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Characteristics of effective home–school partnerships

Ministry of Education priorities

Photograph of students presenting at a Tamaki School meeting.

Students present at Tamaki School.

The Ministry of Education has identified six key elements of successful home–school partnerships for use in research focussed on home–school partnerships.

  • Partnerships with “learning” as the focus have the biggest impact on student learning outcomes.
  • Partnerships that align school and home practices, and enable parents to support their children in school, work best.
  • Building strong home–school partnerships takes time and commitment from both partners.
  • The relationship needs to be built on the circumstances of each individual school and its community.
  • The relationship needs to drive off a strengths-based rather than a deficit-based model
  • The relationship needs to be one of equals. Programmes where the school is the dominant partner will not work as well as those where there is a genuine partnership.

Key features from a study of the research literature

Research literature suggests the following six key features of positive and sustainable home–school partnerships (Bull et al, 2008):

  • Parent–teacher relationships are collaborative and mutually respectful (Harris and Goodall, 2007).
  • Family and community needs at many levels are addressed (Harris and Goodall, 2007).
  • The partnership is planned, documented, resourced, and reviewed (Epstein, 1995, and Epstein and Sheldon, 2006).
  • There is a focus on learning and on achieving specific goals.
  • Parental engagement in supporting student learning happens largely at home.
  • There is timely, two-way communication between home and school.

Key factors identified by ERO

ERO (in Partners In Learning: Schools’ Engagement with Parents, Whānau and Communities, 2008) identified six key factors critical to strengthening engagement between schools and their parents, whānau, and communities. They were:

  • visionary and committed leadership from school leaders;
  • supportive relationships with mutual trust and respect between staff and parents;
  • a school culture that values inclusiveness and is responsive to parents;
  • teachers working in partnership with parents to promote children’s learning;
  • school involvement in community networks and activities;
  • effective communication between home and school.

In all kinds of schools, the following were success factors:

  • a shared understanding, by staff and parents, of the purpose of the partnership and how it fits with their beliefs about the purpose of schooling
  • a clearly articulated school philosophy in which home–school partnerships are viewed as integral to the work of the school
  • principals who saw the partnership as a way to improve the school’s performance;
  • teachers who had either been recruited because of their beliefs about the importance of home–school partnerships or had spent time thinking and talking about home–school partnerships and why they were important.

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