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How does communication support ākonga, whānau, and kaiako with hybrid learning?

Using communication to support hybrid learning

How does communication support ākonga, whānau, and kaiako with hybrid learning?


A decile 1 school perspective

Ākonga may be away from kura for various reasons (e.g., Tangihanga, staying with whanaunga, sickness in the whānau, religious like Ramadan, oversea trips, disasters, need for physical isolation). This could also be said for kaiako. In such circumstances, ensuring students remain connected to their school learning is important and communication, feedback and knowing your whānau become very important.

How well do I know the whānau?

Some whānau could be away from kura for weeks or months and sometimes it is hard to contact them to find out where they are. It is not uncommon for school leaders to call around or visit the neighbours to try and find out the whereabouts of whānau. Whānau will often have relatives or friends at the kura which provides yet another option for communication. Therefore, knowing your ākonga and whānau connections and relationships with people in the kura and community will help the school and whānau to stay connected. 

The covid pandemic has made kaiako and school leaders more aware of the need to work closely with whānau to determine the best way to keep them connected to kura’s teaching and learning. These connections can be used when the usual communication lines are interrupted or have changed. Do I need to gather more information about our whānau? How frequently should we revisit the information to see if it has changed?

How to stay connected?

Whānau and ākonga need to know that they can still be connected to the teaching and learning of their class or their group and for that to happen kaiako need to know ways to reach all ākonga no matter where they may be. And vice versa, ākonga need to know that their learning is reaching their kaiako, no matter where their kaiako may be.
In a situation where the kaiako is away and a teacher reliever doesn’t know the communication lines, then this can cause anxiety for ākonga. Communication records need to be kept in a central place (in a shared folder) for easy access by relievers, teachers and school leaders so everyone knows how they can contact whānau or who would be best to contact a particular whānau.

Planning once, for all students

The hybrid approach to teaching and learning supports the idea of kaiako, ākonga and whānau staying connected in teaching and learning no matter where they may be. However, it is important to find ways to do this without doubling the workload of kaiako. One way to do this is to produce the same lessons for all students whether they are learning from home or onsite at kura. In this approach, virtual lessons with links to resources are prepared for all students and can be accessed at home or at school. However, some students learning from home may not have a device or internet and schools may not have sufficient devices for all onsite students, so the virtual lessons can be downloaded (or separate paper-based lessons prepared for all students), and paper copies are used as part of the onsite learning programme as well as being delivered to ākonga who are learning from home. At kura, ākonga will access the paper-based and virtual lessons depending on the availability of devices but it can also allow ākonga to make a choice about how they learn.

A three part Venn diagram - with paper, class, and online being the three circles from left to right. Class is at the centre, with the teacher sharing plans and assessing feedback from the children in the paper and online circles. The children then feed their work equally into the class through their teacher.

The hybrid approach also supports flexibility for ākonga and whānau to choose the best time of the day and place for learning. Whānau could be busy with a tangi or some event and need to get their tamariki to do their learning at a time that suits them. Between the kaiako and whānau, they may need to negotiate some communication times suitable for everyone. Flexibility is the key.

Reciprocal feedback loops

Reciprocal communication is also the key for kaiako, ākonga, and whānau being responsive and active in hybrid teaching and learning. In the first instance, ākonga need to let their kaiako know whether a lesson’s learning intentions, success criteria, and tasks are suitable or not for their own learning situation. This feedback enables kaiako to be in a position to reflect on, and adapt, their learning programmes to the needs of ākonga even though they are not in the classroom with them. Feedback is also a reciprocal process from the kaiako to ākonga, so students also reflect on and adapt their learning.
Feedback to and from whānau sets the scene for further learning opportunities and kaiako will know whether their communications are appropriate and being provided in a way that works for whānau.

Setting up a summary record of communications: an example

It is important for ākonga to stay connected with the school during times of home learning. This will help them to transition back into school and keep their learning on track. To help with this, Anau and Jacki created a spreadsheet for all staff including kaiako, support staff, office staff and school leaders, so that they are able to track communications between home, whānau, and kura and everyone can access it. This means that staff can contact and work with whānau living at the same address. The spreadsheet asked for things like the following: Do they have internet? Are they using devices, or do they prefer paper learning packs?

First Name Family Name Room Caregiver Address line 1 Caregiver email Status Paper packs Device Internet Return date Contact date Contact date Contact date
            Isolating 28 February No Yes 9 March 3 March     
            Isolating 4 March Yes No        
            Isolating 7 March  Yes Yes   3 March 





With the information on the spreadsheet, one person can contact the whole family to see how they are and what support they need. The spreadsheet can be easily updated after each communication with whānau and staff are encouraged to check the spreadsheet before contacting any whānau to know the current circumstances with them.

With just the one person from kura responsible for contacting each whānau, this means that whānau are not being “hounded” by all the tamariki’s kaiako. It is also a more efficient approach for kaiako. The spreadsheet requires dates of when whānau are contacted and who contacts them, but also keeps track of whānau who are not contacted. Senior leaders can check up on this.

In these circumstances the person with the best relationship with whānau is assigned to call around to their home to see what support is needed. Some whānau may be isolating more than once so this is also recorded on the spreadsheet.

Watch the video below of Anau and Jacki talking about the spreadsheet and the importance of keeping in touch with whānau during times of remote learning.

Whānau and kura communications

Interview with Anau Kupa and Jacki Newell. Deputy Principals of Windley School, Cannons Creek, Porirua.

Support from school leaders

School leaders need to ensure systems and processes are put in place so that kaiako:

  • Feel comfortable communicating with whānau
  • Consider home language and how best to communicate
  • Can gather whānau basic information (SMS)
  • Know the contact information is accurate and the best person to contact is highlighted (from past experiences)
  • Past ākonga information is available for the kaiako
  • Have a list of whānau at other schools (kāhui ako data base?)
  • Use a simple feedback survey (paper and online, google form?)
  • Can provide details for whānau to contact the kura/kaiako in a way that is available and free
  • Are able to find out who will need a device and ensure sufficient availability to all ākonga (years 4 – 8, for example)
  • Know about the whānau access to internet
  • Have enough chromebooks for every ākonga who needs it in the kura
  • Support teachers to work on what is manageable and sustainable
  • Ask questions like the following: Are kaiako familiar with the current platform (e.g., hapara, google classroom)? Do they need more PD to utilize the benefits possible? 

Where might you start? 

Consider communications:

  • 0800 number for school contact so parents without data can call kaiako
  • Multi texts through Student Management System
  • Starting FaceBook page for whānau interactions with the kaiako
  • Phone call from kaiako introducing themselves and finding out the home learning situation
  • Recording class lessons or google meets so online ākonga can see and hear what is happening
  • Set up a ‘record of communications spreadsheet’ to ensure regular communications with whānau learning from home (see sample communication spreadsheet on page 3