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

Identifying partnership learning needs: What to use


This section presents a range of resources that you can draw on to help the school community identify priorities for learning.

Better Relationships for Better Learning

Better Relationships for Better Learning was developed for boards of trustees and schools in 2000 to advise them how to engage better with Māori parents, whānau, and communities. The title of the resource captures the purpose of these relationships. The resource is not directly addressed to whānau but could be used to engage in discussion in the first two stages of inquiry. It begins by suggesting some principles of success and goes on to provide useful guidelines in relation to the following topics:

  • Governance and the board of trustees
  • Māori language and culture in the school
  • School activities and interaction with Māori parents
  • Truancy and discipline
  • Relationships with the community
  • Relationships with other schools
  • Self-review.

The resource includes a self-review framework that enables schools to assess their efforts to engage Māori parents and whānau in activities associated with:

  • School governance
  • Planning and policy
  • Setting strategies for development
  • Curriculum and programme development and delivery
  • Te reo Māori and tikanga Māori
  • Human resources
  • School environment
  • Linking home, community, and school.

The Cultural Self-Review

The Cultural Self-Review (Bevan-Brown, 2003) provides a structure and process that teachers from early childhood centres through to secondary schools can use to explore how well they cater for Māori learners, including those with special needs.

Central to the book is a cultural input framework, which provides a set of principles for analysing programme components, including environment, personnel, policy, processes, content, resources, assessment, and administration. While there is an emphasis on practical ideas, the author cautions users against taking a ‘recipe-book approach’. She suggests that schools use the ideas as a springboard for discussion and for developing school action plans with strategies that meet their particular needs. In line with the framework’s eight guiding principles, she stresses that it is essential that parents, whānau, and community members, including kaumātua, are included in a school’s cultural self-review.

The book also includes a “stairway to cross-cultural competence” that teachers can use to better understand cultural differences and their impact on learners.

Making culture count

In Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education, Bishop and Glynn (1999) examine New Zealand’s education system and call for a shift in power relations so that ‘culture counts’. In 2010, Bishop and colleagues built on the learning from Te Kotahitanga to discuss educational reform at classroom, school, and system levels. They propose seven elements that should be present in the reform initiative, including: developing new institutions and organisational structures to support in-class initiatives; developing leadership that is responsive, proactive, and distributed; and spreading the reform to include all teachers, parents, community members, and external agencies.

Ann Milne is the principal of two Auckland schools: Te Whānau o Tupuranga and Clover Park Middle School. Due to a proposal initiated and supported by parents and students, these two schools merged in 2011, with students from the middle school now allowed to remain until year 13. What makes parents so keen to keep their children at these schools? Milne says that it is because the schools have a sense of whānau and community and use a learning approach that encourages the students to develop their cultural identities and home languages.

Milne is critical of the education system’s tendency to measure student success in terms of academic success alone, though this, she says, is important. In a speech to the NZARE conference in 2008 and in a report from her own doctoral research (Milne, 2009), Milne asks us, among other things, to question what it means for Māori to succeed as Māori. She contends that too often we fail to see the impact of white culture on schools and the ways in which it limits our definitions of success:

"When we look at a new page in a child’s colouring book we tend to think of it as ‘blank’ with spaces to be coloured in. We don’t often consider the fact that it is already coloured in – with white. White is the ‘invisible’ colour, because it’s just ‘there’ as the whole background. Also already on the page are lines – boundaries that tell you where you are allowed to put, and confine, any colours you choose to add. My study suggests that schools are “white spaces” – part of wider society’s white spaces. The white is just ‘there’ as the background set of rules that dictate whose knowledge is important, what success looks like, what achievement matters, how the space is organised and who has the power. That’s racism.

When we talk about schools being ‘multicultural’ or ‘diverse’ what we are really talking about is the colour of the students’ faces – the background colour stays white. Often we see ‘diversity’ as a problem or a challenge we have to come to terms with, so we address the issue from a deficit perspective. We all know of schools where all the children are brown, but the school’s colour is still the same – invisible white. That’s hegemony. We might as well put our colour around the edges of the page – because they make no difference to the way the school operates. That’s marginalisation.

As the education professionals and the grownups in this equation, we can’t ignore the fact that we don’t think much about the colour of our schools’ ‘page’, and therefore we are complicit in perpetuating the status quo through what happens to our Māori and Pasifika youth in our schools and classrooms every day."

2009, page 2

Milne argues that “No matter how many new curriculum documents, strategies or testing regimes we introduce, schooling will not become more equitable until paradigm shifts happen in the way we think about and define ‘achievement’.” This means validating and valuing students’ cultural identities and norms throughout the school day. It is an approach that is clearly valued by the parents and whānau in her school community.

Te Mana Kōrero: Relationships for Learning

The facilitator’s notes that accompanied this Te Mana Kōrero DVD acknowledge that teachers and school leaders will sometimes resist exploring the issues raised in the DVD due to deficit thinking. For example, they may question the idea of treating Māori differently or express the belief that Māori students’ achievement is limited by home circumstances such as poor nutrition, limited experiences, and low parental expectations. This issue is further discussed on pages 5–6 of the materials. In Appendix One of the notes, there is a set of “deficit busters” that can be used in response to such thinking. The purpose is to help people surface and examine the theories behind these sorts of comments and questions.

Self-review tool for schools: Focus on students achieving below curriculum expectations in literacy (years 1-8): Rubric 4

This self-review tool on Literacy Online was developed to support schools in using the inquiry cycle to meet the literacy needs of struggling readers and writers more effectively. It was developed by a team of literacy experts and tested in an exploratory study involving four Auckland schools. This manual with ten rubrics allows schools to evaluate how well their literacy approaches and strategies are meeting the needs of their struggling readers and writers. Each rubric has six levels that schools can use to rate their current performance. The rubrics are intended to prompt “conversations that matter” about the needs and progress of struggling literacy learners. These are conversations in which teachers and leaders reflect on their practice and on how they can make more difference for the students with the highest literacy needs.

The suggestions for using the tool emphasise the importance of taking an inquiry approach, which means that schools should not take a lock-step approach to working through the rubrics. The tool includes interview protocols and interview questions to help users ensure they include the perspectives of all those with a stake in the process: the literacy team, classroom teachers, parents, caregivers, whānau, and the students themselves. Rubric 4 focuses on “Consultation and involvement with parents, caregivers, families, and whānau.”

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