Ngā hononga kura-whānau e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Waverley Park School

Waverley Park School is a decile 5, year 0–6 suburban school with 255 pupils, of whom a third are Māori. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the principal, the teacher who leads the whānau group, and two parents.

WaverleyPark
What are the priorities for our Māori students?

The interviewees at Waverley Park School expressed the following aspirations for the Māori students at their school:

  • They should have both academic and cultural success.
  • Their academic and cultural achievement should be equal to or better than all others.
  • They should be engaged in their learning and fully participate in the educational experiences the school offers.
  • They should have ample opportunities to celebrate their successes.
  • They should feel a sense of self-worth through addressing their cultural needs.
  • Their sense of self-worth should have a flow-on effect to their hinengaro, wairua, and whānau.

The school was supported to use its data differently through participation in the Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP). The principal and teacher said this particularly impacted on the achievement of Māori students because it highlighted a significant difference in achievement between Māori and Pākehā students at the school. “As soon as we saw that, we knew we had to do something about it.” 

What are our own learning needs?

Whānau engagement was a long-term goal at Waverley Park School for over 10 years. The school leaders wanted input from Māori parents in the school about tikanga, cultural content, curriculum content, student achievement, and the general running of the school. They used to invite parents through the newsletter to respond about these issues but there was a very limited response. When parents did turn up, the principal felt that he had “really killed” the meetings. This situation began to change four years ago when the school tried a new strategy.

The principal realised that he did not have the expertise within the school to foster the deep engagement that the school aspired to. He needed to recruit a teacher who did have it.

Planning and participating in partnership learning

The principal went to the local college of education and asked who their best Māori student was. He then recruited her, explaining that he had a problem getting the Māori parents to come to the school. He told her what he had tried in the past, and she said that she thought she could do it better but that he had to be prepared to take a back seat.

Partnership actions: connecting and collaborating

The teacher leveraged the change in whānau engagement by re-establishing the kapa haka group that the school had previously initiated. Initially 20 strong, the kapa haka group now has over 160 participants, with 40 of them in its performance group. The teacher used this involvement to start building relationships with the children’s parents, and she then invited the parents to the first official whānau meeting, kanohi ki te kanohi.

At the first meeting, the principal played the guitar and the deputy principal and other staff supplied and served the food while the new teacher ran the meeting. This let the whānau see that the Māori teacher had the full support of the school leaders and teachers. The meetings are now always run this way.

The first meetings were simply about the kapa haka group, but over time the teacher introduced other content. She asked whānau what they wanted for their children educationally. Initially, it was difficult for them to think of educational outcomes, and she had to gently steer them in that direction.

One of the first things the whānau requested was more Māori signage around the school. The teacher had designed a Māori logo for the kapa haka group. The board of trustees sought her permission to adapt it to become the new school logo. This is now on all the school’s signage, its letterhead, and its uniform. The school also adopted a whakataukī that strongly reflected the school’s core values: “Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui.” Subsequently, the school’s three classroom blocks were respectively renamed Kia kaha, Kia māia, and Kia manawanui in a ceremony performed by a kaumātua.

In 2008, 30 departing year 6 students designed and executed their own kōwhaiwhai panels, all of which are installed in the school’s reception area. All but two of the students returned for the launch and blessing ceremony during the first term break of the following year.

The whānau group wanted the children to know basic te reo Māori, marae protocol, karakia, and pōwhiri processes. The school proceeded to introduce all these things into their curriculum via noho marae and the teaching of tikanga in programmed rotations around classrooms. The teacher reported back to the whānau group on how they were progressing.

What has been the impact of our changed ways of working?

The whānau group has been invited to take part in all the new activities, and their response has always been overwhelming. Over time, the lead teacher has been able to introduce a variety of issues to the group, which is becoming increasingly knowledgable about educational issues and equipped to evaluate the effect of changes and new initiatives.

The whānau group now meets at least once a term. A core of about 24 whānau members turn up consistently, and sometimes there are as many as 60 families. The interviewees say that they now have a community of partnership, characterised by mutual respect, honesty, and commitment to the children.

Many of the 160 children in the kapa haka group are Pākehā, and so now a lot of the people who regularly support the whānau group with making costumes and assisting with travel and kai are Pākehā. The whānau group is by far the most heavily supported initiative in the school, and it contributes regularly to reviewing progress. The interviewees all say that they have no needs in the area of whānau engagement at the moment.

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