Part 5: Schools need to engage with whānau and other schools better

Summary of our Education for Māori reports.

Through our audit work on Māori education, we have seen a high correlation between better Māori student achievement and schools having effective partnerships with whānau and other schools. Effective partnerships require strong relationships between schools and whānau, and collaborative working between schools.

For example, a school we visited in the Wairarapa effectively addressed issues with low student achievement, poor student behaviour, and falling rolls. Led by its principal, the improvements were in part a result of the quality of the relationship the school built with whānau and the community. This included the school clearly and consistently communicating with students and whānau. A noticeable benefit of this improved relationship and focus has been the dramatic improvement in NCEA results at the school.

Schools need to give ongoing attention to building and maintaining strong relationships with whānau

A main finding in our 2015 report about relationships between schools and whānau was a risk that some schools do not focus enough on improving their relationships with whānau, because they think they have better relationships with whānau than whānau think they do. This risk appears greater for high-decile schools and schools with a low proportion of Māori students.

In our view, schools should periodically check whether their opinion of the quality of the relationship matches families' opinions. This will help show schools where they are doing well and where they can improve.

We saw some examples of strong engagement between schools and their communities. These examples include introducing whānau-teacher-student conferences to help the school community work together for the students' success. Some schools we visited stressed the importance of outreach to their Māori whānau in different ways.

It is important that schools listen to the views of their community and students to help shape Māori students' learning. This feedback should inform successful practices and should remain a focus.

Many of the schools we visited that were achieving better results for Māori students had a strong relationship between the school, students, and the community. Some of these schools used student and whānau surveys to evaluate their teaching practices and were working hard to understand their students and the wider community.

Some small schools with small numbers of Māori students might struggle to form relationships with whānau because of resourcing issues, or because there are only a few whānau who are part of the school community. In these circumstances, building effective relationships still needs to be a priority. Schools or clusters of schools need to continue to seek opportunities to work directly with whānau and iwi. Building relationships with whānau, iwi, and hapu who have the expertise in identity, language, and culture can help more Māori students to "succeed as Māori".

More schools need to work collaboratively

Schools often focus on their own activities, rather than what they can learn from each other. However, despite this, we found examples of schools collaborating to improve outcomes for their Māori students. These include:

  • holding joint Matariki festivals;
  • visiting other schools to view practices;
  • sharing ideas at school cluster hui and conferences; and
  • collaborating in Māori student mentor programmes with the secondary school, primary school, or early childhood education centre that their students came from or went to.

It is clearly important that more schools collaborate and share good practices with each other as a useful and supportive way of improving outcomes and achievement of Māori students.