Relationships between Māori families and schools must be strengthened

By Maiki Sherman

There's still work to be done between schools and Māori families to strengthen the relationship between the two, according to a report by the Office of the Auditor-General.

The report is significant given the strength of that relationship is what will help lift Māori student achievement, according to Government.

Schools need to head back to the drawing board, according to former principal, MP Kelvin Davis.

“It's the little things such as shaking a person's hand, smiling, talking to families and inviting them into the staff room for a cup of tea.  Those sorts of things,” says Davis.

According to the figures, 60% of families believe they have a good relationship with their schools.  However, 90% of schools believe the same.  A stark difference of 30%.

The Office of the Auditor-General is cautioning schools not to become complacent.  But the Minister says the fault doesn't lie with the schools.

Hekia Parata says, “They've told me that, despite their efforts, family engagement is proving difficult.  So I'm calling on families, sub-tribes and tribes, to engage with schools.”

According to the report, a number of schools do not have policy on how to strengthen their relationship with Māori families.

50% say yes, they do have such a policy.  While 44% say no.

Pita Paraone says, “If they don't want to create such a policy then we are wasting our time discussing this issue.”

The Māori students were asked whether they thought their teacher valued their Māori heritage.  70% said yes, 30% said no.

Davis says, “That sounds about right.  Most of our teachers are non-Māori, many of them have no knowledge of things Māori and therefore aren't interested.”

Parata says, “In terms of Māori students, this is New Zealand, they should know who these kids are, where they come from, and what sort of culture they have.”

The next step for the Office of the Auditor-General is to look into the resources allocated to the education sector and whether it's benefiting Māori.