Supporting successful learning outcomes for secondary Pacific students through home-school relationships
A need to improve learning outcomes for Pacific students has been highlighted by the Ministry of Education in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with the reflection that the education system has not adequately catered for these learners. The development of home-school relationships is recognised by the Ministry as one way of promoting the achievement of Pacific students; closer links with Pacific families are encouraged so that students’ needs may be better met. The aim of this research was to explore how secondary schools could develop relationships with Pacific families and communities in order to support students’ successful learning outcomes. A qualitative case study, using a grounded theory approach, was employed. An Appreciative Inquiry framework helped guide the research design to facilitate the exploration of how home-school relationships worked well within the context of a New Zealand town, and how they can be enhanced to benefit secondary Pacific learners. A Communities of Practice lens supported analysis; and an appreciation of Pacific relationality was supported by the theoretical frameworks, Teu le va and Talanoa Research Methodology (TRM). Key findings demonstrate the willingness and expertise from members of the Pacific community to support schools’ endeavours to cater for Pacific learners, helping address any barriers to family engagement. Despite the strong commitment from teachers and school leaders to work more closely and creatively with Pacific families, this study concludes that knowledge and ideas do not always flow freely between home and school. An inherent risk is that schools hold onto decision-making processes although there is a capacity within the Pacific community to offer effective solutions. To alleviate this risk, school structures need to open up to permit a freer exchange of information, prioritising relationships that accord with Pacific values. The bricolage of frameworks employed in this study have the potential to be applied to school settings for the review and development of home-school practices for Pacific families.