Educationally Powerful Connections video kete

Whānau Conferencing

  • Key Content

    Research (1) tells us that whānau-school collaboration has a large positive impact on the academic and social outcomes of students. This video clip shows the steps Flaxmere College have taken to build a culture within the school that has resulted in whānau conferencing being a positive, well attended and rewarding experience for whānau, students and staff.

    Factors that have contributed to this success have included:

    • Critical consciousness – a deep understanding of how issues of power play out within relationships and across the processes and structures;
    • Reciprocal learning and teaching (ako) – a respectful valuing and celebrating of the contribution of all parties: whānau, teachers and students;
    • Empowerment and equipping students to be the leaders of their own learning and the facilitators of the conferencing process.

    See also:

    (1) Alton-Lee, A., Robinson, V., Hohepa, M. & Lloyd, C. (2009). Creating educationally powerful connections with family, whānau, and communities. Chapter 7 in School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

  • Things to Think About

    Conversation framework for those new to Kia Eke Panuku:

    1. How do your current arrangements around informing whānau of their children’s progress suit whānau needs and meet whānau expectations? How do you know who it suits and who may feel excluded?
    2. How is whānau knowledge about their child, their aspirations for their children, and their home culture, respected, valued and celebrated by your school? How do whānau know this?
    3. What roles do students play in leading learning conversations with teachers and/or with whānau? How do you enable student leadership of learning conversations?

    Conversation Framework for Kia Eke Panuku schools:

    1. Critically examine the power dynamics in your current whānau conferencing arrangements. Who is directing and driving the relationship? Who delivers information – do teachers hold all the information or is this shared?
    2. Whānau conferencing conversations can be wide-ranging and cover aspects of behaviour, of achievement and of progress towards learning goals. What is the focus of learning conversations in your school? Are all participants happy with the balance of these conversations? How do you know?
    3. How embedded, within the everyday life of the school, are learning conversations with students and with and between students and whānau? In what ways could you describe the involvement of whānau within your school as “seamless”?

    Conversation Framework for Kia Eke Panuku Strategic Change Leadership teams:

    1. The Principal of Flaxmere College reports that the move to whānau conferencing in its current form grew out of a mahi tahi investigation into increasing whānau engagement. What has your own critical cycle of inquiry shown about whānau engagement? What more do you need to find out or to do?
    2. What about resistance? Are there any policies or actions around whānau engagement that you need to stop doing in order to improve whānau experience and build relationships with whānau and students to improve their outcomes?
    3. In the video clip, we heard one whānau member report how much they valued knowing their child was cared for by the school and another express her appreciation of the high aspirations for her child. How embedded is a ‘culture of care’ and high expectations within your school culture? Would all or most whānau report this? How do you know?


    • In what ways might you use this video with other members of your school to consider new questions about your relationships with whānau, including around the theme of whānau conferencing?