parents and whānau
  • Children have the understanding, and tools such as reflection journals, to engage parents and whanau in their learning
  • Student led conferences provide a context to directly engage with children’s learning 
  • The effective use of social media provides opportunities for parents and whānau and fosters participation across the wider school community.

Things to think about:

  • What communication strategies do you use to strengthen reciprocal learning centred relationships?
  • How successful are they?

The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 3: Educationally powerful connections and relationships

    • Evaluation indicators

      • Communication supports and strengthens reciprocal learning-centred relationships

      • School and community are engaged in reciprocal, learning-centred relationships

      • Community collaborations enrich opportunities for students to become confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners

This video is part of a series

This video is part of the series Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua. We created this series to inspire schools with examples of success in action. These examples highlight the benefits of fulfilling the evaluation indicators we use to review schools.


Remote video URL

(The video opens on a woman sitting in a school library, shelves of books behind her. Text along the bottom of the screen reads, “Katie Pennicott, Deputy principal, Invercargill Middle School”.)

One of our big challenges, because of the nature of our school, is that most of our parents are very busy.

(As Katie’s voiceover continues, the camera shows a clothesline hung along the ceiling of a classroom displaying children’s paintings. The theme of the paintings seems to be ‘joy’.)
They're working long hours.

(Panning downward, we see a student and a teacher sitting together at a desk underneath the paintings.) 
We're not in a position where we can have people coming into school all the time.

(A close-up of a graph printed on a piece of paper titled, “Writing Progress at Invercargill Middle School”.)
So in order to connect and create whanaungatanga with the home, the first way is through the children.

(The camera briefly closes-up on the teachers face as she listens intently before showing the student she is sitting with reading from a stack of papers.)

So if the child is going home and talking to their family about their learning, the parent knows that their child is being valued.
And then that starts to build that relationship.

(Zooming in on the paper the student is reading from, she traces her finger over the line as she reads.)
So the first thing was the reflection book.
Every morning the children reflect on their learning and they fill in their reflection book.
And they share that with their family.

(We return to Katie Pennicott in the library, speaking into the camera.)
So the family are able to look through the child's comments each week and see what they've been working on.
And then they comment back.
So that's one of the ways that we've built that whanaungatanga.

(Another woman sits in a different part of the library looking into the camera. Text on the bottom of the screen identifies her as, “Tessa Hickman, BoT Chair, Invercargill Middle School”.)
A time where even not just me as a board member, but that all parents get the opportunity to see that is through the student led conferences.

(As her voiceover continues, we see a classroom wall. Large letters read “E TU ATU NEI” above a koru border. There are a row of paper hands, each with a number counting up in fives. Below are miscellaneous posters and printouts showing te reo lessons and other learning material. The camera pans down to once again show the teacher and student sitting below.) 
And it isn't a tick box, we're doing student led conferences.

(Zooming in on the student’s hands, she uses a black marker to write the answer to a maths question on the table. The teacher watches on.)
It is a true sense of my child knows everything that's happening in the classroom.
They really understand their work.
They understand where they're at now and where they're trying to get to, and what they're looking to achieve next.

(Katie Pennicott takes over the voiceover.)
The student led conferences are completely run by the children.
They bring their whānau in and they take them around the different learning stations and teach them something.
So the purpose is for the children to explain what they've been doing and show their family.

(Smiling, the teacher points to the answer the student has written and says something that we can’t hear.) 
Because as we know, education changes.

(The camera returns to Katie in the library.) 
And the words change and the language changes.

(When she says “what they’ve been doing” the video returns to the student and teacher in the classroom.)
So by the children actually showing and teaching their family what they've been doing, their whānau have an understanding of what has been going on at school and able to ask questions.

(Zooming in on the mathematical equation written on the table, we hear the teacher speak to the student.)

Why do you do it like that?

(Zooming back out, the student replies.)
I do it like this because it's quicker than the other way of crossing out all the numbers.

(The teacher responds.)


(Tessa Hickman’s voiceover returns, and we see her sitting in the library again. As she mentions the class Facebook page we see a close-up of a laptop screen showing a Facebook profile titled, “Room 5 IMS”.)

The school's use of Facebook for a school page and each class having their own Facebook page gets used in lots of different ways.

(Zooming out, we see two boys looking over the laptop. A teacher sits next to them, instructing them.)
It reminds parents and children who are looking over their shoulder of what's happening and sports notices and basics like that.

(The teacher points to the screen and one of the boys clicks on the option to upload an image, selecting one from a menu. We are then back with Tessa in the library.)
But throughout all of the Facebook pages that we have, there is a clear emphasis on showing the learning and recognising achievement.

(A different woman’s voice now speaks in voiceover. The camera briefly zooms in of the laptop once more, showing a video of the class at camp. We then see the two boys looking intently at the laptop, then back to the video on the screen.
As she says “we found” we see the speaker sitting in the school library, speaking into the camera. She is the teacher from the previous scene with the laptop. Text on the bottom of the screen reads, “Matalaoa Taito, Year 5/6 teacher, Invercargill Middle School”.)
We started Facebook at the start of this year because we found, like especially for my class being Year 6s.

(We see her back in the classroom, smiling as she scrolls through the Facebook page for Invercargill Middle School.)

And initially we thought that it would just be a few parents liking the page and that would be it.

(We now hear a mans voice as she continues to navigate Facebook.) 
As the time has gone on, people are starting to cheer on all the children in that class.

(We briefly see the boys with the laptop before the scene changes to show the speaker sitting in the school library. Text on the bottom of the screen reads, “Stan Tiatia, Principal, Invercargill Middle School”.)
I haven't been afraid to encourage people to look for the children whose parents can't come or whose parents may not be connected and look at how we can develop that within the whole community.
And that's been something that's been spectacularly successful in the way that they've been cheering on all the children in school.