Maternal perceptions of aspects of learning partnerships

Maternal perceptions of aspects of learning partne…
01 Jun 2021


The Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) data provide a good opportunity to investigate the extent to which mothers in this country experience some, but not all, aspects of positive parent–educator partnerships identified in the literature and included in policy. The data do not cover shared decision-making or kinds of support that help parents understand effective ways to help their children learn, but they do allow us to investigate these aspects: feeling that culture was
valued, experiencing good communication, feeling welcomed and included, and feeling supported. From here on we refer to these aspects of parent–educator partnerships as Learning Partnerships.

Analysis of the GUiNZ data also allows us to see how these aspects of Learning Partnerships are related to different maternal and family characteristics and situations; and whether these partnerships are related to maternal satisfaction with their child’s school and perceptions of their learning; and whether Learning Partnerships are related to school readiness outcome measures (at 54 months). The results of this analysis can provide useful insights for educational institutions on how they could strengthen partnerships, and for policymakers, how policy could be focused to support educational institutions to do this.

A secondary aim of our research was to establish a construct of parent–educator Learning Partnerships at the start of formal schooling which could then be used in subsequent analyses of student achievement data when collected by GUiNZ.


Once the research team had had a preliminary look at the GUiNZ reports and items used at ages 54 and 72 months, we approached the Ministry of Education to gauge the policy interest in finding out more about the extent of Learning Partnerships experienced by mothers, and how these related to early learning and school experiences. Their initial positive response gave us information on the aspects of Learning Partnerships that would be of most use in policy. This fed into a draft outline of research objective, aims, and questions, which— alongside the aspects covered by the GUiNZ data—were discussed with relevant Ministry of Education policy managers, and further refined. Once funding for this project was approved, we had a further discussion of the project’s aims and methods with Ministry of Education staff. We have had helpful feedback from our Ministry of Education policy collaborator on each of our two progress reports, and on the draft of this report.

The Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study provides a broadly representative child cohort of all births in the country between 2007 and 2010 with respect to ethnicity, maternal age, and socio-economic position (Morton et al., 2018). The study includes data gathered from children through surveys, observation, tasks, and structured interviews. Data from mothers has been collected through structured interviews during pregnancy, when children were around 9 months old, 24 months, 54 months, and online when children were 72 months old. A subsequent data wave occurred when the children were aged 8, and an age-12 data wave is planned.

We have analysed maternal and child data from the 54-month wave and relevant maternal data from the 72-month wave. We also used data from the antenatal wave on maternal ethnicity, age at birth of first child, and qualifications.
We constructed a dataset for our analyses that consists of the 5,528 children (and their associated 5,457 mothers) who:
1. were in school in the 72-month wave
2. have data in the 54-month Mother dataset, 54-month Child dataset, and 72-month Mother dataset.

Key Results

  • Maternal views, reflecting experiences of a large number of ELS and schools, were generally positive: 79% of mothers were very satisfied or satisfied with their ELS effect on their child’s development of cultural awareness and/or belonging, and 92% were very satisfied or satisfied with the communication between them and their child’s ELS.
  • Most mothers were positive about their child’s school in terms of feeling welcomed and supported, and experiencing good communication. However, three aspects stood out with lower levels of maternal positivity about their child’s school:
    • whether their child’s teacher is interested in getting to know a mother;
    • whether they pay attention to a mother’s suggestions; and
    • satisfaction with the school’s response to their child’s cultural needs.
  • Being secure in their cultural identity, taking part in cultural activities, engaging with their child’s learning, encouraging their child, or having authoritarian parenting values, were evident for mothers who were more positive about their experiences of ELS and schools.
  • Mothers of Māori children who were secure in their own cultural identity, however, were less satisfied than others with ELS’ effect on their child’s development of cultural awareness and/or belonging.
  • Mothers of Asian children, mothers who mainly spoke a language other than English at home, and those who found paid work interfered with home life were less positive about their experiences of these aspects of maternal-educator partnerships.
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