Parents and whānau leading programmes


Teacher-Parent/Whānau relationship

"Parents and caregivers have a wealth of valuable information and understandings regarding their children...” (Te Whāriki, 1996, p.30)

Tending to the flower garden.

Lily's Mum helps plant a "kindy garden".

Observations and records like learning stories should be part of a two-way communication that strengthens the partnership between the early childhood setting and families.

Relationships are central to a child’s existence, sense of well-being and belonging and programmes must emphasise the central role parents, whānau and the community play in establishing these.

In our work as teachers and as professional development facilitators we see many successful strategies teachers have implemented to build deep reciprocal and responsive relationships with parents and whānau. Their driving forces are a passion and commitment to build a centre culture that truly values this partnership.

Alison Brierly, professional development facilitator from ELP, says: “During a discussion in a workshop we challenged teachers to think about how they acknowledged the contributions that families make to the documentation. If we think about Learning Stories being the beginning of a conversation, then we will naturally respond in some way. A teacher in our workshop was moved to tears, saying she had not thought how rude they were being by never responding to a parent's/whānau story from home or a parents'/whānau response to a learning story. This was a moment for everyone to reflect on, and we came away from the workshop feeling that many teachers had made a significant shift in their practice.”

Parents' and whānau members' contribution

There are many ways in which parents or whānau members offer contributions to the programme that can be acted on and included into the work of teachers.

The writing of learning stories from home is a powerful tool for parents and whānau members to share their experiences and stories as we can see in Artie and his grandfather's story . One mother’s suggestion to read her child’s favourite story captured a whole group of toddlers. And teachers and children at Carol White Family Centre learned from their community experts how to pickle olives .

Reading time on the mat.

Reading a Japanese language book together.

Teachers and parents who work together extend the learning opportunities for children. In Chase’s example, home site and centre site are in sync and offer rich places to build complexity into Chase’s learning experience.

Seeing their ideas being implemented into the programme gives parents and whānau members the sense that their voice has value here and they will be listened to.

And when parents or whānau members contribute to their child’s profiles/portfolio books teachers have now found ways to respond to this in authentic ways as they weave their knowledge of the child into a follow up learning story, into a conversation with the parents/ whānau or with the child.

About Me?

A common practice in portfolios is to include an ‘About Me’ page. When a child starts at the centre this is given to the parent or whānau member to answer a number of questions the teaching team has put together. Questions range from siblings' names, to children’s interests at home along with what might help when their child is unsettled.

Reflective questions

  • What purpose does gathering information about me serve?
  • What value do you as teachers put on this information?
  • Do you refer to this information in follow up conversations with the child or in future learning stories?
  • How often is this information updated?


New Zealand Ministry of Education (1996) Te Whāriki. He Whāriki Mātauranga Mo Ngā Mokopuna O Aotearoa. Wellington: Learning Media.

Last updated: 4 March 2011