Pacific Islands School Community Parent Liaison Project Case Study

Publication Details

The purpose of the PISCPL project is to encourage a closer relationship between Pacific Islands communities and schools and to improve and increase Pacific Islands student achievement across the curriculum. The Pacific Islands School Community Parent Liaison Project Case Study examines the relationship between schools and Pacific Island communities and student achievement in a cluster of four schools.

Author(s): Ruth Gorinski Pacific Coast Applied Research Centre. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: September 2005

Executive Summary

The Pacific Islands School Community Parent Liaison (PISCPL) project is one of a number of initiatives that originated out of Vaka Ou: The Pacific Islands Labour Market Strategy in 1996, as part of the Government's response to recommendations from the Employment Task Force (MoE RFP Document, 2004). The strategy was developed by a multi party working group including the Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Education (MoE), the State Services Commission, Women's Affairs, Youth Affairs and the Education and Training Support Agency.

Vaka Ou had a focus upon significantly improving Pasifika people's employment and participation in the labour market through the effective use of education, training, employment, community and economic development policies. Further, it included a focus on supporting the roles of families and communities through encouraging their involvement in education contexts. Part of the strategy included the introduction of the Pacific Islands School Community Parent Liaison project (MoE RFP Document, 2004). The initiative was officially launched by the Ministry of Education in 1996 and since 1998, the PISCPL project has operated in conjunction with the School Community Iwi Liaison Project (SCIL).

The goals of the PISCPL project are to "foster and encourage a closer relationship between school and Pacific Island communities, and improve and increase Pacific Islands student achievement across the curriculum" (MoE RFP Document, 2004, p.2). The wider body of research (Comer, 2005; Epstein, 1995; Lareau, 1987; Lareau & Shumar, 1996; Ramsay, Hawk, Harold, Marriott & Poskitt, 1998; Stoll, Fink & Earl, 2003) that explores home-school relationship building models, suggests that there is a multitude of positive reasons to continue trialling and developing such frameworks. Parent involvement generally and Pacific Islands parent involvement specifically in this study, benefits not only students and schools, but also the parents themselves.

This case study provides evaluative data to the MoE on aspects of the PISCPL project that may suggest indicators for ongoing, enhanced school-community capability and capacity building. The project involved a Pasifika community liaison co-ordinator working across one cluster of four schools, with the goal of improving learning outcomes for Pasifika students, and increasing family and community engagement in learning.

The research was guided by a qualitative case study design and used focus groups, face-to-face interviews, postal questionnaires and document analysis as the primary data gathering tools. The data are representative of one cluster of four schools, including two primaries, one intermediate and one secondary school. The process of analysis sought to describe the patterns of relationships amongst the various stakeholders involved in the PISCPL project, and the ways in which these have impacted upon parent participation, student achievement and school practices.

Analyses of the data indicate five key findings. First, the community liaison co-ordinator played a fundamental role in terms of the project success. Second, a number of initiatives were implemented across the cluster schools that increased Pasifika parent participation, enhanced staff capability and improved student participation, learning and achievement. Third, the project afforded benefits to all stakeholders including parents and community members, teachers and schools, and students. Fourth, sustainability is an ongoing area of challenge. Finally, a number of barriers to successful programme implementation were identified in the data.

The findings of the case study are significant for school communities who are seeking to integrate a theoretical and practical framework for building Pacific Islands school community parent liaison to enhance not only their teaching and learning environment and student achievement outcomes, but further, to transform families' lives.

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