Partners in Learning: Good Practice (September 2008) 01/09/2008

Rowandale School: Supporting parents as learners

Rowandale School is a decile 1 Years 1 to 6 contributing school in Manurewa, Manaukau City. In 2007 the school’s roll was 445, of whom 42 percent Māori, 26 percent were Samoan, 10 percent Tongan, five percent Cook Island, five percent New Zealand European/Pākehā, four percent Niuean students, with the remaining eight percent from other ethnic groups.

“People make a difference.”


A strong focus on building relationships with parents and whānau when their child starts school provides a foundation for respectful and meaningful partnerships. The principal believes that it is important to work with parents to influence what happens at home, in particular the parent-child relationship. She gets alongside parents, encouraging them to come to school and offering genuine support. Relationships are based on mutual trust and a belief in making a difference for families and their children.

A high level of commitment from the school supports the implementation of a family literacy programme. A small group of parents and whānau or families commits to this programme for 20 hours a week over the period of a year. The programme is offered through a partnership involving the school, local government and a tertiary institution.
The principal noted:

The Principle Noted:

“We wanted to engage our families in the education of their children. We had tried lots of strategies, but none of them really seemed to make a difference. We liked the idea of a programme that assisted parents, grandparents or caregivers who had no school or tertiary qualifications. This programme really values inclusiveness. We see: our parents raise their self esteem, and become more confident and capable as models for their children;

  • parents in the programme are enjoying improved incomes and lifestyles;
  • improved parenting practice and much greater engagement of family members in their children’s education and the school;
  • a much better relationship with our kindergarten and improved transitioning for children at five; and
  • parents realising their own potential and that of their children.” 4


A feature of this programme is that while parents and children learn separately, parents also spend time each day in the classroom with their child, learning together. This activity leads to improved relationships between parents and children and greater engagement with the school and their child’s learning. Parents’ achievements, through the family literacy programme, are recognised at the same assembly that the achievements of their children are celebrated. Parents are visible in the school and more confident about approaching teachers. A culture that values success and builds confidence is promoted.

“I learnt a lot that strengthened my relationships with my kids, especially my 13-year-old daughter.”


“Before the course my only time at school was if teachers needed to talk about my child. Now teachers say hello and I’m more involved with my child’s learning.”


Parents involved in the programme talk about the positive impact it is having on their lives, particularly in relation to their parenting, understanding of their own and their family’s educational needs, and their aspirations for the future. Parents learn strategies they can use to change their reactions and relationship with their children. For many parents, there is a second chance to be successful learners.

“I’m going to university - I want the best for my kids.”


Completion of the course opens up doors for parents in terms of further study and work opportunities. Many parent graduates continue on to further tertiary education. The learning community is one in which responsibility for learning is shared. Benefits for the school include more parents being keen and willing to stand for the board of trustees and more parent involvement in activities and events.


City of Manukau Education Trust. Manukau Family Literacy Programmes: Intergenerational Family Learning in Practice. August 2006.

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