Initiatives to improve school's engagement with Pacific communities
A further factor that contributes to student engagement is the extent to which parents and communities are involved in the life of the school and in their children’s learning.
ERO found that almost 30 percent of schools in this evaluation had sustained a high level of engagement with their Pacific community or had substantially improved their engagement. Thirty eight percent of schools could not provide evidence of improved engagement with their Pacific community. The remainder of the schools had somewhat improved their engagement with their Pacific community.
Many schools, especially in urban centres, developed home-school partnership programmes designed to improve relationships and communication and increase engagement with their Pacific community. Community pastors were often key contacts and churches were used for meetings because of the close connections that most Pacific families had with their churches. Schools employed interpreters to reduce any language difficulties. Pacific liaison staff provided a trusted channel of communication to sustain collaborative relationships.
Links between schools and Pacific parents, families and communities were established through fono, home visits, newsletters in Pacific languages, personal invitations to school events, and opportunities to play an active role in activities such as bilingual programmes, sport and performing arts.
Schools that placed priority on partnership with parents and families developed strategies to create and maintain links to the community. Effective links enabled schools to find out about Pacific communities’ aspirations and values. The relationship also encouraged schools and parents to share information about how to help each student learn, and fostered family involvement and participation in school activities.
A few schools had Pacific parent groups for consultation, communicating and involving parents in school activities.
In one school a Tongan PTA (Parent Teachers’ Association) had been formed, with a focus on supporting student learning at home.
In another school, a Samoan parents’ association met regularly, received formal reports on matters concerning Pacific students, and contributed to decision making about Pacific programmes. Close liaison was maintained with families through a range of activities such as a Pacific family day, Pacific NCEA nights and a fiafia7 night for leavers.
A Pasifika Parents’ Support Group in one school met regularly to organise events. Achievers’ Evenings were attended by parents, students and many staff to facilitate discussion on aspects of learning and student engagement.