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Working together

Working together is about building a school community and a culture where people are welcome and feel able to be involved.

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  • AudienceKaiako
  • Resource LanguageEnglish

About this resource

Teachers do not need to know how to do everything. However, they do need to know who can help them and how to work with others to support student learning. As leaders of learning, teachers collaborate and grow with others to ensure all their students are successful learners. It is how people work together that matters. When the focus is on effective ways of planning and communicating, building relationships, and listening to one another, those involved can build a successful school community and effective teams. 

This is part of the resource Inclusive Practice and the School Curriculum. 


Working together


The framework below embodies the key elements of an inclusive school curriculum that together ensure progress and achievement for all students. It shows the teacher, student, and whānau at the centre of the inclusive curriculum, working together (and with others) to gather rich knowledge of the student. This knowledge, The New Zealand Curriculum, and effective pedagogy provide the essential foundations on which inclusive practice is built, supporting the teacher to build on all students’ strengths and aspirations, to make their learning visible, and to recognise their progress. 

Figure 1: Inclusive Curriculum - Progress and achievement for all.

Figure 1: Inclusive Curriculum - Progress and achievement for all 

The diagram is in the form of a circle, showing the elements of an inclusive school curriculum. It has the words "The New Zealand Curriculum" curving inside the upper and lower edges of the circle. 

At the centre are three small circles, arranged in a triangle and labelled "Student", "Whānau", and "Teacher". Overlapping these three circles at the points where they join is another circle with the words "Rich knowledge of the learner". These four interlocking circles are surrounded by the words "Working together". 

Around the outside of these interlocking circles, three double-ended arrows, each with the words "Effective pedagogy", form a triangle. At each point of the triangle, there is another circle. The top circle has the words "Building on strengths and aspirations" the lower left-hand circle has "Recognising progress", and the lower right-hand circle has the words "Making learning visible". 

Near the bottom of the diagram is a curved double line linking the two elements "Recognising progress", and "Making learning visible" and containing the words "Progress and achievement within one curriculum level over an extended period of time". 

Working as a community

People talk about "school" and "community" as if school is outside of or separate from the community. I think we should talk about "the school community" – where families feel they can come and go; where families are involved and know about the learning; when whānau can feed into the curriculum. When these things happen, and all groups are participating more fully, then they are working together as a community. The school needs to be good at breaking down that invisible wall. 

Academic, project interview, 2013 

The school culture

The culture of the school is the climate in which people work together. For a positive and supportive school climate, team members and the wider community need to work together in inclusive, collaborative, and culturally responsive ways. Macfarlane’s (2004) Educultural Wheel provides a useful framework to conceptualise this approach. 

The wheel is a visual representation (see Figure 2), showing the interactions between four dimensions (unpacked below) and how these ultimately contribute to inclusive practice, effective pedagogy, and pūmanawatanga (overall tone, pulse, and morale). 

The Educultural wheel.

Figure 2: The Educultural Wheel. The Educultural Wheel is usually applied in relation to the classroom. This section applies it more broadly to the school. Adapted from Macfarlane (2004)

This diagram shows how four cultural dimensions interact and contribute to inclusive practice. 

The diagram has the title "The Educultural Wheel". 

The four dimensions are placed in shaded rectangles at four points around an oval. At the top is "Whanaungatanga: Building Relationships"; to the right is "Manaakitanga: Ethic of Caring,"  at the bottom is "Rangatiratanga: Teacher Effectiveness", and at the left is "Kotahitanga: Ethic of Bonding". The dimensions are linked to each other by double arrows. They are also linked by double arrows to another shaded rectangle at the centre of the diagram, which contains the words "Pūmanawatanga: Morale, Tone, Pulse". 

Four whakatauāki are placed within the oval, each linked by a line to an English translation outside the oval. 

Between Whanaungatanga and Manaakitanga are the words "Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu". "Although small (child), you are precious like greenstone. (Affection)" 

Between Manaakitanga and Rangatiratanga are the words "Mana tū mana ora. Mana noho mana mate". "Empathy motivates. Apathy demotivates. (Encouragement)" 

Between Rangatiratanga and Kotahitanga are the words "He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka". "A choppy sea can be navigated. (Perseverance)" 

Between Kotahitanga and Whanaungatanga are the words "Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi". "With your food basket, and my food basket, there will be ample. (Collaboration)" 

Whanaungatanga refers to the building of relationships and to bringing people together, uniting the school and the local community into a "school community". It is ultimately about building relationships, facilitating engagement, making connections, fulfilling obligations, and sharing responsibilities. It includes valuing others by making time and creating the spaces for engagement. It is about responding to students’ backgrounds and histories by truly listening to students and their whānau, reflecting Ballard’s (2013) view that effective inclusion depends on challenging established ideas about "how the world is to be seen and understood, about who is to be attended to and who ignored" (2013, page 1). 

"Whanaungatanga provides the relationship to contextualise what is in the heart of the matter, and then get to hear what is really in people’s hearts, rather than just what they think you want them to say. Until this happens you are having a totally different conversation, which is not likely to work for Māori." 

Academic, project interview, 2013 

Manaakitanga refers to showing hospitality and developing an ethic of care for others. It refers to a nurturing school culture that values caring and respect and provides the foundation for success for all students. The same ethic of care and respect applies to teachers and whānau. Building trust through caring and supportive relationships plays a key role in establishing an inclusive practice in which everyone feels a sense of belonging and knows that their knowledge and opinions are respected and valued. Everyday actions – for example, greetings and farewells, staying in touch, noticing, and celebrating the good things, and showing hospitality, affection, kindness, and encouragement – affirm manaakitanga as an integral part of the culture of a school. 

Kotahitanga refers to achieving unity by coming together to collaborate and bond as a united group (whānau). For learners to succeed and reach their potential, the school, whānau, hapū, iwi, and the wider community must work together regularly (Ministry of Education, 2008). Students who have special education needs provide whānau, teachers, students, and others with many opportunities for bonding, uniting, and working together collaboratively. 

Rangatiratanga refers to key aspects of teacher effectiveness. It is about leadership, accountability, authenticity, advocacy, determination, and integrity. It connects the passion and enthusiasm of teachers with others in a team. When people work together in collaboration, facing particular challenges and supporting and responding to one another, strong advocacy and leadership are essential. The effectiveness of the whole team in including all students in the school curriculum is enhanced when rangatiratanga is in place. School leaders also play a key role in supporting and ensuring teacher effectiveness. 

It has to come from the top: walk a mile in their shoes, manage the expectations of teachers, make good use of specialists, and deal with the (challenging) views of parents and the Board of Trustees. If you have the difficult conversations, you can focus on the benefits; you can focus on success. 

Primary school principal, project interview, 2013 

Pūmanawatanga refers to the overall tone, pulse, and morale of the school. The four dimensions above come together and interconnect to promote pūmanawatanga, by embracing the mana of each person, drawing on individual and collective strengths, seizing opportunities to enable potential, honouring uniqueness, and celebrating success for all students. 

The Educultural Wheel is able to support you, and the teams you are part of, to think about how you might enact the above dimensions. It gives rise to valuable questions that guide the development of inclusive practice. 


In pairs or small groups, reflect on examples from your teaching experience in relation to the four whakataukī below from the Educultural Wheel. Share stories illustrating beliefs and actions that link to the values each whakataukī expresses. 

  • Affection –  Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. Although small (child), you are precious like greenstone. 
  • Encouragement – Mana tū mana ora. Mana noho mana mate. Empathy motivates. Apathy demotivates. 
  • Collaboration – Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi. With your food basket, and my food basket, there will be ample. 
  • Perseverance – He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka. A choppy sea can be navigated. 

Networks of support

Every student is a member of the school community, known and supported by friends and peers, staff, whānau, and members of the local community. For students with special education needs, there may be additional people and agencies that form part of their network of support. Figure 3 shows the people and agencies that work together within this network. 

Figure 3: The network of support for students with special education needs

Figure 3: The network of support for students with special education needs 

This diagram shows how a range of people and agencies work together to form a network of support for students with special education needs. 

The diagram is in the form of an oval with an inner, a middle, and an outer ring. In the inner ring, at the centre of the diagram, there are three linked circles labelled "student", "teacher", and "whānau". 

The names in the middle ring, working clockwise from the top of the oval, are "Friends", "Principal and leaders", "Other teachers", "Learning support coordinator", "Specialist teachers", "Teachers’ aides", "Other families", and "Classmates and other students". 

The names in the outer ring, working clockwise from the top of the oval, are "Specialist education services", "Other services", "Local community", and "Other schools". 

Every school, teacher, class, and student are unique. However, as figure 3 shows, at the centre of the network of support the relationships between the student, their whānau, and their teacher provide a key foundation for teaching and learning. Knowledge from these relationships assists you to meet the learning needs of each student in your class and helps you understand who else you may need to involve in supporting them. Support can look different, depending on particular learning needs and the context. 

Figure 3 shows how the student (and teacher and whānau) are supported by the school community, particularly those involved in the day-to-day teaching and learning within the school. This includes the principal and other leaders, classmates and other students, teachers’ aides, other teachers, the Learning Support Coordinator or SENCO, other families, and specialist teachers (see the table below). 

A wider group, outside of the immediate school environment, may include people from the local community, such as kaumātua and from other schools, such as The Regional Health School or Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu: The Correspondence School. It may also include staff from the Ministry of Education's specialist education services and other services, examples of which are given in the table below. The information these people provide can support planning and the use of assistive technology and help everyone to understand a student’s strengths and learning needs. If during planning, a school decides that an IEP is required to meet a student’s support needs, the plan will outline the services supporting the student. It will also provide clarity and agreement about the different responsibilities of support team members within and from outside the school. 

Broad term 

Examples of roles that the term includes 

Specialist teachers 

The first four examples of specialist teacher roles are provided through a school’s 0.1 or 0.2 staffing component for a student supported through ORS funding. 

School-based 0.1 or 0.2 ORS-funded teachers 

Teachers from Outreach Teacher Services 

RTV (Resource Teachers: Vision) 

RTD (Resource Teachers: Deaf) 

RTLB (Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour) 

RTLit (Resource Teachers: Literacy) 

Teachers from residential schools 

Teachers from regional health schools 

Specialist education services 

Ministry of Education, Special Education: 

  • Advisors on deaf children 

  • Kaitakawaenga 

  • Occupational therapists 

  • Physiotherapists 

  • Psychologists 

  • Special education advisors 

  • Speech language therapists 

Other services 

Child, Youth and Family 

Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service 



In Example 2, a year-5 student and his teacher are supported by staff from within the school (a specialist teacher and teacher’s aide) and by specialists from the local Ministry of Education office. 

When services from outside the school are involved, it is important that school staff and agencies understand how to work together collaboratively, and that student presence, participation, and achievement remain the core focus of the collaborative team. 

Schools need to show leadership around meeting the needs of all students. This means being aware of who from the above groups is best suited to help them in their planning and teaching. They should make themselves aware of the purpose of each role and how they can access the support they need to provide an inclusive curriculum. 


In Example 11, a student and his year-13 history teacher are supported by staff from within the school (the Learning Support Coordinator and a teacher’s aide) and by a visiting specialist. 

Further information

A wide range of services and resources are available to support teachers in instructing all students. For education services provided by the Ministry of Education, see Special Education: Services and Support.

For an overview of other organisations available to support schools, see Special Education: Where else can I get information?

For information on available services and their processes, see Students with special education needs and locate the Educator Information Sheets.

Working in a team 

As a teacher or leader, you may be a member of several teams providing additional support for students. Sometimes you will be working with others to support a particular student with high needs – for example, you may meet periodically with a teachers' aide, a specialist teacher, the student’s whānau, and someone from special education services to plan for a student verified for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). Sometimes, a team will be focused on one or more students with moderate needs – for example, you may be working with the Learning Support Coordinator and literacy leader in your school to incorporate appropriate differentiations for a group of students in your class struggling with reading and writing. 


In Example 5, a teacher works in a range of teams to support groups and individual students in his class; he works with a mathematics support teacher (MST), is an IEP team member, collaborates with a visiting specialist, and liaises with the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher. 

Effective teams develop mutually agreed-upon understandings and ways of working. Members keep the focus on student learning, positive relationships, and developing ways of communicating that work for all those involved. At times, this may mean providing specific support for some members – for example, interpreters, support people, or translations of materials. Effective teams are aware that successful collaboration and problem solving require respect and trust, and that they are challenging to achieve but can lead to significant change. 

"Collaborative problem solving and decision making focused on teaching and learning for students with disabilities have the potential to create fundamental change in the ways that teachers teach and students learn." 

Clark, 2000, page 66 

All teams will experience disagreements, conflicts, and challenges. These can be overcome when a team works together to focus on the student’s well-being, to respect each other’s views, and to establish open communication. 

"If there is a golden rule of inclusion, it is problem solving. When we think about all the factors in the child’s life, we know there is unlikely to be a single solution to a given problem. We need to have the confidence and humility to reach out and say, 'OK, let’s open this up and approach it as a team.' If we don’t, and there is a lack of respect between team members, things can go wrong, and there will be gaps." 

Academic, project interview, 2013 

Further information

IEP Online presents strategies for building and maintaining successful ways of working together. For information on problem solving, conflict resolution, and maintaining strong team relationships, see How to Succeed: Working Together and Working Together: Tools.

Roles and responsibilities 

Discussing and agreeing on the roles and responsibilities of members is an important first step in creating an effective team. Each team is different: role definitions don’t need to be set rigidly, but there are some important considerations to be noted in working towards an inclusive classroom curriculum: 

  • The role of the classroom teacher involves responsibility for the learning of every student in the class. The teacher’s aide is an integral part of the classroom team; the teacher must ensure that they are not left without direction and support. 
  • While whānau will be involved, they are not expected to take direct responsibility for their child’s education. The school’s expectations of them should be fair and realistic, respecting their work and family commitments. 
  • For students who receive additional support, the ways in which the classroom teacher and specialist teacher(s) work together need to be negotiated and clarified. The Learning Support Coordinator will often help in this process. The purpose of this additional teacher resource is to support the student and their team. If support roles are not clearly defined, responsibility can fall between the teachers, leaving teachers’ aides to oversee learning without clear guidance. 
  • The role of educational specialists should be discussed and agreed upon. Specialists such as speech language therapists and educational psychologists work collaboratively to assist the school-based team in supporting the student. They can respond to questions and challenges raised by the school, and work to support presence, participation, and achievement. 
  • It is helpful to have some overlapping responsibilities, so that when one person is not available, someone else can step in. When schools have plans in place for situations such as staff illness or staff on leave, support for students is managed more effectively. 

The examples below show how a specialist teacher works flexibly as a team member to ensure the needs of all students are met. 

"In one school, the teacher does all the planning, and I work with groups of students in the class, not always the verified student. The teacher takes responsibility for the teaching, and I support him by teaching the other students and making resources. 

In another school, the teacher’s aide, the teacher, and I meet for 30 minutes every two weeks to discuss the direction for the following two weeks. If the teacher’s aide has any questions, we can discuss these at this point. We can also discuss what might be stressful for the student and plan how we can change the programme if necessary. This is working well. 

In another school, the teacher is great at planning. Everything is written in a timetable in a book, so the teacher’s aide knows what support the teacher requires. Again, this approach works really well." 

Specialist teacher, project interview, 2013 

The role of the Learning Support Coordinator or Special Education Needs Coordinator

The Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) or Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is appointed by the school. They work with teachers and leaders to identify, agree on, and organise supports for students with special education needs so that they have equal access to learning opportunities. They work with students, whānau, and teachers to develop learner profiles that include student voice and that support choice and self determination in IEPs and transition plans. 

The LSC or SENCO coordinates relevant information and monitors progress with teachers to review if students’ needs are being met. They also coordinate and monitor teacher’s aide support and may provide professional development opportunities. 

In secondary schools, the LSC is usually a point of contact for both parents and outside agencies such as specialist services and transition support providers. They liaise with subject teachers to discuss lesson content and how material is going to be taught and to suggest possible adaptations, resources, and strategies. 

Shared planning

An important aspect of working together is shared planning. Shared planning is collaborative and draws on the knowledge of students and those who know them best. 

Effective schools and teachers use and refer to many forms of planning. They consider what they plan to teach for the year and term and the learning activities, school contexts, and events they want their students to participate in. 

  • Faculty and syndicate planning involves a number of teachers determining key focus areas or learning themes for groups of students. This often includes reflecting on the overall strengths and needs of each group. It also includes considering the needs of particular students to ensure that they are able to benefit from and participate in planned activities and events. 


In Example 10, teachers from a years 3–6 syndicate work with the Learning Support Coordinator to plan a syndicate-wide social science unit in which all students participate and learn alongside their peers. 

  • A teacher and Learning Support Coordinator may decide to form a support team for a student with diverse needs, which will lead to shared planning. The teacher and other members of the team (as required) will consider and plan for adaptations and differentiations to the classroom programme for the student. 


In Example 3, an English teacher and the Learning Support Coordinator share planning documents electronically as they support a group of students with additional learning needs. 

All planning identifies clear, meaningful goals that build on current strengths and knowledge, reflect next learning steps, and show what success will look like. Progress towards these goals is regularly reviewed. The team will decide what format a plan will take (for example, a collaborative action plan, an IEP, an individual health plan, or a transition plan). Most plans identify adaptations and differentiations in the classroom programme and any supports that are needed, for both the student and the team. 

There are many sources of information for planning – for example, reports, assessment records, and learner profiles. An important source for initial, high-level planning is the Additional Support Register, sometimes called a Special Needs Register. Each New Zealand school should have its own register to identify students requiring extra support and adaptations or differentiations in the classroom curriculum as they work alongside their peers. Ministry guidance to boards of trustees in 2013 noted that: 

"A register needs to be developed with care. It’s not about labelling and separating out students, but about ensuring that those who need additional support are identified and supported in a planned and coordinated way." 

Charters and Analysis of Variance: Guidance for Supporting Students with Special Education Needs, 2013, page 3 

When time is at a premium it must be used well. One way to do this is through careful, ongoing planning using a variety of approaches and different plans for different purposes. The following two examples are key aspects of planning for students with additional needs. 

Planning using an IEP

The IEP process also provides opportunities to bring people together to plan future learning. The process should allow for content to be differentiated and the environment to be adapted to include the student in classroom tasks and activities. IEP planning will draw on information from a range of people, including the student and their whānau. 

Note that not all students with additional needs have or need an IEP. For those students who do, IEP meetings are important times to plan ahead – and to recognise the results of previous planning, by celebrating progress and success for the student and the team. 

"(The IEP meeting) is a process that begins with celebrating and recognition. We share heartwarming stories about the student’s progress and achievements, and remind ourselves that they are just like any other child; uniquely special and gifted in their own right. We also look at ourselves and celebrate how hard we work and how far we have come in our ability to manage situations that challenge us. Unless this is recognised and said out loud, I don’t think any plan or IEP will serve much beyond the paper it’s written on. IEPs are full of opportunities. We all respect and value the process and the contributions of everyone involved, most of all the students." 

SENCO, project interview, 2013 


In Example 7, a teacher of a years 5-6 class works with a specialist teacher and team members from the local Ministry of Education office to embed priority learning goals from a student’s IEP in the classroom programme. 


As a group, look at Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans to explore how the IEP process is used in your school. For example, you could look at your school practices in relation to the “An IEP is … / An IEP is not …” table on page 6; or you could read and discuss pages 8–10 to consider your school’s collaboration with whānau and the local community. 

Planning for education outside the classroom

Future planning is critical for events such as school trips, camps, sports events, and other forms of education outside the classroom. It is important to ensure that planning starts well in advance for such events, so that team members can work together to involve all students. 

One example of shared planning for a school camp is shown below (Ford, 2009). The decision for Max to go to camp was made by teachers and whānau. Forward planning was essential because the camp had to be booked one year in advance. Finding ways for Max to access the camp site and the activities was a challenge for the team. 

"We got our timetable organised, and I went through and broke every single activity right down – from getting Max onto the boat, getting him into the car, determining when he had to be assisted with eating or getting in the shower. We considered every single activity that Max would have to take part in and what he needed in terms of resources and people. This was just awesome, as it ensured Max didn’t miss out on anything." (Teacher) 

"[Max’s father] carried Max onto the stony area where the students were lighting fires. Max was placed in his wheelchair seat on the ground, and Mary, his TA, sat behind him. The activity was structured so that each student had a task to complete. This allowed Max to achieve his small part of the fire lighting task." (Field notes). 

In addition to having the right people in the team, the right resources were also important. Max took a large amount of equipment to camp. Max’s classmates took obvious pride in Max’s participation at camp. When the researcher first entered the classroom, students were asked to tell her about the highlights of camp. They called out their highlights – "Max went on the flying fox." "We made fires." "We saw a stingray." "We went kayaking." 


As a group, use Figure 3, Networks of support, to help you list the people in your school community and local community who might support you when planning to include students with additional needs in education outside the classroom? What approaches to shared planning have been effective in your school community? What other approaches do you want to develop? 

Day to day collaboration

Partnerships and collaboration don’t just happen. They are supported by processes that focus on positive ways of working together and effective, regular communication. They require participants to get to know one another and to work together closely. They take time, and they develop over time. Making time is therefore an important issue for teachers and whānau. 

"Mason Durie talks about the domain of time – not about the hands of the clock, but about processes and practices – and comes back to Paulo Friere’s notion of "conscientization", or "consciousness raising". Because if what’s in people heads is "We don’t have time to do this", then guess what? "We won’t get time to do it." 

Academic, project interview, 2013 

The core group in Figure 3 – the teacher, the student, and the whānau – work closely together day to day. They take time to agree on how they will work together, including how a teacher’s aide may work with teacher direction to support the student in the class. They talk about what is coming up in the class and school programme and who will ensure everything is in place on the day. Taking time to work on the detail means day-to-day processes and activities are more likely to run smoothly. 

For the class trip outlined below, Sam and his mum help make the plan with the class teacher and teacher’s aide (Outreach teacher, project interview, 2013). They take time to plan the detail, which means that Sam can be fully involved in the activity. 

A year-3 class is planning to do a three-park walk and to take a train ride back. For one of the students in the class, Sam, the walk is too far. He needs help with going to the toilet. So Sam walks to the first park with the other kids. He is driven back to school to go to the toilet, and then catches up with the others at the second park. He has lunch, walks around the park, and catches the train with the others. 

Sam has a great day and produces some excellent response work back at school. His mother goes on this trip and gains confidence that the teacher is well organised and has her finger on the needs of her son. The day goes well because of the willingness shown by all who are involved. 

Working together day to day requires regular, effective communication to ensure every student can participate in learning. Sometimes, this will be a challenge. There can be pressure to plan ahead as well as keep up with a myriad of everyday tasks. With the constraints of busy schedules, people will sometimes forget to communicate regularly. A foundation of strong relationships will mean that when things do go wrong, people understand and work together to manage on the day. 


In Example 6, a teacher collaborates with a speech language therapist and occupational therapist about a student’s programme and demonstrates strategies for the teacher’s aide during a mathematics lesson. 

Perspectives of whānau

"Having teachers who believed in their child’s potential was critical to successful and sustainable learning partnerships." 

ERO, 2008, page 9 

At the centre of the framework for an inclusive school curriculum (Figure 1), relationships between the student, the teacher, and whānau provide the core interactions for building a rich knowledge of the student’s capabilities, needs, and aspirations. A student’s close, family relationships, and those with wider whānau, can reveal information not apparent to members of the wider team. 

Every parent wants to support their child’s learning at school. However, the whānau of students with additional needs often have more significant concerns in relation to their children’s education. ERO (2008) asked parents of students with special education needs what they wanted from schools, and how schools could best work with them to meet the needs of all students. Some parents reported receiving confused messages about the responsibilities of home and school, especially regarding learning and wellbeing, with staff only contacting parents when there was a crisis, and often too late. Others said schools were just not open to working with them, and that they felt unwelcome. 

Parents felt that it was critical that teachers trusted them as parents for the knowledge they had about their children. With trust, engagement is enhanced, and schools can more easily tap into parents’ knowledge and expertise. 

Further examples of parents’ responses reported by ERO are provided in the table below. 

What did parents want from schools? 

  • Children and whānau to be valued as part of the school community 

  • To be treated with respect 

  • Relationships based on empathy and mutual respect 

  • Students to be welcomed for their differences 

  • Staff to be approachable, accessible, and interested in them and their children 

  • To work in partnership with the school and be involved in solutions to problems, sharing responsibility for learning and wellbeing 

What did parents think schools expected of them? 

  • To be responsible for behavior at school and home 

  • "Intelligent and well-behaved" children; if their child didn’t fit this description, they should consider enrolling him or her elsewhere 

What did parents identify as positive ways of working together? 

  • Regular and constructive communication that keeps parents in the loop 

  • Being contacted with positive messages about their child, not just when things are not going well 

  • Opportunities for parents to learn and be supported in working with their child 

  • Having teachers who believed in their child’s potential, critical to successful and sustainable learning partnerships 

What made it difficult to work together? 

  • Struggling with entrenched attitudes by some school staff about their child and his or her learning or behavioural needs 

  • Labelling their child or themselves, which undermines the development of constructive relationships 

  • Being expected to be at the school’s beck and call to supervise their child or take him or her home when things got difficult 

  • Feeling rejected and misunderstood by other parents and children 

  • Difficulty getting information about funding and support for their child 

Further information

To view the full findings of this report, see the ERO report Partners in Learning: Parents’ Voices.

For further information on whānau perspectives, see the guide Partnering with Parents, Whānau, and Communities on the Inclusive Education site. 


In Example 12, a teacher in a junior class shares snapshots of students’ learning electronically with whānau; parents of students with additional learning needs are affirmed to see their children succeeding at school. 


As a group, think about your school community and the ways in which whānau perspectives are visible and responded to. What actions can school staff take to set up successful ways for whānau and staff to work together with a focus on student learning? Invite whānau to participate, or plan to interview whānau. If your school has used (or is planning to use) the Inclusive Education Tools, you may wish to use your data from the tools as the basis for your thinking. 

Working together in your setting 

As schools move towards inclusive practice, it is important that staff support one another to work together. This means moving away from processes that leave people isolated, confused, or overwhelmed by the task of teaching all students. The following table summarises some of the shifts in practice that working together effectively requires. 

Moving from... 


Teachers feeling unsupported 

Teachers feeling supported by senior leadership and working together with others 

Hierarchical teams 

Effective teams and communities of practice that value the knowledge of all members 

Collaborative problem solving over time with the student as the central focus 

Teachers considering they need specialist skills to teach some students 

Teachers’ skills being valued and supported by others who know the student well and/or have the additional knowledge needed 

Students being seen as the responsibility of someone else, such as a specialist teacher or teacher’s aide 

The role of the classroom teacher being central, within a supportive team 

Struggling to find time to get together as a team 

Teachers using time in ways that work for them and others 

Planning ahead and making time to meet and to stay in touch day to day 

Role confusion 

Negotiation of roles so team members know what they are doing and what is expected of them 

Thinking “It’s not my job.” 

Agreeing “It is everyone’s job”, with accountability for high standards across roles 

Issues with communication between team members 

Agreed communication processes that work for those involved 

Whānau feeling unsupported 

Whānau being actively involved and respected 


In Example 4, a Learning Support Coordinator and year-13 English teacher work together to include a student who is learning at a very different level to the rest of the class; the teacher and the students in the class all benefit from taking an inclusive and supportive approach. 


As a group, review the key messages from this section in the table below. Choose several statements that are pertinent to inclusive practice in your school and, for each statement, think about: 

  • what we should keep doing 
  • we should start doing 
  • what we should do differently

When we work together: 

  • Teachers know who can support them. 
  • Teachers are supported by, and learn in, effective teams and learning communities. 
  • We listen to and make changes to respond to student views. 
  • We know "how" we treat one another matters. We take personal responsibility to treat one other well. 
  • All students belong in class, in the school, and in their local communities. 
  • Time is used effectively, and we discuss how we will make time to come together when we need to. 
  • People plan together for the future. 
  • People are accountable. We do what we say we will do. 
  • School systems support our collaboration. 
  • Whānau are involved, listened to, respected, and understood. 
  • We negotiate roles and responsibilities. 
  • We agree on effective ways to communicate. 
  • We focus on the positive and celebrate success. 
  • We problem solve effectively.