Holy Family School, located in Porirua, Wellington, has initiated a programme that aims to build stronger relationships between the school, teachers, students and whānau, called The Family So’otaga. Principal Chris Theobald, acting Deputy Principal Gina Lefaoseu and Metua Tengaru are managing the programme. Mark and Wendy McGuinness are investing in this programme through their charitable foundation – The McGuinness Foundation Trust. The McGuinness Institute, as distinct from this foundation, provides practical assistance to the programme with design, coding and editorial support as needed. The launch of the programme was held on 19 May 2016, at Bishop Viard College in Porirua.

The Family So'otaga logo for blog

The Family So’otaga

The students of Holy Family School are primarily from Pasifika backgrounds (including Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan, Niuean, Kiribati, and Tuvaluan), as well students with Māori heritage and other students whose parents have recently immigrated to New Zealand. The highly diverse character of the school provides for a rich amalgamation of culture. However, many of the students’ parents do not have personal experience of, or fully understand, the New Zealand education system, creating a gap between what is learnt at home and what is learnt at school. The Family So’otaga programme seeks to bridge this gap by encouraging stronger connections between child, family and the school.

Instead of parents trying to understand their child’s learning through a ten minute parent-teacher interview, Metua will visit each of the school’s 120 families in their own homes for one hour, three times a year. This design enables strong connections to be made between whānau and school, making parents feel involved in, and important to, their child’s learning. Holy Family School will also run workshops for parents about the New Zealand education system to further facilitate understanding of structures such as national standards and NCEA.

The key visions of the programme are to:

  • Collaborate with families to allow parents to have a better understanding of what they should provide to facilitate their children’s learning.
  • Enhance families’ confidence in the school by encouraging conversation between parents, students and the school.
  • Encourage parents to ask questions so that parents know where their child is at with their learning and can express where they want their child to be in the future.
  • Create strategies to help each child achieve their goals to enable children to get the best out of their education.

We would like to make a special thanks to Christian Silver, who is currently studying at Cambridge in the UK. Christian attended the EmpowerNZ workshop in 2012 and, on a holiday back to New Zealand, offered to provide a couple of days work for the Institute. During his time Christian helped design and create The Family So’otaga website.

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Christian Silver designs The Family So’otaga website with Gina Lefaoseu and Metua Tengaru

If you want to learn more about The Family So’otaga programme see the website, or email the Institute at enquiries@mcguinnessinstitute.org. You may also be interested in our Think Piece 25: The changing purpose of tertiary education.

Wendy McGuinness wears a lei and decorative headpiece.

Wendy McGuinness, Chief Executive of the McGuinness Institute, wears a lei and decorative headpiece made by parents of Holy Family School for the launch of The Family So’otaga programme

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