Manurewa High School - increasing parent and whanau engagement in their child's learning

An important part of Manurewa High School's success in improving student engagement and achievement resulted from a shift from seeing the student and their parents and whanau as the source of the problem - "student blaming” - to finding ways of doing things differently to support learners and their learning.

A strategic focus on improving learning and learning pathways provided the impetus for an increased focus on the close tracking and monitoring of every student and strengthening relationships with parents and whanau.

Enhancing opportunities for parents and whanau to participate in learning-centred relationships and developing the role of the whanau tutor as the significant adult in students' school lives has been pivotal in increasing student engagement and academic success. This example highlights an evaluation and subsequent developments in enhancing opportunities for parents and whanau to participate in learning-centred relationships.


The principal’s leadership brought a heightened awareness of the importance of relationships in understanding the learner and the learner’s world. Teachers were asked to “walk in their [students] shoes” to better understand the challenge of increasing the engagement and academic success of students from low socio-economic contexts.

School leadership and teachers had been concerned about the very small numbers of parents and whānau attending parent-teacher interviews (15 percent). A school-wide focus on better supporting students to succeed academically through building positive relationships had laid the groundwork for developing learning-centred relationships with parents and whānau.


What is happening?

Is this good enough?

Leaders realised that they could build on practices and strengths developed through involvement in initiatives such as the Ministry of Education’s Positive Behaviour for Learning – School-wide 1 and Starpath. 2


What are we already doing that might help us with this?

The school’s participation in the Starpath project had contributed to an increased awareness of the importance of academic counselling to support student progress and enhance parent and whānau engagement as key strategies to support student success. Leaders wanted to align newly introduced practices to achieve better outcomes for all learners.

It became clear that as well as making changes to how parent interviews were conducted, changes needed to be made to get parents and whānau feeling more comfortable about coming into the school and supported in their involvement in student achievement conferences.

Collaborative sense making

What can we learnfrom these other initiatives?

Preparation for the introduction of student-achievement conferences was thorough. Professional learning and development ensured that teachers understood the theory behind the approach to conferences, how to conduct them well and strategies for contacting parents and whānau.

Importance was placed on ensuring families were made aware of the conferences. Sending a letter home was the fist step but several different techniques were used such as placement of an advert in the local paper and requesting ministers to promote the student achievement conferences in church. However, the letter sent home was the most signifiant step as it included a time for a prearranged appointment. To ensure ease of attendance, childcare was also provided.− Principal.

The whānau system was changed so that the whānau tutor became the key link person between students, families and staff. The whānau tutor is responsible for academic counselling, meeting regularly with each student and monitoring their academic progress on an ongoing basis. Whānau tutors are responsible for a group of students and move with the group of students as they move through Years 9 to 13.Parent-teacher evenings were restructured so that students, parents and whānau met with their child’s whānau tutor for 20 minutes.

The family defiition was flexible. Some students brought siblings, or other people’s parents, or translators to accommodate anything like language barriers. This was done openly and with difference accepted and the priority being placed on the student’s academic achievement and engagement with the learning process.− Principal.

Prioritising to take action

What do we need to do and why?

The success of the approach was dramatic. The attendance of parents and whānau at student achievement conferences increased to 87 percent. Teachers now “know the kids better” so that the school can tailor the response to the students’ wellbeing and learning needs.

They know you, there is communication. Success breeds success.− Teacher.

Teachers see beyond your actual potential – they help you to pave a pathway and push you to do things.− Year 9 student.

There are some schools that look good on the outside but are not so good on the inside. Our school might not look so good on the outside but it’s really good on the inside.− Year 9 student.

Outcomes for learners

Students are becoming increasingly confident in talking about their learning, and in contributing to and leading conferences with their parents and whānau. Students said that their parents and whānau have a better understanding of the qualifications system and what students need to do to learn, achieve and be successful.Ongoing monitoring has identified improved outcomes for students, parents and whānau, and teachers. These are evident in:

  • the academic targets reached by the school
  • the positive feedback and resounding support from parents and whānau, as well as teachers, for the new approach
  • improved relationships between parents and whānau and teachers
  • the sustained, high attendance of parents and whānau at student achievement conferences.

Since 2011, the number of students achieving NCEA Level 2 has increased:

This is a small table line 1 is NCEA level 2 - 2011 61.6% 2014- 74.2%. Line 2 is NCEA level 2 Maori students 2011 - 48.8% and 2014 - 61%. Line 3 is NCEA level 2 Pacific students 2011 - 57.8% and 2014 - 71.6%

Monitoring and evaluating impact

What is happening as a result of the changes we have made?