1. (noun) relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.
Kōrero ai ngā whakapapa mō te whanaungatanga i waenganui i te ira tangata me te ao (Te Ara 2011). / Whakapapa describe the relationships between humans and nature.
The following post involves reflection and potential action in the ongoing development of whānau connections at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. The importance of whānau connections at HPSS is paramount to the success of our school vision in values and our ability to truly innovate, engage and inspire our learners. Herein lies the importance of defining learner. For us at HPSS a learner is not just the students that attend the school, we see ourselves all as learners…The Senior leadership team, the teaching staff, the support staff and potentially the whānau/ family and wider community. We have already kick started the development of these connections. Therefore it is important to take stock of where we are at and where to now?
I would like to use some basic reflective questions to show this…
What is our take on Whānau connections?
To ensure that we have whanaungatanga in action (as defined at the top of the post), it is important that we involve the whānau on many levels across our school community. To do this we also see the whānau as learners. In education a strong aspect of power relations at play and to be considered seriously is the “history that we are tied to”. We must recognise in all schools, but even more so at a school breaking silos, showing connections in learning and doing things in a very different way, that we all bring our own perceptions of what education is and should be. Not only do our learners bring their history, culture, influences and experiences with them. So too do teachers and whānau. It is therefore imperative that whānau are part of the dialogue that occurs around the learning of their children/dependants.
How have we tried to achieve this so far?
We have attempted to engage whānau on many levels and here is a few examples…
1. From the get go, the Senior Leadership team of Maurie, Lea, Claire and Di played an important part in introducing whānau to learning at HPSS. With individual meetings with the whānau and children on enrolment at HPSS. Also with community evenings/information evenings to keep the community in the loop along the way. Involving the what? How? Why? of learning here and keeping things open and transparent from the get go. The SLT also gathered learner and whānau voice on hopes and aspirations for their time at HPSS and beyond.
2. On-going whole school communication is continuing in newsletters, emails from school, keeping whānau up to date of up and coming events and points to note. Also, Maurie has ensured ongoing links to reading for whānau are a part of these newsletters, to provoke what it is to shift education and innovate.
3. We held an orientation day, where learners were introduced to their staff, communities, and different aspects of the HPSS curriculum. The learners prepared food in a mini project activity, for their whānau who came in that evening. Also meeting, coaches, communities and with visuals and displays of the HPSS curriculum in action.
4. Furthermore, we had an awesome school and community event on Waitangi Day, organised by the amazing Sarah Wakeford who is in charge of big projects and partnerships at the school, working alongside Sharon Afu (Deputy Principal at the Primary). The two schools worked closely alongside each other, involving learners and their whānau across the day. Read more here… https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/ma-pango-ma-whero-ka-oti-te-mahi-with-black-and-with-red-the-work-is-completed/
5. Acknowledgement of my communities in our school learning model is important to note. See more about these three aspects:
Whenua, on this post here… https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/ma-te-whakaaro-kotahi-ka-ora-ai-the-cohesion-of-perspectives-will-strengthen-the-kaupapa/
6. In addition, we have our hubs, influenced by the advisory model of big picture schools. One coach, guide on the side, who is the main point of contact with whānau. The coach has had regular contact with whānau in a variety of ways. Email contact home has occurred fortnightly, with information about learner pathways, goals, how they are going and more…See here for more details on our coach role…https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/ma-te-whakaaro-kotahi-ka-ora-ai-the-cohesion-of-perspectives-will-strengthen-the-kaupapa/
7. HPSS also had the opening of the school and the open day where whānau and community were invited and attended. Again opening the doors and strengthening the connections.
8. We have held a parent information evening that was a huge success. Taking parents through stations of learning and engaging them in the aspects of the HPSS curriculum. With hands on activities, information to support their learning around the school model and question and answer time. This was extremely beneficial in helping parents to also shift their understanding of and allowing them to engage in the way that we are doing things here.
9. IEMs (Individual Education Meetings)
These have been held at the end of the term. A type of student lead conferencing, allowing the learners to bring where they are at, what they have learnt and where to now, to the table. Evidencing the learning, but leading the way…informing parents/whānau rather than being reported on. See more details on IEMs in on-going work here that Megan has lead…http://mrsmeganpeterson.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/individual-education-meetings/
10. We have also looked to gather data from our whānau, further connections with the whānau to ensure we are engaging them in their child’s learning. Here is a copy of the information we collected. https://docs.google.com/a/hobsonvillepoint.school.nz/forms/d/1p9y0wKwjJNhFlp4-_jpyTnHXlHyt5BFVb3cqNFuRE0U/viewform
Why are whānau connections so important?
The importance of creating educationally powerful
connections with family, whànau, and
communities is an extremely important component of: School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis Developed by Viviane Robinson, Margie Hohepa, Claire Lloyd [The University of Auckland] in 2009.
Synthesising the data to look closely at answering…
• What kinds of connections make the biggest difference?
• How can school leaders build educationally powerful connections with families, whànau,
Here is a summary of the data that answers this…
Equally as important as the research, we hold strong to our school values of connectedness, collaboration, innovation, inquiry and excellence. In doing so connectedness and collaboration is not just with the learner in mind, also with the teachers as learners and the whānau as learners.
This is why we are engaging whānau and will continue to develop this with our values in mind. Always coming back to the why?
So what has been the outcome so far?
Anecdotal evidence and feedback suggests that the powerful partnerships we are forming with whānau at HPSS, have already had a positive impact on learning and the engagement in and with the school community has had an excellent start, in just one term at HPSS. Parents have really enjoyed the fortnightly contact home form the learning coach and also great feedback was received in relation to Orientation day, Waitangi Day, Parent information night and IEMs. This is a great start and I look forward how we develop these relationships further in the future. Ensuring that we are informing and engaging parents in their child’s education, rather than just reporting to. Learner voice has also given us valuable data of the connections we are making at a hub level, with their whole school learning and their feeling of community that we are developing and whanaungatanga at HPSS.
More in line with this shift…
Now what? Where do we go from here?
To ensure the best student outcomes at HPSS we are very aware of the importance of powerful partnerships. We will work towards inclusion of some of the proven ways to do so via research such as the BES.
We will also endeavour to look for innovative ways for furthering this as a community. Ensuring that the powerful partnerships are nurtured to their full potential. This involves whanaungatanga across the whole community. With the Senior Leadership Team in ongoing dialogue with the whānau and community. With Sarah, Pete and their team looking at powerful partnerships with the whānau and beyond with the wider community. With Ros and her focus on culturally responsive pedagogy, which must include whānau connections. With relevant authentic connections being made and action taken with our big projects. With learning coaches and their connections to the whānau.
We want to take a new line of connection with whānau this term, we would like to look to developing the on-going communication with whānau. This can be student lead, involving their own way of driving this… potentially use of social media, such as twitter with hub twitter accounts and blogging, with hub blogs, newsletters or interactive information on apps eg padlets, i-movie, etc.. the potential is endless, we will wait for the learner voice on how we could continue to evolve our whānau connections in a way that each hub sees fit. Allowing for ownership and autonomy. We have excellent role models on this at Hobsonville Point Primary School, The blog written by Amy about how they are using these ideas at the Primary already… http://amymmcc.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/a-peak-inside-hpps.html
Watch this space as we continue to ensure powerful partnerships with whānau at HPSS…